Don’t Touch Me On My Studio

Featured photographer for this month, Donna Lewis, writes about the dos and don’ts of being a photographer’s assistant. From the coffee to the equipment to the etiquette and client relationships to punctuality and well… back to the coffee. 

Coffee Please! Photo: Willem Lourens

Willem assists on shoot. Photo: Donna Lewis

I would like to believe, when looking for an assistant, be it in any industry, we all have the same requests: A. please let them be able to read my mind, B. that they know how to hold a broom and C. the most important one, please, oh please, let them make good coffee. I’ll take mine with lots of milk and no sugar, thanks!

So for all you budding picture takers out there wanting to know the ins and outs of assisting, here are just a few 101 etiquette guidelines to get your foot in the door. 

  1. Be the first to arrive and the last to leave.
  2. Make Coffee
  3. Have the photographer brief you on the shoot. Find out what equipment they will be using so that you can start setting up.
  4. When in doubt, ask (and refer to step 2)

    Kirk gets assistance from the captain. Photo: Donna Lewis

  5. Do not ever doubt how important you are. You make the photographer look good in front of clients and you are the first to blame when things go wrong.
  6. Anticipate the arrival of the client, carry their props in, ask if there is anything else you can do for them and park their car if you have to. Most importantly: again step 2.
  7. Do not under any circumstances start a sentence with “Wouldn’t it be better ….” if this feeling ever becomes too overwhelming refer to step 2 (Coffee please, in case you forgot)
  8. Know your place and when to be quiet. When you have something to say or ask, approach the photographer privately.
  9. Stay close. You do not want the photographer looking for you and under no circumstances have phone conversations when a shoot is happening.
  10. Ah, I almost forgot, treat the photographer’s equipment like it is your own, as if it was your first born child but without the new-to-parenting lack of skill and knowledge.

Willem goes beyond the call of duty. Photo: Donna Lewis

Check your ego at the door, and know your role. Some sets are level playing fields, some are strictly delegated. Size it up immediately, and do your job, as appropriate. Some days, your opinion matters, and some days you are just a pack mule. Either way you are getting paid.” Daniel Bergeron.

My advice would be to treat every assisting job as a job interview. You never know who is watching. If you are interested in learning more about assisting here are a few sites you can go to:

Ok, I think it is time for another coffee.


About Flat Art Studios

We are a tight-knit group of photographers specializing in food photography in the Cape Town area.
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2 Responses to Don’t Touch Me On My Studio

  1. how do you take YOUR coffee Donna????Nice piece of writing and great advice!!!!Thanks for sharing!!!!!xxxx

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