Photographer’s Assistant: What I look For

1. Great attitude
2. Great attitude
3. Hard working
4. Knowledge of technical/equipment
5. Great personality

Notice photo school is not on here, nor is 10 years experience, nor are a lot of things you might expect. For the newest assistant on the team, I’d way prefer to have simply a great attitude, be a hard worker, have an open mind, and a working knowledge of most things photo. And do note, this is is not for a first or second assistant. I have those on staff (you guys rock), but if I didn’t, I would only look to tweak the description above to put ‘knowledge of technical/equipment’ up one notch just below just one ‘great attitude’ and one ‘hard working’.

You get the picture. There’s actually a lot of information to take away from this…

…post. Hope we those interested can read between the lines. Happy Friday. Have a great weekend.

[FWIW, this isn't a hint that we're accepting applications or to email me about assisting, we're fully staffed....Reason for this post is that, in a strange confluence, I got asked that question a zillion times last week via email, just like this one below, reprinted with permission...]

Hi Chase,

When have a second I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me. I was wondering what you look for in assistant before you hire them, esp. if they have just graduated from school. I live in Montreal and I am ready to adventure into the world of assisting. I know times are touch with the recession, so I would just like some input from a successful photographer and there requirements on hiring a fresh new assistant from graduated from school.

Thanks for you informative blog!

Enjoy life!

Best,

NIkol Mikus

You may be interested in:

64 Responses to Photographer’s Assistant: What I look For

  1. Tom Scott July 10, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    Great to know top photographers are open to those who have missed out on formal training but have talent,

    Inspiring post, thanks Chase

    Tom Scot

  2. Joe Allam July 10, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    If I hadn't read further, I would have applied straight away. Even though I'm all the way over in the UK, it would still be worth it. I'm sure you'll get quite a few applications through though.

  3. Ellis July 10, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    *nod* *nod*

    Technical knowledge can be taught or learned quickly. Attitudes and work ethics can't.

  4. andie July 10, 2009 at 10:24 am #

    yup! I've have people come to me eager to learn..I hate turn them away but I need some one who knows his/her stuff! another thing is someone who can check their ego at the door (we all have them…after all we are artists!)

  5. Anonymous July 10, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    I agree, its refeshing to see that a degree isnt always neccessary to aquire the best work, especially in a field as creative as Photography. A passion for what you do and a gift can outweigh a piece of paper any day.

  6. Vince M. Camiolo July 10, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    The question I have is, does spelling and grammar count?

    Judging from the email you posted, I surmise no.

  7. Jose Betancur July 10, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    Great to know that there is still a chance for the ones that are committed to learn more, and more by doing.

    For the ones like me that studied another fields of knowledge but are willing to move to this on by the love of it.

    Thanks for this post

  8. Ken Mott July 10, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    It is a good thing written English was not on that list ;) .

  9. Anonymous July 10, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    We had an assistant for awhile that we didn't realize had such a bad attitude until he tried to stab us in the back and we took on some new ones. It was like night and day. I think he thought since he had the technical knowledge because he went to a ridiculously expensive school thats all he needed.

  10. Sleepless In KL July 10, 2009 at 10:34 am #

    come to think of it, that list can pretty much apply to a lot of job posts. technical knowledge can be acquired along the way but a good attitude is important when tackling a task and when working with a team.

  11. Sleepless In KL July 10, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    come to think of it, that list can pretty much apply to a lot of job posts. technical knowledge can be acquired along the way but a good attitude is important when tackling a task and when working with a team.

  12. Gregory July 10, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    I wish more people had the attitude… that formal training isn't necessary to be successful at anything in the creative industry.

    Technical skills and the specifics of how a company does things are easily taught and trained… having a good attitude and work ethic and being generally creative are not.

    I've lost a few jobs because I don't have a creative degree. A shame.

    Nice post, Chase.

  13. Jon July 10, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    I've found this to be true in IT work. My day job is Unix Administration. I'll ALWAYS pick a good attitude and hard worker over a CS degree toting tool.

    If someone has a good attitude and their interest in a field of work is sincere, they'll do WHATEVER is required to learn it. They can't help it.

    I'm not knocking college, I'm glad my doctor is college educated. But for IT/photography/"professions that don't have the potential for breaking people" I find the education to be a nice to have not a need to have.

    And to make a short point even longer, in the US it's generally accepted that we can expect to have multiple careers in our lifetime. So it seems to me that our current concept of college (and education in general) requires some rethinking.

  14. Marcus July 10, 2009 at 11:05 am #

    Great post, I totally agree. I prefer to train someone with a good attitude and no knowledge of photography than to hire someone with all the technical skills in the world, but a bad attitude.

    Also, don't forget about common sense and problem solving skills. Those are two qualities that are invaluable in an assistant. The rest can be taught.

  15. matt s July 10, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    I think you guys are forgetting this is a post about hiring a 'low on the totem pole' assistant. My guess is that Chase's first assistant or associate photogs have degrees or numerous years in the business.

    It's not really necessary to have a degree to assist, but if he's looking at photogs, I'd bet school comes in to play.

    A degree doesn't necessarily make a good creative (I went to school with a ton of people that thought they were owed work simply because they earned a BFA) but a good creative can only benefit from a good education.

  16. admin July 10, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    Most of the "good" photographers are self-taught. No formal training needed. That's was is so great about photography. But most importantly, attitude is above all is everything. You can have all the technical skill in the world, but have the worst attitude and never amount to anything…

  17. SolarCreed July 10, 2009 at 11:46 am #

    Thats really useful info.! But I wonder if your view is adopted by many photographers….
    Oh wow I just stumbled across this crazy lens! http://tinyurl.com/m5bxxb

  18. marcus July 10, 2009 at 11:57 am #

    Chase, the question was probably prompted by the photo of your assistants in the shower that was in your Denver creativity lecture the other week. I know I thought the same thing when I saw it.

    @matt s, did you miss the part where he says for first and second assistants, the only thing he would change around is the importance of technical/equipment knowledge. School/experience could allow someone to develop that additional knowledge needed for those positions. Though, I'd be willing to bet that Chase would just as likely hire someone with no education or experience that can show he knows his/her stuff, over someone that can only show experience or a diploma.

  19. Anonymous July 10, 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    Finding kids these days from the "me" generation that have a great attitude are definitely hard to find. I'm sure that is why it is top of the list.

    I'll never hire anyone with anything less than a stellar attitude, and strong work ethic(and keeps their mouth shut).

    Great post Chase.

  20. matt s. July 10, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    @marcus

    No, in fact I was reiterating that fact. It sounded to me like some comments were coming from people who who wanted to be photographers, not assistants.

    Chase was laying out requirements for assistants not photogs.

    I completely agree with you that Chase would hire someone based completely on their abilities not a piece of paper. But there are things you can learn while going to school that benefit you.

    It's not automatic that degree=successful hire.

  21. Aimee Greeblemonkey July 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    Love this. We ABSOLUTELY have this philosophy too, when hiring at my company.

    And my right hand guy, who helps me with EVERYTHING – from design work to photo shoots – is totally my "work husband." And I don't mean that in a sexist or a derogatory way. AND my real husband works here but he is NOT my work husband, ha!!! ;)

    It's just about finding the right fit. My work husband and I have been together for over 10 years now.

  22. Blackey Cole July 10, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    Being on the end of working except at my photography ie retired from the mainstream workforce. I spent 20 years in the military and attitude can overcome anything. I have seen it take the dumbest hardest worker and promote him.

    So many in the military think they can't be fired because of this and that.

    I would rather have an employee who is polite, can take direction, and is a hard worker than one that knows everything and that doesn't follow what I want them to do but does it their way. When dealing with people you need manners and a good attitude.

    I have taught myself most of the IT skills from Computer operation to Programming and that was in a short time period of a decade. I been teaching myself photography for most of my life and still have much to learn. But , the internet is great for that. Just like David Ziser's blog today I read several sites daily looking for new knowledge and between the several I visit almost daily when time allows I still pick up something most days. I have always lived by the motto that Any day you learn something is a good day.

    And I agree being able to put your thoughts down in English has drooped in ranking since the USA has gone global and multinational instead of everyone being an American first. If it wasn't for a spell checker built into Safari my posts would be much worst or shorter.

  23. Ben July 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm #

    Dang I was about to apply also. for
    1) I have a great Attitude,
    2) I have a great Attitude,
    3) I am Hardworking
    4) I have knowledge of equipment
    5) I have a Great Personality,
    6) I can bench press over 300lbs… That a lot of gear Chase ;)

    In any event I wonder how many apps you would get if you posted an opening?

  24. Anonymous July 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    I will go as far to say that IF a person has a photo degree, that is a HUGE strike against them. I have never had an assistant with a degree that knew anything that mattered in the real world(If he/she did, they learned it after school assisting)

    1 more requirement Chase, knowing when to shut up! I love to have my assistants involved and communicating on set but once in a while, something arises and they need to know when to disappear

  25. mike_London July 10, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    Is it really justified looking down on people who know their vocation early and strive for a structured route? What's the next step – not looking at anyone with any previous experience or work history because they've been given less formal, more customised training? Everyone needs to learn from somewhere, and university is a logical route if you're at that age.

    Not to over-egg it either. It's not the piece of paper that counts – it's what the higher educational process, namely the ability to intelligently research and to approach assignment work. That's actually damn important as a photog, right?

    it matters less what you study, but gaining a degree arms you with far more than a piece of paper.

    wish i'd studied the masters instead of porter though – hence why i'm here.

    go chase!

  26. GregtheBunny July 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    Some of my best assistants are also models. Girls that really 'get' what it takes to make a great photoshoot and who work hard to make a great experience for the model that is in front of the camera at that moment

  27. Anonymous July 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    Photo schools like Brooks, RIT, and Art Center put out some great assistants but how are they going to recoup that tuition fee?

  28. Watson July 10, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

    I hire assistants on occasion and I will say that is sometimes difficult to find what Chase is looking for and that good attitude is crucial. This is why it is so hard for assistants to break in with new photographers.

    Not to mention horror stories, but an assistant interested in the shoot (no matter how small) is also likely to get called back.

    One tip: Stay engaged and stay off the iphone until the end of the day.

  29. Will Foster July 10, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    All assistants, who are aspiring to become photographers, should go through the exercise of hiring an assistant. Either through ASMP, APA, or a friend or colleague reference etc. Pay them the going day rate and if needs be work on a personal shoot. Maybe keep in mind Chase's 5 requirements an see what order you'd put them in.

  30. SantIR phptography July 10, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    man, haha i didnt see the second part. just ignor my email chase.. haha
    but i have what your looking for if you ever need an assistant, in my email you can see what im coming from and how hard of a work ethic i have, and for not going to school and learning from McNally from the side lines and infront of the camera i think i have what any pro needs for an assistant.. With that said here is my email if any one is looking for a great assistiant.. santiiscool@gmail.com

  31. jai jacob July 10, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    Great to know! Had a feeling you must have gotten a gazillion of those email. By chance if you happen to have any positions open for the following below, let us know:
    - Coffee maker and bringer of doughnuts and other refreshments.
    - The guy who has to find an electrical outlet in the middle of nowhere miraculously.
    - The guy to blame things on.
    - The guy that the "guy to blame things on" needs to blame and beat up on.
    - The 2nd assistant to the 5th assistant of the 3rd assistant's 7th assistant.
    - The guy to hold a light on a metal pole in a middle of a lightning storm whose expendable.
    - A guy to fill in when your out of manikins and need someone to be hit by a car for another promo video.
    LOL

    Big fan of the blogs. Cant wait to read more. :)

  32. Michael Warth July 10, 2009 at 5:33 pm #

    Cool list Chase – simple and to the point! Now all I have to do is become good enough to need an assistant. I hope I get the chance to use your list when I hire an assistant.

    BTW – thanks for sharing this too. I have often wondered what it takes to work in your studio. I am too old and too poor to go back to school but always willing and always working to learn new things. Therefore it is nice to see education is not a driving qualification in your eyes.

    As always – you (and your staff) rock!

    Mike

  33. Adam July 10, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    Word.
    (I love a good communicator too:)

  34. A. Nal Retentive July 10, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    I must say that I am personally very happy that the more intellektually-inclined among us has caught the spelling and gramer errors. I am intrigued that the reason for the drooping of those skills has declined do to globalism and poor patriotism.

    DO you give assistents granmer and spelling test? Many with those skills are now looking for work since the introduction of spellchecker cost them potential carears.

  35. J. for J.A.M.M. July 11, 2009 at 3:11 am #

    that's so great to be assisted by someone just hugely motivated by learning, not just practicing what he got from a regular photo school… Basically, when you're on location or even in a studio, picturing means to think quick, follow the storyboard, be creative, etc. Unfortunately our french school teach future photographers how to be good professionals in term of technical, not in term of creativity, which is at least as important, even more…

  36. Chris Bernard July 11, 2009 at 4:18 am #

    Refreshing and real. Attitude passion and work ethic can't be taught technical skills can. As I said on my own site, "with a small group of like-minded people nothing's impossible" very very true.

    Cheers Chase!

    Chris – chrisbernardphotography.com

  37. Bipin Regmi July 11, 2009 at 5:43 am #

    I just hope all the job requirement are as good as this one. People look for everything else then what you look for and you know the results…
    I might have gone to a fancy training place however that won't make me Jack…
    What you can do is more important then what you might be able to do :)

    Thanks Chase

  38. Andrew Ross July 11, 2009 at 8:03 am #

    I noticed the spelling and grammar mistakes as well, but I also noticed that the author of the email lives in Montreal, where the majority speaks French. So it is quite likely that English is a second, or even a third, language. I'm kind of a stickler for these things myself, and my first reaction would probably be to disregard a job inquiry like this. However, in this era of global immigration I think it might be wrong to judge someone based on a brief email without knowing more about the person. You could be writing off a great candidate with some incredible life experience based on a couple spelling mistakes.

    Of course, it's also quite possible they're just a bad speller. So it's a tough call ;-)

    Cheers,

    Andrew

  39. Anonymous July 11, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    Unless an assistant is responsible for written correspondence with clients, being a good speller is not at all relevant to being a good photo assistant.

  40. Anonymous July 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    I don't agree with the previous comment. Poor spelling-it shows a slapdash and lazy approach which is not what I'm looking for in my assistants.

  41. Matt Ferrell July 11, 2009 at 9:14 pm #

    Thanks for your blogs!

    You've inspired me to do more with my cell phone camera then I have in the past.

    I only have a 1.3 megapixel camera in my phone.. and all you can do is aim and shoot with it. But if you show it who's boss photography wise, it can do nicely.

    I took this today using it:
    http://mfphoto-a-day.blogspot.com/2009/07/day-12-waterfall.html

  42. fas July 12, 2009 at 3:36 am #

    Chase, you hit the nail on the head. Attitude plays a vital role in many jobs, actually attitude determines altitude.

  43. mattfogarty July 12, 2009 at 6:39 am #

    @jai jacobs. If Chase doesn't need an assistant with your considerable and unique offerings, I definitely do.

  44. Russ Green July 12, 2009 at 7:42 am #

    I'd like to add 'chemistry' to the list. I got a gig doing some assist/event shooting with some folks and it became apparent quickly the 'chemistry' was not there. Sure, the experience would be great, I could have learned a lot and even made some money along the way. I decided to find a different opportunity. In the long run had I stuck it out, I'd guess that it would have affected both mine and their attitudes in a counter-productive manner. I like to think I have a great attitude, I'm sure that could be debated, but if you don't click with the people you're working for/with it can be damaging to all in the long run. I know there is something I can learn from this experience and sure hope to do so. Right now I guess that lesson really has nothing to do with photography, but human interaction. Sometimes people just don't get along. It really doesn't mean I have a bad attitude or they have a bad attitude either. If the chemistry isn't there, it just isn't there. Forcing it may do more harm than good.

  45. Phat Baby Photographer July 12, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    Mostly agree, but typically add raw intelligence as top on my list. In conjunction with a good attitude, the two are important inputs to measuring potential.

    With respect to school, while definitely not a necessity, it's a good indicator of someone who is serious about a profession (photography or otherwise). Few people would take the time and expense to go to school unless they felt passionately about something.

  46. Jai jacob July 12, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    @mattfogarty.. Thanks! Feels good to be appreciated. I got trained by the best photographers with great throwing arms. LOL. I'm like Neo in the matrix dodging and weaving c-stands, boom arms, etc from not too happy photographers who forgot to take there medication. Oh to top off my many skills, I'm a walking pharmacy too. Little Valium in coffee goes along way to an uptight photographer before a shoot. lol

  47. Timothy Lusk July 13, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    I agree with Tom Scott.

    We appreciate that you're willing to let "us" know about what is most important.

    I've always been told, it's not what you know, it's who you know that will get you somewhere.

    Thanks for the post, as always, Chase.

    Tim

  48. david kiang July 14, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    Photography is a skill / craft… doesn't really require schooling. Getting a formal education for art doesn't necessary make someone an instant photographer. The person that has learned through mentoring gains more versus the school. Real life experience.
    At school, no one teaches how to run the business of the studio. And they never will. Because those that teach don't do.

  49. Downtown Imagery July 17, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    This is a great point and worth noting. It is hard to find good assisting jobs and I think many would not figure attitude to be as important as it really is compared to education. This one point should help us all see how far just a good outlook and attitude can take one in this world.

  50. photo retouching services July 18, 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    I agree, A photo assistant does not mean "know nothing, but hopefully will learn". The problem is when you see adverts placed for assistant posts, most unscrupulous pro photographers are not prepared to pay decent money, so they advertise for a school leaver who is ripe for exploitation.

  51. Jan July 23, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    It's all about the money.
    Good attitude is ok, but good education and contacts (through education perhaps) cut the cake.
    Pay them enough, make them sweat and involve them in what you do is the road to getting good people to work for you.
    Only monkeys work for peanuts!

  52. Jon Buckle Photographer July 28, 2009 at 1:59 am #

    Hi Chase if you ever need an assistant and you are in the UK drop me a line.

    Im hard working Aussie/British sports photographer that has worked for Empics/Press Association for ten years with a lil stint with Getty in Australia in between.I cover everything from Premier League football, cricket, Tennis, Golf and so on.I would enjoy adding a artisitc,creative angle from these high end events to complement your team.

    I work long hours with this job but recently left to become freelance to explore new areas of photography . Assisting is great tool to learn more, location work is what im interested in, quick learner knowledge of all the camera's basic lighting too.

    If ever back in Europe need some help hit me up oh and Im prone to laying myself out to constant ridicule with silly acts . anyhow you need a Aussie / Brit on the team……all the best JB

  53. Suzanna October 25, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    I have an extremely strong passion for photography. I feel I’m too young to get anywhere at the moment.(14) I live in the UK so I may not be ideal for this job, but I think I just need some good advice from a pro. I love nature photography and hopefully I might get somewhere in the photography business.

  54. freelance alliance October 6, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    I was suggested this blog via my cousin. I am not positive whether this publish is written by means of him as no one else recognize such precise about my difficulty. You’re amazing! Thank you!

  55. Nola December 25, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    I feel like I look in all of the wrong places for jobs as an assistant. All of the promising jobs seem to be in New York or Los Angeles.I do not want to live in a city! The idea of opening my own studio is daunting and I’d love to start off by watching someone else but I am not sure where to look. Any ideas?

  56. Tiffany January 31, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    http://www.danbellcasting.com

    CASTING YOUNG, UNDISCOVERED
    MALE PHOTOGRAPHERS FOR THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME (seriously)!

    we are searching ACROSS THE COUNTRY for young, passionate photographers, photography students, or photographer’s assistants…
    to TANDEM SKY DIVE and photograph a fashion shoot
    that takes place thousands of feet in the air… for a commercial!
    ***no prior skydiving experience necessary.
    if chosen, you will be paid great $$, and your photo from the shoot will be featured on billboards across the world.

    so…
    skydiving + mile high fashion photo shoot + $$ + global campaign.
    not bad, eh?

    you MUST fit one of these specs:
    18-25 year old asian, euro-asian, east indian, mediterranean, eastern european, middle eastern or south american male.

    please email the info requested below ASAP to danbellcasting@gmail.com
    1. Your name (first and last)
    2. Age
    3. Ethnicity
    4. City/State where you live
    5. Contact phone number
    6. A cool, interesting photo of yourself that shows off your personality;
    7. A brief description about why you love photography and a link to your photography (flickr, website, etc.)
    8. Your skype name

  57. Ines March 16, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    Hello,

    I’m just starting to get into photography more seriously (planning on going pro as quick as possible) and I’ve been studying this website in order to get technicalities covered: http://photographycourse.net/

    So I was wondering whether this website shows and explains all the knowledge of technical/equipment required for an assistant (and photographer).

    Apart from that I got all the other points you mentioned nailed :D Love doing my best, being nice to people and I’m always eager to learn new things.

    Could you (or anyone professioned in the craft) please take a quick look at the site and tell me whether it’s good enough to teach all the skills necessary?

    Cheers,
    Ines

  58. Robert April 6, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    I also found the book ‘How to be a photo assistant’ very helpful.
    you can download it here http://www.howtobeaphotoassistant.com
    And they also have a great photo assistant boot camp http://www.photoassistantbootcamp.com

  59. Marcel Grays November 26, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Hi there, I found your blog by way of Google while looking for a comparable topic, your web site came up, it seems to be good. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  60. Isiah Salierno January 8, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    An fascinating discussion is value mention. I stroke that you should compose added taking place this topic, it might not ensue a taboo matter nevertheless typically individuals are not satisfactory to speak resting on such topics. On the road to the next. Cheers

  61. Alberto Anzideo February 14, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    One entity is the fact that one of the most patronize incentives for applying your credit cards is a cash-back otherwise maybe discount offer. In general, you’ll get 1-5% back upon various purchases. Depending on the credit cards, you may get 1% back resting on most expenses, and 5% back again by acquisitions finished in convenience stores, gasoline stations, grocery stores plus constituent merchants’.

  62. Ashley March 16, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    Everything related to art rather photography or design need good discipline and clear attitude we must passionate about other way we are not gonna succeed.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ten Things That Can Help You Get a Photographers Assisting Gig | LIGHTING ESSENTIALS For Photographers - June 1, 2010

    [...] on the business of commercial photography. Keep up with that legal stuff. Chase Jarvis’ blog has occasional tips and some great behind the scenes stuff that shows assistants, assisting. An interesting take from [...]

  2. Vrijwillige stage bij fotograaf - Belgiumdigital forum - Digitale fotografie - July 29, 2010

    [...] Vrijwillige stage bij fotograaf Misschien geeft dit een [...]

Leave a Reply

Highslide for Wordpress Plugin