Five keys to being a great assistant

I’ve been an assistant to some of the most talented people, working on cool projects and helping at awesome workshops. I feel absolutely blessed. The key theme I heard from many that I was helping was that it was so hard to find a great assistant. And once they find a great assistant they hold on and create a stronger team and better pictures.

Here are some key points to being a great assistant:

1. Anticipate

Do NOT wait around and wait for someone to tell you what to do but anticipate and be fast. For example, if you are assisting a wedding (not second shooting but assisting the main photographer) watch them. Watch them take pictures, see that look on their face when they need a different lens and get that lens ready before they even have a chance to ask you for it. That’s anticipating. Not only does watching them work help them, but watching them work helps you see how they shoot and how they see.

2. Carry things without asking

Seriously, don’t ask, just grab stuff even out of the photographer’s hand and carry it. When you help carry things, it makes a night of shooting much easier for the photographer. That little bit of weight taken off helps them keep energy up. Just be a hard worker. Carry, lift, do whatever you can to lighten any burden around you.

3. It’s about the little things

Always have extra water, protein bars, snacks on you and make sure your photographer is fed. Having those essentials are part of the little things that you will be loved for. This is just part of the little things. Find those little things that make the set, the event, the workshop just better for those you are helping.

4. Observe

I know I mentioned this in number 1 but observe everything. Be in tune. Ask questions when appropriate and not when it’s crazy busy. Be excited about certain shots and remember to ask about them during an appropriate downtime or after the shoot. If they see your passion, excitement and eagerness to learn it only helps both of you.

5. Be a selfless assistant

When you are assisting you are helping a team be better. Put your ego away. It’s not about you. What you will find though is by being selfless and genuine in helping, you get better in your craft.

The bottom line to being a great assistant

Being an assistant can be your greatest asset in learning to be the photographer you want to be. It allows you to work on projects that you aren’t quite ready for alone. It gives you that chance to see, learn, feel, and get a sense of what it takes to be at that point in your career. The person you assist for you can show you the ropes and elevate your talent to that next level faster than any other way.

To find ways to assist, join your local social media photography groups. Put the word out and respond to requests. Network with other photographers and offer to assist. Once you get going, it will snowball and you will keep getting better and better.

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