Grow Your Business Using Photo Assistants


Many photographers like to print their work very big but so many do themselves a disservice by not looking at the big picture. Creativity, productivity, budget, achievability; are all pertinent considerations in deciding whether to enlist the help of an eager assistant. Let’s examine the ways in which shelling out a few extra bucks on a right hand man will make your photo business more money!

Increasing profit by adding expense would seem counter intuitive. Like many things in life, it is a matter of perspective. The photo industry is unique in that most of the work done, and the relative costs involved, are going to vary from project to project. Because of this, there many nuances to using an assistant in such a way that is worthwhile to the business. Sometimes it is immediately apparent if a particular shoot will require the presence of a second set of hands. At other times, the need may be less obvious. The tough part is recognizing assignments where the use of assistant(s) may not seem to be necessary, but in the long run will make the business more money. A mental shift from “photographer” to “business owner” needs to be made in order to make the necessary adjustments to the decision-making processes. This can be a struggle for many creative professionals, and understandably so. There is no light switch to flip, no simple answer to find and generally the focus is on the “work”. Hopefully by learning to recognize a few important factors, you can put systems in place that will enable you to make that internal conversion.

What Customers, The Photographer & Your Business Get Out Of It

Understanding the purpose and the logic behind having an assistant is the first step to figuring out when their use is, in fact, a lucrative endeavor. There are two analytical perspectives from which to examine; that of the client and that of the photographer.

- The client should see added value, i.e. “more equals better.” Having an assistant conveys a presence of professionalism, which might equate to a better product in your client’s mind. This also allows clientele time to spend schmoozing with the photographer and the talent. The whole production becomes an entertaining and pleasant experience, with the added benefit of appearing to run very smoothly. However, there are some cons to this as well. Adding more people can be perceived to increase production expense. Like you, they are assuredly trying to get the most output with as little cost as possible.

- The photographer gains the ability to “be” in two places at once. And in some cases, it allows photographers to have a backup camera and/or photographer. When plans change mid shoot, as they so often do, there isn’t a whole lot to be done except grin and bear it. If a photographer looks panicked, then he or she appears unprofessional to everyone on set. I will resist the urge to go into too much detail, and instead recommend that you read a great article from this blog about how photo assistants make it easy for photographers. The con with this lies in that sometimes assistants may hinder the process and get in the way. This undoubtedly can make things more stressful. Usually, this is simply a direct result of the assistant’s inexperience as an assistant or unfamiliarity with the particulars of your equipment.

When taking this information into perspective as a business operator, the concern should be on the long term business plan. Profit margin and a steady stream of incoming work is pretty much what it boils down to. Having an assistant can work in the favor of both these aspects, as it not only means you can have a larger work load, but it also allows you to sell more “product”. One must tread carefully here, coming on too strong as a salesman can potentially scare away both loyal customers and promising clients. It is important to remind them that the service has added value with an extra set of hands. It is solely up to you to make them understand that.

Recognize Possibilities & Position Your Business For Growth

Pretty much everyone knows the old adage “time is money”. That’s because it’s true! However, depending on the primary clientele this understanding will vary; if the customer is a business, their time is very valuable and those in charge are very aware that the quicker things get done the more the company is saving, even if it means a little more cost upfront. If your primary consumer is individuals, then generally those clients aren’t going to care so much about anything but the end result and the bill. It is all about how one frames it. If you happen to be, as so many are, both the owner and the photographer for your business then it would behoove you to evaluate what your time is truly worth as if you were an employed photographer. Too often photographers undervalue what their time is worth. Consider these two questions: 1) How much IS your time worth and 2) Is having an assistant allowing you to profit from a more efficient use of time? The answers to each of these questions are going to change over time as you modify your business model and address the intricacies of each job taken.

That being said, having a continuous influx of work is just as important, if not more so, than the individual money being brought in from jobs, so long as money isn’t being lost. Genuine interaction with clients is the most fruitful way to get them to continuously come back with their work. It also serves as a great way to network and provides a baseline of trust in your working relationships. It’s important to point out that it is easy to unintentionally devalue the work being performed and not even realize it. Something as slight as the appearance of stress may sway a client’s opinion of soliciting your business again in the future. An assistant who supports your direction and given time allotments positively will surely help you attract future business opportunities, thereby sustaining your spot in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

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This post was a guest post written by Andrew Wagle.

Andrew Wagle is a commercial account manager at C.R.I.S., a digital camera repair company located in Chandler, AZ. Andrew’s photographic education, hardware knowledge, and digital imaging expertise is a major contributor to the company’s BBB A+ rating.  Andrew is also the social media coordinator and moderator of the company’s camera repair blog; focused on care, maintenance and repair tips for digital cameras and imaging equipment.

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4 comments for this post.

  1. David Schmidt Said:

    I'm struggling with this right now, my big question is how much to pay them and how highly skilled that they need to be.

  2. E the P Said:

    I take pictures and do videos at my karaoke show, (phatkaraoke.com) and upload them on my blog @ (blogphatkaraoke.com. I'm thinking about hiring a guy to do this for me to free up my time, because time is money. But I don't think I can afford a professional or even a semi-pro right now and I know you get what you pay for. Check out my blog and consider linking me to your post and give me some feedback.

  3. Sean Said:

    I've found the best photo assistants & digital techs listed on the http://www.1prophoto.com web site. They have recently updated there free online photo production database which is now http://www.1procrew.com that just lists photo production people. Whats very cool is the new site gives everyone a free online portfolio, that looks like a live books kind of lay out
    These guys have been around for 12 years and in a pinch I have been able to email them directly for recommendations for assistants or techs; and they reply usually within minutes.
    Wish others in this industry worked as fast.

  4. Daniel Fotografie Said:

    I agree with hiring assistants, every photographer should have one!

    My time is worth X dollars.
    Their time is worth X divided by 10 dollars.

    I justify the assistant cost to clients by explaining that production time doubles the shoot time, and that instead of paying me to set up the lights and get everything technically sound, they could pay someone else ten times less for those tasks.

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