The last couple of weekends, I have had to attend some events to assist my boss in photography. Being an enthusiast, I always take the opportunities he gives me readily (The pay also comes in handy). While driving to each event, we always start with some prep talk and updates and over time I have come to learn that as a photographer's assistant, these are the basic roles you will be playing;
1) Sounding Board
Expect to have ideas bounced on you to check their viability. Most times, with my boss, we do this on the drive to the event. The photographer expects you to have your ideas on how to maximize equipment, lighting, and time to achieve the most evocative photographs. So while he's sharing his ideas, he expects you to speak up when asked what you think. It's not about passivity but about generating waves of ideas in line with what the client wants.
For the job, you will be his secretary, documenting every detail that is necessary. More times than not, the photographer is in a creative mode and it is better for him not to constantly have to break this flow to attend to mundane details. Your job also will entail communicating with the client on an adhoc basis during the actual shoot and ensure that the photographer covers every detail of the event. In essence, like the office secretary that ensures her boss keeps to schedule, you will be doing the same.
Well, this may sound funny but it happens. You may become part of the prop in a shoot. I have been a silhouette to cast a needed shadow to being a light stand from time to time whenever necessary.
Yes, Model! In setting up, you will be the test subject often. You role is to help the photographer determine his camera settings while exploring the venue and its lighting especially if some portrait shots are involved.
5) Secondary Camera
This is the fun in be an assistant. You are the photographer's back up, moving crane and what have you. Without the intense pressure of being the primary photographer, your role is to create another perspective. Sometimes, the photographer's angle may not always produce the most evocative photographs. Note here that except asked to be one, it is advisable to stick to the other roles of assisting the photographer.
6) Gear Carrier
This last role is perhaps the essence of you being his assistant. You will be helping the photographer to carry his gear and keep an eye on it while he's shooting. It's important that to be good in this role, you have a working knowledge of each equipment packed. From lenses to mundane things such as tapes, their use must be known. Also, speed and efficiency is important in this role so having a foreknowledge of how the photographer packs his gear box is important.
As a photographer's assistant, it has been a fulfilling experience for me knowing I helped create memories that our client will appreciate in years to come. Do you think there are any other roles you play as a photographer's assistant? Please share.. Looking forward to learning from you too.