Photographer’s Assistant Guide: Assistant Etiquette

Behind the scenes on a Poker shoot - Assistant Etiquette
Assistants should be ready to volunteer for any dangerous jobs on set, such as being a human golf tee….

Despite the obvious fact that all photographers will work slightly differently, have different expectations from an assistant, and that each shoot will be different, there are several things which are just good practice and common sense for assistants. In as succinct a way as possible, here’s my list of “Assistant Etiquette”:

  • Always admit mistakes ASAP.
  • Don’t ever be afraid to ask. Better to be a bit embarrassed by asking, than break expensive equipment/injure yourself or others.
  • Never make the photographer look stupid in front of the client. If you have a suggestion to make, it’s best made quietly and privately to the photographer, rather than in front of the entire crew. Likewise if you’ve spotted the photographer has made a mistake – don’t tell everyone loudly, deal with it in a subtle way.
  • Always be early. Try and be the first to arrive and the last to leave.
  • Demonstrate initiative – you’re supposed to be solving problems for people, not creating more of them.
  • Carry as much as possible for everyone – not just the photographer but also the stylist (will have cases of clothes), the Make-Up Artist (will usually have a couple of heavy cases) and anyone else who comes along.
  • Offer to do anything and everything, providing it doesn’t get in the way of assisting the photographer. There is basically never a bad time to say “does anyone want a cup of tea?”
  • Be prepared to do mundane tasks – practically nothing is beneath you, remember humility, and the basic fact that lots of people are competing for your job.
  • Second guess what’s about to happen next
  • Be on the alert. Are all the flashes firing? Has the setting changed on the camera? Is the sun about to go behind a cloud and dramatically change the exposure? Is the photographer slowing backing up over a ledge (I do this all the time….)
  • Always be polite, even to complete tossers, and be professional to everyone on the set – don’t stare at the models tits, get overawed by the celebrity subject, or spend all day chatting to the make-up artist.

In my next post I’ll share some anecdotal evidence of Assisting Do’s and Dont’s, although I probably won’t use certain people’s real names!

This post forms part of my Photographer’s Assistant guide. The other posts in the series are:

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