When things start happening you’ll be glad if you have a great assistant. This person can run for film or an extra card or batteries and let you keep right on shooting, perhaps getting the “shot of the day.” It’s the person who helps you succeed.
Above all the key to a great assistant is someone you can get along with. It’s someone who understands the importance of every shot, and beyond that who even when things are chaotic and stressed can overlook things said impatiently.
Not all photographers have, need or want an assistant. For many the creative independence of photography means not dealing with anyone else. Others cannot imagine doing a wedding shoot without a good assistant. What works for you and what your personality is greatly affects using an assistant and which assistant to use!
A great assistant gets along with people while remaining professional. They must be absolutely reliable and willing to work attentively with you. If you need batteries or a change of disks or a different lens the assistant should be right there and, even better, already in motion to get it.
Professional dress is important, given the occasion. The assistant should understand the importance of your job but his or her job as well! There often is no second chance. If you miss the cake cutting even staging a second cut doesn’t seem as genuine and reflects on your professionalism somewhat as you weren’t there to get a critical shot.
A great assistant is punctual and reliable. Someone quick to learn and friendly is good. Someone able to read “sign language” go get what you need is a big asset. Keeping kids out of the equipment, watching for things that might spoil a photo and anticipating what is needed to keep conversation to a minimum is good.
Of course often a great assistant needs a great teacher. Communication is important. Sit down with an assistant and explain what is going to happen. Stress their duties and what you expect. If you get nervous and abrupt during a day of shooting explain that in advance so the assistant doesn’t take it personally and apologize afterwards for any harsh words. People will forgive and be loyal through a great deal when treated like a human being with common courtesy.
Explain to a potential assistant in advance what a typical wedding is like. Have a clear idea and description what you want them to do. If they are acting as an assistant only this might be straightening the bride’s dress or helping set up group shots. If they have photo experience and are acting as a second shooter then be clear what shots you want them to get.
For example, some men photographers might have a female assistant who as a second shooter goes in to photograph the bride’s final preparation, perhaps getting more relaxed photos than a man would.
A great assistant is more than a “go-fer” person. A great assistant makes you look even better!