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When you are out shooting, it never hurts to have a buddy along with you to help setup and position your equipment, bounce ideas off of, assist with the picture taking, and making sure everything goes as smooth as possible. That is where having an assistant is useful especially when doing any sort of people photography (portraits, wedding, etc.). Many other types of photography you can mange yourself with relative ease. When shooting people though, it's important to move quickly, keep your subject engaged, and perfect your lighting as soon as possible.
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How to Be One
To be a good photographer's assistant, you must be dependable, hardworking, friendly, willing to learn, and have some experience or a basic understanding of whatever subject the photographer is shooting. Most likely you will be in charge of helping to position the model, move lights around, and help organize a photo shoot (scheduling and booking). You will be the photographer's right hand man (or woman).
Being a paid or voluntary assistant does not have to be limited to a subordinate position. If you are good friends with a photographer and you like to shoot the same subjects, chances are you already help each other out and take turns playing the role of an assistant.
Photo by .dr4gon
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Why You'd Want to Be One
Being a photographer's assistant to a more experienced photographer is probably one of the best ways to learn the ropes of photography and get hand's on experience with producing each photo. Over time, you learn how the photographer thinks and you learn all of their tricks so that one day you can have your own clients, run your own model shoot, and have confidence.
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What The Job Entails
As previously stated, your duty as an assistant requires you to always be prepared to keep things moving. For me, an ideal assistant would be one that helps me to adjust lighting positions, powers, troubleshooting wireless triggering, helping to setup light stands and umbrellas, and interacting with the subject (helping to pose, mange props, etc.). For others it may be these jobs or it could also be acting as a second shooter at a wedding who helps with group shots and lighting but also brings along their camera to get a different perspective.
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Where To Start and Where It Can Lead
The best way to get started as an assistant is to find a local photographer and ask if you can tag along. Decide if you want to do this voluntarily for a friend or look for job openings as an assistant.
As an assistant, it can lead to future opportunities as a second shooter, a partner in the photographer’s business, and helps towards establishing contacts and networking for a future business of your own!