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Tricks of the Trade: Photo Assistant


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BY Brian Dwyer September 10, 2014 · Published by Resource Magazine

Assistant Marqui Akins hands down the commandments of his Photo Assistants’ Bible in this article from Resource Magazine.

This article has been contributed from the Spring 2008 issue of Resource Magazine, courtesy of the publisher. To subscribe to the magazine and explore Resource’s online features, visit the Resource Magazine website.





There is a dapper, calm universe that often pervades a finished photograph—models floating with Christ-like ease or inanimate objects resting peacefully on a sterile-white counter. Behind this fantasy world is a harsher reality, filled with peeled hands and tired eyes belonging to photo assistants. Marqui Akins agreed to give me some of the main commandments from the Photo Assistants’ Bible.

1. Thou Shalt Work for Scratch.

“Try and get as much experience as possible. Interning is a big thing that many aspiring photographers and people who want to get into the business do,” Marqui says. In a way, interning works to weed out everyone but the diehards. Internships at a Miami photo rep and a New York City modeling agency didn’t pay the bills, but these experiences built Marqui’s resume. “When I came to New York, I was interning at a photo agency, working nights at Shoot Digital, and assisting whenever I could. Those couple hours of sleep at night just seem to last when it’s something you really want to do!”

2. All Work and No Play Makes Marqui a Successful Boy.

The perks of being a photo assistant include free studio time, as long as you can find the time. “You need to keep in mind that, when you assist, you are taking care of work, and you need to get the job done. If you have time, then you can take on your own stuff. I am not perfect: when I first arrived in New York, there were times when I was trying to do too much. I had to sit down and realize I had a great situation here, and I didn’t want to mess this up.”

3. Keep Busy.

“You should always find something to do—make sure you’re always doing something. A photographer I worked with really loved that I was always working so hard and doing all I could to make his job easier. He really gave me a nice compliment through his agency, and I got other work because of that.”

4. Loyalty Is the Mark of a True Friend.

“A lot of assistants are aspiring photographers but you need to make sure that you remember you are working for a photographer. Take care of what he needs, and focus on the job at hand. Before approaching stylists or models for some possible tests, make sure you ask the photographer for his permission. It’s normal courtesy. Always make sure the photographer feels like he is number one.”

5. Silence Is Golden.

“If the photographer has a certain lighting setting, you don’t want to say in front of everyone that his light is wrong. Be careful about the things you say. Though you may have the best intentions, you don’t want to undermine what the photographer is doing on set.”

6. Do Not Do Unto Others As Others Do Unto You.

“Every shoot is going to have its little quirks. Problems are going to arise, that’s just the nature of the business. It’s how you deal with them that separates the really professional assistants.”


Featured photographer: Marqui Akins

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