Careers in Photography - Tips for Working as a Photographer's Assistant
Working as an assistant is a proven route to a career as a professional photographer. Having technical qualifications and abilities is a foundation, but there's nothing like on the job experience. Most professionals are happy to take on and work with assistants, and there are opportunities in all fields of photography.
Spending a year as an assistant to an established professional is a great way to learn the broad range of skills required to work as a photographer. If you make the most of this time, you'll have a much greater chance of success in this competitive field. The rate of pay may be lower than other jobs, but the rewards will come later in life if you utilize what you learn.
The following tips will help you build a career in photography by starting as an assistant.
1) Work in a field that interests you.
If you want to gain experience and develop photography skills by working as an assistant, choose a field that appeals to you. For example, if professional studio work is your ambition, look for positions where you can learn lighting and the core skills of shooting indoors. In some cases, you may need to compromise or take a different route to reach your goal. For example, photojournalists rarely work with assistants so you may need to start out in a different field.
2) Work with a photographer you admire.
Expect to put in long hours for little pay as an assistant. This pitfall is easier to deal with if you admire the photographer for whom you're working. Focus on what you're getting out of the arrangement, and the tough days won't be so challenging. You may not like them as a person, but if you have respect for them as a professional and an artist you'll learn from a photographer.
3) Treat every day as a learning opportunity.
Even if you've studied photography at college, you still have to learn about what it takes to make it as a professional photographer. Never assume you know it all already. As well as learning about equipment, techniques, and processes, working as an assistant helps you to develop people skills and the business aspects of being a professional photographer. You may be able to shoot fantastic portraits, but if you don't have an understanding of sales and marketing, you'll struggle to find clients.
4) Understand your role and what's expected of you.
Each photographer has his way of doing things, and the role of the assistant can differ. Discuss what's expected of you, and maintain good communication. Being in step with the photographer you work alongside means a happy working relationship and an easier route to creative goals. Make sure you understand what's expected of you during every shoot. Your responsibilities could include booking models and locations, hiring equipment and acting as a second shooter.
5) Build your portfolio.
As well as gaining practical experience, adding to your portfolio should be one of your goals if you work as an assistant to a professional photographer. You must always achieve this with permission and cooperation; never claim credit for shots you haven't set up and shot yourself. Most professionals will understand this is one of your reasons for working in an assistant role and will encourage and support you in creating your portfolio. Photographers who use social media to market themselves may ask you to take shots of them working, and this is a good way of adding to your library of work.
If you do a good job and impress as an assistant to a professional photographer, it could lead to a full-time position working in their business. If such opportunities don't exist, you will have a foundation for a future career in photography.
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