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Become a Photography Assistant: Career Guide

Learn how to become a photography assistant. Research the education and career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in photography. View article »

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  • 0:00 Become a Photography Assistant
  • 0:36 Career Requirements
  • 1:12 Learn to Operate…
  • 2:16 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 3:24 Compose a Portfolio
  • 3:48 Join a Professional…

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Video Transcript

Become a Photography Assistant

Photography assistants typically work for self-employed photographers. This is generally an entry-level learning position in which assistants gain knowledge of technical and industry practices needed to operate photography businesses. They also help their employers find new business opportunities. Photography assistants often go on to work as self-employed photographers. Travel might be required, and assistants may need to use tact and patience when dealing with potentially difficult customers or demanding employers.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; bachelor's degree maya be preferred
Degree Field Photography
Key Skills Ability to operate a digital camera an photo editing software; artistic ability and creativity; customer service, organization, and marketing skills; an eye for detail
Salary $31,710 (2015 median for all photographers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

No degree is required, but a bachelor's degree in photography could appeal to potential employers when looking for an assistantship. Key skills needed for this job are the ability to operate a digital camera, artistic ability and creativity, customer service and marketing skills, an eye for detail, good organizational skills, and proficiency in photo editing software. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all photographers was $31,710 as of May 2015.

Learn to Operate Camera Equipment

While some professional photographers may take on an apprentice with no experience, most will prefer candidates who at least know the basic functions of a digital camera. An aspiring photography assistant should learn how to operate digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras rather than point-and-shoot styles, since DSLR cameras are a professional industry standard.

Take Classes

Community art centers and other organizations commonly offer short-term photography classes that can benefit an aspiring photography assistant. Beginner-level courses teach basic camera operations, while more advanced classes teach more complicated techniques.

Attend Workshops and Seminars

In addition to classes, workshops and seminars hosted by art centers or even professional organizations can help an aspiring assistant learn tricks of the trade and improve their photography skills.

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Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While formal education isn't always necessary for a career in photography, employers may prefer applicants with an undergraduate degree in photography. Bachelor's degree programs in photography can be taken at universities or art colleges and usually take four years to complete. These programs typically focus on the creative and technical aspects of the profession, including composition and shooting techniques. Courses may include photojournalism, digital imaging, printing, studio lighting, portraiture and commercial photography.

Participate in an Internship

Colleges and universities often require photography students to complete internship programs prior to graduation. Such programs can help prepare students for careers by placing them in professional environments where they apply their creative and technical skills under the supervision of experienced professionals. Educational institutes may assist students in internship placement, but others can seek opportunities through professional associations.

Compose a Portfolio

Portfolios are essential in this occupation because they exhibit photographers' best work to prospective clients and employers. They can include published pieces, as well as other exemplary photos. Many photographers also create complementary online portfolios, which generally reach wider audiences more directly.

Join a Professional Organization

Some organizations connect photographers with clients and employers. For example, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) offers a service that allows clients to search through a database of affiliated photographers. PPA also provides a variety of other benefits, such as camera repair discounts, health insurance, online classes, workshops and a monthly publication.

In summary, a degree is not required, but working knowledge of DSLRs, experience, and building a portfolio are ideal for gaining work as a photography assistant.

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