Assistant-photographer-credit-azlan-dupree_bannerAssistant Photographer © Azlan DuPree

Assistant Photographer

Photo Imaging
Personality type:

The lowdown

  • Assisting a photographer in all aspects of their work
  • Doing whatever is necessary to ensure that a photographic shoot runs smoothly
  • Assisting in everything from administration, to the shoot, to scouting locations

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • be willing to learn
  • be organised and practical
  • understand how to operate digital and traditional cameras, and scanning equipment
  • anticipate the needs of the photographer
  • have excellent communication skills
  • be able to foresee and evaluate potential problems, and deal with them calmly
  • be skilled in image-manipulation and image-management software
  • possess good office skills
  • pay close attention to detail

What does an Assistant Photographer do?

Getting a job as an Assistant Photographer is one of the best routes into a career in professional photography.

Assistant Photographers can learn on the job from a professional, without the responsibility of running a business or producing professional quality images before they are ready.

They must do whatever is necessary to ensure that a photographic shoot runs smoothly. Usually, this involves preparing sets, checking that all equipment is functioning properly, setting up lighting and accessories, taking meter readings, uploading files and transporting film or prints to and from laboratories.

When working from a studio, an Assistant Photographer will help out with general administration, keeping the sets clean and tidy and printing photographs as required. They will be expected to catalogue and optimise digital files, to scan film and to assist with image manipulation and enhancement.

They will also keep records of the film stock, exposures, lighting set-ups, as well as the names and details of art directors, models, stylists, animal handlers and other contributors. When clients are present during a shoot, it is the Assistant Photographer's job to play host and shield the photographer from unnecessary interruptions.

On location, the Assistant Photographer's duties may involve making a technical assessment of the site in advance, checking for vehicle access, power and communications facilities. They will often organise transport, catering and accommodation, set up equipment, and source a local laboratory or reliable courier.

High-profile photographers sometimes employ several Assistant Photographers who are then known as First Assistant, Second Assistant, and so on. Duties will be divided between the various assistants at the discretion of the photographer. In most cases, the First Assistant provides direct support to the Photographer on set, while the Second Assistant assists with production and general administration.

Will I need a qualification?

The Advanced Apprenticeship in Photo Imaging would give you an excellent grounding in this role, along with professional experience.

There are also many excellent college courses around the UK which could provide you with a sound technical grounding, as well as access to work placement schemes.

If you are considering taking a photo imaging course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the photo imaging industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the extent to which they prepare you for a photo imaging career:

Photo imaging courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

The LBIPP offered by the BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photography) has a good reputation with employers.

Employers may support work-based qualifications, such as Apprenticeships and NVQ/SVQs.

Membership of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), the Association of Photographers (AOP) and the Master Photographers Association (MPA) may also be beneficial to you. The BIPP and the MPA offer a range of qualifications that enable a candidate to benchmark their skills against other successful practitioners working in the industry.

What’s the best route in?

This is an entry-level job, so you may find photographers who will take you on with little or no work experience. However, most will prefer you to have some form of formal photographic training or previous experience in photography, fashion or advertising before seeking work.

As such, in most cases you will need to be able to demonstrate a good grounding in all creative and technical aspects of photography, set construction and lighting. You will then understand the necessary preparation, execution and presentation required for each job, and also be able to meet with clients, art directors, models and other contributors and understand their discussions with the photographer.

While some leading photographers or photographic studios may employ several full-time Assistant Photographers, others cannot afford to employ one. So, you may find that working as a freelance Assistant Photographer to a pool of professionals is the best way to maintain regular employment. It will also give you the opportunity to observe at close hand the working practices of a number of different photographers.

It’s important for you to put together a portfolio of photographs to show potential clients and employers. This should be well presented and consist of 10 to 15 images, revealing a broad range of skills and abilities.

You are likely to be subject to physical stresses from carrying heavy camera gear indoors and out, in all seasons, come rain or shine. You should therefore seek training about appropriate techniques for lifting and moving equipment. You would also need to understand Health & Safety legislation and manage the risks associated with the use of electrical lighting, equipment and props.

You will be expected to possess a full, clean EU driving licence.

Photoassist is a website where you can register and find work as an Assistant Photographer.

Where might the role take me?

A job as an Assistant Photographer would prepare you well for most photography jobs, including:


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