Every so often students send in questions for interviews, papers or projects. Sometimes it’s graduating students looking to learn more about the business before they step out into the “real world” I decided to start a series where I’ll answer a group of questions in one blog article. Welcome to the first in the series on being an assistant.
What is the number one skill you look for in an assistant?
I look for a person who is looking to learn everything he/she can about photography. I look for someone who will not just learn, but experiment with me, take risks and hopefully teach me something along the way.
How important is it for an assistant to have knowledge of film cameras and accessories in today’s photography business?
I believe it is important for all working photographers to have knowledge in film cameras and processing. The reason for that is because it takes a lot more thought, time and desire to understand the what why and how of film. Learning film based photography is the perfect starting point for anyone series about photography. It is less important, however, to have knowledge of accessories. I’d much rather teach an assistant about accessories and for him/her to know about the important equipment, like the camera.
Did you ever have an assisting job? If so, how much did it help prepare you for your career in photography?
I have a few assisting jobs. The first was with my (now) friends Patrick Conner and Joey Quintero. Those are relationships that I cherish every day because of how much I learned working for them. To this day, I spend time here and there assisting Joey. The learning never stops! I have also assisted other commercial photographers in New Jersey and worked as an assistant for a forensic / evidence company. All the assisting shaped the way for my photography. I definitely would not be where I am if it weren’t for all the education I gained through those experiences. I wrote more photography education in my eBook, Absorbing Light.
What role does an assistant have in a studio or photographer’s customer/client relations?
One of the first things I learned as an assistant was to not talk unless necessary. For instance, if the photographer or client asks a question directly to the assistant. However, at the same time it isn’t good for the assistant to be silent for an entire session. So finding appropriate things to say and at good times, is important. In my experience, I was never involved in bookings. My job as an assistant was to carry gear, set up lighting, move furniture and learn. However, each photographer might utilize their assistants in different ways.
Is there one (or a few) skills that you wish more assistants had?
Not specifically. I want assistants to have the basic understanding of the gear, technique and theory behind what we are doing. The most important skill of any assistant, as mentioned before, is the desire to learn.
Thanks for reading and happy shooting,
If you’re looking to learn more about being a photo assistant, pick up a copy of the The Photo Assistant’s Handbook. In it you will learn things like what tools and materies an assistant could carry. Here is a screenshot: