Photographer’s Assistant Guide: The Perfect Assistant CV

Behind the Scenes with Neil Channing - Assistant CV
You can fly if you truly believe you can fly Neil, just keep wishing…

OK, I’ve written in the past about how not to approach photographers for work, so what does the perfect assistant CV look like?

First off, simply reverse everything in that other post (keep it succinct, keep the photos off it, make it personal and readable, try not to pester). Now, think about what relevant and pertinent information you should be including.  Probably the 2 main things I’d be looking for are evidence of familiarity with equipment (lighting, cameras, software, grip gear) and names of photographers you’ve already worked with. The first will tell me that hopefully I won’t have to spend the first hour of the shoot showing you how to put a light stand up, and the second will demonstrate that you’ve got experience actually working as an assistant – you understand the sort of things you’ll be asked to do, how to behave, and can demonstrate basic professionalism.

I realise there’s a certain chicken and egg situation here – how do you name photographers you’ve worked for if you’re just starting out? Well, that’s where work experience comes in, but do be sure to admit that it’s work experience you’re referring to, in case the photographer assumes you know more than you do, or even goes to the effort of checking up on your claims. As far as equipment goes, hopefully you should have acquired some knowledge whilst at college, and if not, I’d suggest coming along to an assistant training course! In fact, from my experience of teaching them, I’d suggest you come along anyway, as it appears that the technical stuff I deal with on the day appears to be overlooked by most colleges.

You can augment your assistant CV with other things besides just equipment and photographers of course. The key thing is to stick to stuff that’s relevant, and that might boost your image as someone who uses their initiative, is hard working, prepared for a bit of physical labour, and has a good technical knowledge. If you worked behind a bar whilst at college, it’s not that relevant to your assisting CV, but if you were the manager of the bar, well that’s probably worth putting down. Similarly volunteering work, youth group activities and so on, will all help to give the impression that you’re motivated and on the ball. Sports and fitness activities are also well worth listing, as they’ll highlight the fact that you are physically active, and are unlikely to shirk when asked to carry heavy gear about the place. Life skills such as public speaking, first aid training, foreign languages and so on, will all help to tip the balance in your favour.

Also, don’t forget obvious but useful things like a valid passport and Driving Licence. I was called upon to drive perhaps a dozen times in the 3 years I assisted; everything from Transit vans, to Land Rovers to electric cars, and it’s something that can help swing a job in your favour – or more likely the absence of a driving licence can dissuade someone from hiring you. Likewise I went abroad on half a dozen occasions as an assistant, and I even knew a friend of mine who never left home without his passport and a toothbrush in his bag, as he’d missed out on a last minute assisting job when he wasn’t able to get to Heathrow in time!

Above all, be honest, as if someone books you on the strength of one of your skills, and it turns out you’ve been economical with the truth, you could be in serious trouble. Despite all the things I’ve listed above, try and keep it succinct too – I’d suggest not more than one page.

None of this will guarantee you a job of course, and you’ll still have to contact lots of photographers to generate much work, but you’ll stand a far better chance following this approach than listing every GCSE by subject, and telling me about the paper round you did when you were 12…..

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

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