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Why Hiring a Photography Assistant is Crucial to Growing Your Business

As photographers, many see assistants as superfluous, expensive, and reserved for those at the highest end of the photography career spectrum. But it could be exactly the move that will help your photography business grow past where you can get it alone.

I'll be honest: I don't use an assistant for every shoot. In fact, for a number of years I didn't use one at all, chalking it up as all the things above. I didn't believe my profit margins to be high enough to get an assistant, and in some cases I was right. Then I had a shoot which felt bigger than me at the time. It was my highest paid shoot at that time (which wasn't saying much, this was relatively early days for me) and I was more concerned with delivering great results than the profits I made. So, I hired an assistant for the day. The shoot went fantastically, and although I did lose some of the money by hiring an assistant, it wouldn't have gone so well without one. Furthermore, I secured more work off the back of the results of that shoot.

In this video, Karl Taylor discusses why a photography assistant is crucial to growing your photography business, and it's difficult to refute. I would hire one for every single shoot I do if it were possible and convenient. They are an investment that pays in dividends that are difficult to see until you pull the trigger the first time and hire one. An assistant can easily improve the quality of your work, the pace of your work, and the smoothness of your workflow.

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14 Comments

Mike Ditz's picture

Karl makes a lot of good points, most jobs I shoot has an assistant or two because it makes sense.
An assistant is a billable expense so Robert, it was your choice to eat that cost. Not sure why you did that...
When I had a studio and a partner we shared a full time assistant which was great but in California there are a lot of rules and regulations (medical, dental, workers comp, vacation, overtime, PTO etc.) regarding full time employees and with AB5 they were trying toban an freelance assistants as well so I will stick with non full time "consultants"

David Love's picture

When they ask if they can bring someone to the shoot with them, I get an assistant for free.

Mike Ditz's picture

You usually get what you pay for...and you can't yell at people you don't pay ;^)
(edit to add winky smilie emoji)

David Love's picture

It's not hard to hold a fan or run a smoke machine and the model is more comfortable with a friend there.

Dan Ostergren's picture

Model's and client chaperones have never made a bad assistant in my many experiences. "Hold this reflector like this" isn't hard for anyone but a child to follow. Also why would anybody ever think it appropriate to yell at an employee?

David Love's picture

The other bonus of letting their friend help is people assume photoshoots will be fun until they realize it's more work than fun. Rather than them sitting looking bored adding pressure on the model to hurry, they get to be a part of it and that can be fun.

Dan Ostergren's picture

I agree, getting their friend involved tends to make the shoot more enjoyable in general. Even with a hired assistant I like to have someone who gets along well with the client and enhances their experience, and usually that's what ends up happening if their chaperone assists.

Dan Ostergren's picture

Sorry to spam your notifications with all the likes, your work is just so good!

Mike Ditz's picture

Relax, no one gets yelled at...

hey ab's picture

I usually reached out to the community and paid them 25-35/hr cash.

Dan Ostergren's picture

I reeeaaally don't like working without an assistant. I am happy to hire someone when I can, but I also have good experiences with volunteer assistants who are student or amateur photographers who want to learn, and also good experiences from having the model's chaperones assist when I can't find someone or need the extra help.

Mike Ditz's picture

A lot of my work has many moving parts with a very specific "we need to shoot NOW!" timeline. I usually need someone I can tell go do ABC and they do it without me teaching them how. I often hire a 2nd PA to do lower pressure things but the 1st asst is mostly in charge of helping them what they do.
If someone wants to come along and learn, I will always pay them something, I don't think it is fair have people working for me for free, sets a bad precedent
Chaperones are a different thing I guess, never have run into that situation except for kid models, then the mom or dad is in charge of their kid and can hold a reflector.

Dan Ostergren's picture

Personally if a photographer offers to help for free because they wish to watch and learn I accept the offer, but if I'm specifically looking for assistance I pay.