Every week, we receive emails from people asking us for advices about how they could improve their photography/videography. Most of these people are already at what I would call ‘serious amateur’ level and want to move to the next step. To these people, my answer is always the same: get an assistant!
A good assistant will speed things up by at least a factor of two. If he plays his role well, he will execute all the non-creative tasks for you while you concentrate on getting the job done. My favorite use of an assistant is to have them act as a light stand: holding the strobe positions which are impossible with a normal stand or to have them continuously adjust the angle until I get the desired effect. Doing this on my own would mean moving back and forth between my shooting position and the strobe, which is a big waste of time.
I also like to have them in charge of the gear, somebody who will look after my gear when I turn my back away from all equipment. I know that this sounds like amateur but I like having somebody close sometimes when I switch lenses, much less dust can get into equipment if you hold them right way (downwards) and switch it fast, and that could be hard with heavier lenses and more equipment around your neck so little help is great.
When to use them?
- Moving between locations
- Manage people
- Shoot on the go
- When you need a specific skill
- When you need somebody to drive while you shoot
How to find one?
You may either use photography related forums or specialized websites but I would recommend any person willing to assist and by it learn something about photography. A beginner photo enthusiast for example would fit place perfectly.
Building a relationship
Here is another important advice: once you find a good assistant, do whatever you can to keep it! Build a relationship by understanding what are his motivations and goals and help him to reach them. The relation has to be beneficial for both parties and make sure to credit the assistant whenever you publish the shoot results.
Here is the best part: assistants cost as much as you are willing to pay for them. Whatever you are offering is, make sure it is well understood from the start to prevent any future problem. If you can’t afford to pay your assistant, use some other form of compensation such as:
- allow him to shoot the last 10 minutes with the model (once you know who got your shots)
- explain to him the thinking behind all your decision while preparing the shoot
- get them to lunch or dinner ;) etc.
Given the choice between an assistant and a shiny new piece of gear, in most case I will pick the assistant and I think you should do the same.
Give us your ideas, when you use assistant, in comment bellow.