Blog Reader Question – How to get consistent assisting gigs?

Reader Question – How to get consistent assisting gigs?


Received an question from Kris Mohoruk a past classmate at the Langara Professional Photo-Imaging Program (posted below with his permission, [my comments in bars]);

Hey Kurtis,

I have been following your blog over the last little bit, very well done, I like how it is a nice blend of business and fun, t’s nice to see that your doing so well [Thank you Kris]. I recently just got back from Australia and have been trying to drum up some work and have been having some luck, but it hasn’t been consistent.

I thought I would just inquire and see if you knew anyone who was looking for any sort of assisting work, charity work, or looking to start work on any projects.

I hope all is well,



Great start Kris, asking around is a good place to start looking for work. To quell one thought, photo work has never been “consistent” for me by any means. The only thing consistent about it that my bosses all call me all on same week every three months…

**Disclaimer: This is my opinion, it may or may not work for you, it has not been tested 117%**

I’m still trying to crack the consistent code, a couple of things I could reccomend:

  1. Make a list of photographers you’d like to work for in your area; PPABC or CAPIC have great lists failing that Google is a great resource. Assisting is as much about work as it is learning. For example I probably wouldn’t assist a children’s photographer more than once (unless we hit it off) as that is not work I’m particularly interested in being very proficient in.
  2. Take one of those photographers out for coffee/lunch/dinner (YOUR treat). I’ve found that if you don’t have a word of mouth referral photographers are hesitant to hire a new assistant as they have to spend a 5-10 hour day with you and not knowing you can be an issue. Make the investment, prove you’re awesome. You’ll be footing a $10-60 bill (you’re essentially paying for a job interview) but even if that turns into one/half a gig it’s paid for itself and you’ve got another photographer referral.
  3. Work for free once (DOUBLE DISCLAIMER always bill when you work for free, then discount 100%. This way the photographer knows your value and won’t be shocked when you drop your assisting rate next time). You don’t want to come off as cheap. Takes down that initial “is-this-person-worth-my-money” barrier from the photographers point of view. Again, prove you’re awesome.
  4. Develop a mailing list from #1 and send out promo’s “20% off if you book me by/before Febtober 37th”. Give them the option to unsubscribe (I hate when I unsubscribe from something and still keep getting it)
  5. Start a blog, show what you’re shooting right now. Nice to show photographers what you’re working on/ where you see yourself going. Add this to your newsletter from #4
  6. Keep learning on your own, take a course (Photoshop, Capture One etc) then send out a press release to your mailing list from #4. Show that you’re gaining more and more skills making yourself more and more proficient at your job. I’d personally rather pay some expert 2x$50/hour to get a job done than some rookie 10x$10/hour for the same job.
  7. Develop relationships with rental studios. Provide them with a cut (10-20%) of your day rate to be their #1 Guy/Gal. Meanwhile someone out there is screaming bloody murder I’m taking from their profit… how about charging an additional 10-20% on top of your original rate to begin with (80-90% of something is better than 100% of nothing).
  8. Be available, I’m lucky enough to have 1 2 3 4 bosses that are very understanding of my passion for photography so with enough notice I can cancel bread and butter work and go assist on set. I’ve gotten calls from photographers at 11:00pm to be on set at 5:00am…and been there at 4:55am. Invaluable generating that kind of reputation.
Photographic Assisting Tools
If you can't fix something on set with these two items you have a BIGGER problem - © 2011 Kurtis Stewart

Off the top of my head that’s all I’ve got. Now the best thing about almost all the ideas above is they cost essentially nothing, just your time or coffee.

My idea for 2011 is to assist for one NEW photographer each month for free. This is more of a learning process thing for me as I’ve been working for a couple photographers for a while now and have found that when I get to set I’m on auto pilot as I know the photographers habits/wants/needs so well. I want to learn more lighting, play with new gear and see different perspectives. Just, putting that out there

Great question, hope that helps Kris.

Now lets ask the readers, what other things would/do you do to drum up more consistent work?

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