Guide To Assisting
Assisting is the most common path into professional photography. Most commercial/editorial photographers you know assisted for months or years when they were starting their career. It’s a great way (but not the only way) to learn the ropes of how to run your own set, prep, light, work with subjects and clients, handle finances, etc.
There's a barrier to entry in assisting: you generally need some technical photo knowledge and have experience with lighting + grip equipment in order to get hired as an assistant. This is often learned in photo/art school. Which is expensive. Which builds a wall around this industry, and generally the people with the resources and connections advance. Which creates systemic barriers that prevent underserved communities from accessing and entering photography via the assisting route.
If you can’t get into assisting because you lack the education and experience, how will you ever gain the education to get on set? It’s a catch-22 that perpetuates, and creates a moat around the castle of the photo industry. This video illuminates how to become a photo assistant and teaches the basics of what you need to know to get on set. It’s meant to be a key to the castle. This video is very very very long, but if you were to thoroughly watch this video in its entirety, I would feel comfortable having you on set, even if you’ve never assisted before.
This video covers the basics of assisting and lighting + grip from a ground floor perspective. Each chapter has a title slide, so you can find specific chapters. It also includes the following photographers discussing the following topics:
- Collin Chappelle on his path into assisting and shooting
- Lauren Segal on advice for women breaking into assisting
- Grace Rivera on becoming a photographer without ever assisting
- Terence Patrick on rates, money, and how to get paid on time
- Collette Wylie on navigating holds
- Mark Jayson Quines on what a prep day looks like as an assistant
The contributors of this video have put many hours of time and energy into this project. This video is meant to help level the playing field, as an access point into shooting via assisting.
There will, undoubtedly, be viewers with means and resources who will also watch this video and benefit from it. Which might advance their entry into photography as much, if not more, than the community this video aims to help.
If you identify as someone who comes from/has means, you’re still free to watch it. It’s on YouTube. But if you find it helpful, everyone who contributed to this video asks that you make a substantial donation of at least $50- but closer to the hundreds- to any of the following organizations:
- Equal Justice Initiative (https://eji.org): working to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund (https://www.naacpldf.org): America's top legal firm fighting for racial justice
- NYC SALT (https://www.nycsalt.org): creating opportunities in visual arts and pathways to college for underserved New York City youth
We have put a lot of work into this video, and it’s far cheaper than any college class. This is on the honor system, but please be a good person and make a donation that you feel if you’re learning a lot from this video.
Special thank you to Samy’s Camera for donating all audio/visual equipment for the day to film this video, and to Flash Studio in San Francisco for donating the studio space and lighting + grip for demos.