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What Does a Photography Assistant Do?

By K. Kinsella
Updated Feb 11, 2024
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A photography assistant provides administrative and technical support for a photographer. In many instances, assistants are trainees or people involved in apprenticeship programs who assist qualified photographers while receiving on the job training. Other assistants help photographers with managing various day-to-day business activities.

Some photographers specialize in taking portraits and these individuals often conduct most of their shoots in studios. A photography assistant may help the photographer to position lights, props and backdrops prior to shooting sessions. During the shoot, the assistant may instruct the people being photographed when to smile, where to look and how to position themselves. After a photography session, the assistant may make arrangements for the subjects to pay for the portraits and to pick up the finished photos. Additionally, many assistants double as secretaries in which case these individuals may answer phone calls and arrange appointments for photographers.

Publishing companies often employ assistants to work alongside company photographers. These individuals may hold lighting apparatus during external photo shoots at remote locations or load film or memory cards in cameras prior to photos being taken. The assistant may be responsible for making the photographer's travel arrangements and in some instances, assistants carry supplies and equipment during shooting sessions. When the photographer finishes his or her work, the assistant is often required to transport the memory cards or the negatives to the production office.

A photography assistant involved in the fashion industry may be responsible for liaising with make-up artists and designers to ensure that models are ready for photo shoots. The assistant may relay the photographer's plans for the session to the models or provide the photographer with information about how the designer would like his or her work to be presented. An assistant employed by a freelance photographer may be responsible for marketing that individual's work to fashion magazines, websites and journals. In such instances, the photography assistant must negotiate on behalf of the photographer until an agreement can be reached on the upfront fee plus any royalties.

Since the precise responsibilities of a photography assistant vary from employer to employer, academic and professional qualifications for applicants also vary. Some photographers prefer to work alongside people who have completed college undergraduate programs in photography while others accept applications from people who have taught themselves how to use various types of cameras or photography equipment. Major publishers normally require assistants to have some prior industry related experience although many people gain this experience while working as unpaid college interns.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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