Working as an assistant or digital technician is often a logical first step in building your professional network in the photography world. Many acclaimed and successful artists started their careers by assisting photographers that were more established in the industry. Through holding such positions, you obtain both knowledge and skills that will aid in the development of your personal craft. Let’s discuss the benefits of working as a photographer’s assistant:
Learning Techniques of Lighting
As an assistant or digital technician, you will learn the basics of setting up lighting and backdrops for studio shoots. Since every photographer has their own specific method of lightning and preference of lighting fixtures, you will be taught their unique set up and expected to remember it for every shoot. Learning to lighten a set is often complex and not many photographers are well versed on the subject, so assisting and understanding the principles is valuable knowledge you will gain on the job. Additionally, if you assist a photographer that shoots mainly on location or outside, you will learn how to use reflectors and scrims to bounce light on or off the subject.
On Hands Experience and Real Life Situations
As an assistant, you are the photographer’s right hand during every shoot. This means you may be required to change out memory cards, reload film, fetch different cameras and schedule breakfast or lunch for the team. Although you are learning the basics of photography, you will quickly learn the process and planning it takes to formulate a professional photography shoot. The most valuable knowledge of assisting comes from watching and learning the mechanisms that happen behind the scenes. The photographer will never have time to give you direction, so you need to understand how to gauge potential issues and solve problems effectively. If you are assisting, this means having all of their gear ready and accessible. If you are working as a digital technician, this entails categorizing the images before each new look, monitoring the screen and letting the photographer know if the focus needs to be adjusted for a sharper image.
Understanding Client Relations
As mentioned above, you are the photographer’s right hand while on set. In addition to this, you will act as the first point of contact for the client to engage with during the shoot. This means that a client will most likely come to you with any and all concerns – from questions about the contract to scheduling lunch to returning wardrobe. Although it may seem daunting, having your hands in all matters on set will teach you how to work effectively with clients and build networking connections for your career. Since you are the photographer’s assistant, I would not recommend handing your business card to a client for future work, instead focus on developing a professional relationship. Allow the client to realize your work ethic, communication skills, and go-getter personality – your behavior could easily lead to a referral or recommendation for work in the future.
Diving into the Business of Photography
In addition to positions of assisting or digital technician, many photographers look for studio managers to help run the daily business of their studio. Such a position could entail; marketing efforts, client management, and outreach as well as financial assistance and bookkeeping. The duties of a studio manager are vast and encompass everything needed to run and manage a successful photography business. If you’re interested in finding such a position, I would make a list of photographers in your area whose style and niche aligns with your own. From this, you can send an introductory email inquiring about any studio manager opportunities they may have available. It helps to share that you are a photographer by including your portfolio and to mention what you would like to learn from the experience. Reach out to as many as you can and always suggest an in-person meeting to further introduce yourself. Landing a job as a studio manager can be the stepping stone you need to push further into your photography career.
Working as an assistant, digital technician or studio manager are effective ways to jumpstart your professional photography career. By learning the management of a business, production and on set client relations, you will gain knowledge and begin to develop your network of contacts. If you are looking for the next step, reach out to local photographers and express your interest in such a position – you may not only find a job but a lifelong mentor in the process.