Assistant Photographer

How to Become an Assistant Photographer

 

Working as an assistant photographer can be a great career choice if you’ve got a keen eye for photography and a passion for it, and you’ve got the patience and dedication to be at the beck and call of your employer, while learning about photography as an art form and a profession.

 

This career can offer a wide variety of working hours, conditions and settings, a decent level of pay, and the chance to work with an artist you admire (if you’re willing to reach out and let them know why working with them would be a good fit!).

 

Below, we’ve outlined everything you’ll need to know to become an assistant photographer, including the education, skills and traits you’ll need, what types of employers you might find yourself working for, and much more.

 

 

Basic Requirements

Most employers will require that you’re able to pass a criminal background check, and are available at their beck and call for last minute jobs, or edits. Most will also require that you have access to a vehicle, or other means of getting somewhere quickly and with short notice.

 

Please Note: The travel and availability requirements will vary quite a bit from employer to employer.

 

 

Education Needed to Become an Assistant Photographer 

Most photographers and employers will want to see proof that you’re capable of handling the technical and artistic aspects of the job. Having a degree in photography, or pursuing one, may not be mandatory, but it will certainly be looked upon as an asset. 

 

Success Tip: In addition to helping you learn many of the necessary skills and competencies of the job, pursuing a degree in photography could enable you to make valuable industry contacts, as well as add school-related and other projects to your own portfolio.

 

 

 

 

Experience Needed

To increase your job prospects, it’s important to have experience in different genres, as different types of photographers use different cameras, lights and computer software, and so on.

 

For example, a fast paced fashion shoot is a completely different experience to working in a more methodical still life environment, so it’s good to be experienced in both. This can also help you determine what type of environment you’d like to work in, and what possibly what genre.

 

Success Tip: You can gain experience as a result of projets in art or photography school, if you’re going to be (or are currently) pursuing a degree in that area, or as a result of working on your own photography projects, amateur or otherwise. Some jobs will also offer on-the-job training, so that might be a great place to start if you have no experience at all, and want to get started in this field.

 

 

Is Becoming an Assistant Photographer Right for You?

To survive the ups and downs of this profession, stay motivated, and be effective, you’ll need the right attitude, ambition, skill set, and personal traits, including:

 

• An interesting eye when it comes to photography 

• A willingness and ability to be at the beck and call of a photographers

• A willingness to take the time to really get to know the industry

• The ability to be a sponge and learn all you can about photography, both as an art form and as a profession

• A willingness to keep smiling, even though you will find yourself doing a lot of the unglamorous stuff

• You’re in it for the long haul, as you may be an assistant for 3-4 years before getting to become a photographer yourself (if that's your ultimate goal)

• A willingness to learn about all the technical aspects of digital and traditional photography, including equipment, lighting, software options, etc.

• The ability to stay laser focused during a photo shoot

 

 

More About This Profession: General Job Description

Depending on whom the assistant photographer is working for, their duties can vary greatly. Generally however they are responsible for the maintenance and cleanliness of the photographic equipment. 

 

They are also responsible for testing the lights and setting them up for photo shoots, as well as loading the film cameras, possibly shooting as a backup photographer, and possibly editing digital images.

 

 

Typical Job Duties & Responsibilities 

Assistant photographers, also known as "photographer’s assistants", are generally responsible for the following:

 

• Managing the processing of the image and performing quality checks

• Liaising with writers, directors, designers and any other professionals involved in photo shoots

• May be involved in various business administration duties, such as bookkeeping and scheduling photo shoots

• Arranging the still objects, backgrounds, scenes, props and products for photo shoots

• Compiling finished products that are ready for sale

• Preparing proofs for final approval

• Communicating with clients, and proposing solutions to their concerns

• Involved in the use of a wide range of photographic equipment, such as lenses, cameras, lights and various forms of editing software

• Involved in research and preparatory work for photo shoots

• Seeking out appropriate photographic subjects or opportunities

• Discussing photographic requirements and negotiating with clients

• Other duties as assigned by the photographer

• Maintaining a portfolio of work, for future employment prospects, contest submissions, and other purposes

• Maintaining and growing a professional network of contacts

 

 

 

 

Typical Work Environment

Hours: Assistant photographers typically don’t have set working hours, unless working in a studio that has specific operating hours. When working for independent or freelance photographers, they may be required to be available on-call, or work long days during long shoots. 

 

Settings: Assistant photographers can work in a variety of settings, which vary based on the type of employer they have, or the type of photography they are involved with. They may spend time working in a photo studio, working on location, working from home, and traveling. 

 

Conditions: Local, regional, national and/or international travel might be required, and sometimes a fair amount of it. Assistants may need to use tact and patience when dealing with potentially difficult customers or demanding employers. They may be exposed to different types of weather and other working conditions while performing their jobs.

 

 

Who Employs Assistant Photographers?

Assistant photographers are generally employed by self-employed and freelance photographers. They are also employed with photography studios, and creative studios. They may work with a variety of different subject matter, and across different genres of photography, such as:

 

• Sports and entertainment

• Fashion

• Nature and adventure

• Real estate

• Exotic cars and luxury items

• Still life

• Boudoir and adult

• Wedding and special events

• School 

• Family and personal

• Many other possible areas

 

 

How to Get a Job as an Assistant Photographer

While online job postings can be fruitful, reaching out proactively is a great way to land a job as an assistant photographer. One effective method for reaching out, is a personalized (not mass) email introduction. Find a photographer whom you admire, and reach out to them or their studio manager, listing your qualifications and why you’d like to work with them.

 

The same approach can be used by telephone, although email is generally a sufficiently effective means.

 

Attending industry events, and taking advantage of other networking opportunities is also a great way to make connections, and enables personal, face-to-face interaction. Be sure to email those you meet within a few days to let them know that it was a pleasure meeting them, and that you’d love the opportunity to work together should the chance come about.

 

Success Tip: Be sure to follow up politely every few weeks, to keep in touch and keep yourself on their radar. It might take one follow up email, or several, but do make an effort to keep at the forefront of their minds for when a job does come up by fostering a positive relationship.

 

 

Assistant Photographer Jobs - Current Postings

Our job board below has current 'assistant photographer' opportunities, when available. If none are listed, try alternative terms, such as "photo tech", "photo assisting", and others:

 

 

 

Career Advancement Possibilities

In the world of photography, it’s typical to earn your stripes as an assistant photographer becoming a full-fledged photographer yourself. So naturally, a path for career advancement would be to eventually become a photographer. 

 

Alternatively, if being an assistant photographer suits you, and you’re quite happy with it for the long run, you could choose to stay in that role and work for a more high profile photographer, or become a specialist in a certain niche, such as exotic car photography, sports photography, or some other area. 

 

Success Tip: Try to work with different photographers, and if possible, in different genres, as you never know where different opportunities will take you. 

 

 

Similar Career Guides in Our Database

Listed below are occupational guides in our database for careers that are similar in nature to “assistant photographer”, as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities. 

 

Aerial Photographer

Camera Operator

First Assistant Director 

Photographer 

Photo Technician

Photojournalist

 

 

References for This Career Guide

The following sources were referenced in the preparation of this career guide. Please visit them to learn more about the various aspects of a career as an assistant photographer:

 

Guardian Careers:An insider's guide to becoming a photographer's assistant.” Jonathan Minster (June 13, 2011). The Guardian. Retrieved July 29, 2019.

Business Trends:Want To Be A Photographer’s Assistant?; Here’s How To Get Started.” Maria Piscopo (April 1, 2010). Shuterbug. Retrieved July 29, 2019.

Insights and Thoughts: "Photography’s Catch 22 - How To Get Work With No Experience." Kishore Sawh (June 7, 2015). SLRLounge.com. Retrieved July 30, 2019.

 

Please Note: Much of the information sourced for this career guide was obtained by a multitude of actual job postings, which aren’t listed here as cited references. 

 

 

Scholarships for Becoming an Assistant Photographer

All of the scholarships found on our Fine Arts Scholarships and Film Studies Scholarships pages are relevant for becoming an assistant photographer.

 

Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships for which you are even remotely qualified - millions of dollars in scholarship money go to waste every year in Canada and the USA due to a lack of applicants…millions.

 

 

Relevant Fields of Study

Studying the university majors listed below can serve as an excellent educational foundation for this profession:

 

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