Imagine if you can:
You’ve left early for a wedding. It’s a fairly long drive, around an hour and a half. You know this road can be busy, so you allow an extra 2 hours.
Everything seems to be going just fine on your journey when suddenly you hit traffic. No worries you think to yourself. I’ve allowed PLENTY of time.
The traffic grinds to a halt… You’re moving slowly at a walking pace, if that and you’ve got many, many miles to go.
Around an hour of your extra time has gone, when a giant flashes up and tells you that the road you are travelling on has now been closed.
This is not an imaginary scenario, this is exactly what happened to me. For people who live in the UK, it will not be a surprise to hear that the road in question was the M25.
I managed to make it to the church, just as the Bride was arriving. I ate up my 2 hours of extra time and missed out on the hour and a half of photography at the Brides house… That day I decide two things, The first was that I would never travel on the day of the wedding again, if it meant I had to travel around the M25. The other was that I would never photograph another wedding without an assistant.
Wedding photography is one of those gigs where there are NO second chances. If you photograph a portrait and it doesn’t go to plan, it’s an inconvenience.If a wedding doesn’t go to plan your business is over.
Benefits of a photographic assistant.
The list is endless, a great selection of different angles that you can present to your Bride and Groom. Somebody who can cover the Bridal or Groom prep while you cover the other side. Someone to take over if it’s absolutely necessary. And it can be really cool to just have someone to hang out with at the wedding… Once you’ve been doing it a little while, you’ll realise that being a photographer at a wedding can be pretty lonely!
Disadvantages of having photographic assistants.
The obvious one is that ultimately your assistant is not going to want to be an assistant forever! They will have in the back of their mind that one day they want to be where you are. This isn’t a problem per sae, but it IS something to bear in mind!
I had one assistant who in the end became very unreliable. His heart clearly wasn’t in my camp any more, it was focused on his business. When this happens you have to just let that person go, otherwise it really can be VERY damaging for your business.
I have also heard of assistants who are handing out THEIR business cards while on another photographers job. This is absolutely NOT on once again, you MUST not allow this. Make it clear from the word go that if your assistant is with you, for that day they’re working FOR you.
Choose your photographic assistant wisely!
Hopefully, you’ll glean from the information above that having a GOOD assistant is pretty much a necessity in my eyes and you’d be foolhardy to go it alone!
What I will say is please choose your assistant wisely! I personally believe that reliability and a great character are far more important than photographic skill… I have always said: “I can teach anyone to be a decent photographer,but I can’t teach people how to be reliable”
Before you let them loose on a job, get them to meet you a few times, first for a coffee, then run through a wedding and explain how you work, then just take them for an afternoon shooting somewhere then maybe arrange for a couple of models so you can run through how you like to shoot couples or something similar.
If your new assistant turns up on the time you agreed, is fun, lively, picks up what you’re trying to do quickly, then you know you’re on to a good thing.