By Jonathan Melamed – Photos by Nick Ferrari

When you walk through Midtown around lunch hour, there are always large groups of smokers out in front of office buildings. These poor suckers have to shelter themselves beneath scaffoldings to avoid the rain, and during winter can be seen with their teeth chattering as they often forgot or didn’t bother to grab their coats when they were only just “running out” for a smoke.

The photo industry certainly has its perks as compared to 9 to 5 jobs, even when it comes to smoking. Photo Productionists are often allowed to smoke inside their rented studio space, find themselves outdoors for many hours of the work day,  and, if they are lucky enough, they book a shoot at Pier 59 where they can enjoy their cigarette out on the Zen smoking deck.

The only thing the office people have over us is that they have a finite rule when it comes to smoking: under no circumstances can they smoke anywhere inside, and sometimes not even within fifteen feet, of their own building. As for us, although smoking is often allowed on set, the proper etiquette of when, where and in front of whom one can smoke is often as hazy as the nicotine cloud hanging over the model’s dressing area.



– Time your cigarette break so you’re not missed when needed. You can be hanging around for hours with nothing to do, but don’t you know it, in those five minutes that you are off-set sneaking a smoke, they will be looking for you to move that prop table or to fluff some bangs.

– Get a sense of the studio policy before lighting up in common areas. At some studios, if you know the secret password, the coffee barista will slide you an ashtray so you can light up right there while enjoying your cappuccino. But don’t be fooled, this is not true to all studios, and you may receive an embarrassing lecture from an irate studio manager if you start puffing in the lobby.

– Keep it low-key if not everybody is smoking. Even if you are shooting outside, be sure to step far away enough from set as to not upset the photographer or subjects.

– Pop some gum before getting close to models or clients. You may not be able to smell your own breath, but other people sure as hell can.

– Offer to be the gopher as an excuse to run out for a smoke. Maybe you have to drop rank and offer to fetch that coffee; even if you haven’t had to do that for five years, it’s always a great way to get outside and burn one down.



– Bum incessantly off the clients. Come to think of it, quit bumming off me on the street while you’re at it. Besides, these people are paying for everything else, so buy a fresh pack on your way to the studio and don’t be a mooch.

– Leave butts around on location shoots. It’s disrespectful to the location owners and managers.

– Put butts into soda cans. Use an ashtray or something see through. I have made the mistake of leaving an unguarded Coke for more than fifteen minutes so many times that I can very easily and vividly conjure up the taste of the ash and soda cocktail. Let me tell you, it is much better to smoke a cigarette than it is to drink it.

– Work and smoke. You are really lacking class if you let that smoldering Marb Light dangle in between your lips when you’re getting close to a model or coworker. Stub it out and pop it back into your pack for later.

This story first appeared in the summer 2009 issue of Resource Magazine.Visit the Resource Shop to pick up the latest copy.

[featured image ©Chuck Grimmett via Flickr]