Top Ten Twelve Assistant Tips

As a studio manager and full time first assistant, I spend a lot of time on set. In the past few years, I’ve worked on hundreds of shoots with Chris and an ever-evolving roster of really talented assistants. We have our crew that we like to work with and bring along when possible, but we’re often relying on the skill and expertise of local assistants wherever we may be. First and foremost, a huge thank you to everyone in that crew who may be reading this, you guys and girls rock.

Now, I have to admit, with all of my time on set and no lack of studio manager responsibilities to attend to, I may not be the best photo assistant. I must admit, when I’m not setting up gear or moving equipment, I do spend a lot of time attending to other studio-managing-work on my iPhone or laptop (an assisting sin, generally speaking). Therefore when I started putting this blog post together, I decided to defer to the experts and ask our top freelance assistants if they would offer up their best tips and secrets to success. Lucky for you, they did…

Here they are, your top ten assisting tips in no particular order thanks to the superstar assistants Jeff Elkins, Jared Castaldi, and Tye Worthington:


1. Always be thinking one step ahead of the photographer. Think about what the photographer needs before he needs it.

(It looks like the photographer needed some diffused shade in this case)

2. The dictionary’s definition for assistant is a person who assists or gives aid and support; helper. Not someone who promotes themselves on set at every opportunity.

3. Early is on time, On time is late. and late is unacceptable.

Tye Worthington, looking his most bad-ass while holding the camera.

4. Don’t put the “ass” in assistant.

5. “No” does not exist.

being a human lightstand? perfectly normal role for an assistant. Hope your arms don’t get tired!

6. Always know where to find the essentials; electrical power, caffeine (energy drinks), bathrooms, and the nearest bar.

7. Dress appropriately/look presentable. This can vary situation to situation, so when in doubt, ask the photographer.

Jared Castaldi, definitely dressed appropriately for this test shot

8. Be able to carry heavy things – it may sound trivial but it’s really important.

9. Move quickly. If you’re asked to grab something that’s needed right away, don’t walk like you’re eating ice cream with your girlfriend in a park. RUN!

10. At the very least, always show up with a working pen and leatherman.

The man, the myth, the legend… Jeff Elkins. You can’t see it, but he’s rocking his leatherman.

11. Gaff tape is your best friend.

Last but certainly not least, Chris also had a few choice words to share in what he looks for from an assistant:

“What am I looking for most? Presence and engagement – if you’ve never assisted before then at least you’re 100% there. You have no idea what’s going on so you have to be totally there and hopefully if you’re not stupid, you’re sucking it all up like a sponge. If you’re an experienced assistant, then that idea of presence means you’re working ahead of me, trying to be busy and save me time but also not nagging or annoying. It’s a balance.”

chris crisman photography studio managerThe Crisman crew circa summer 2011 – Sorry Jared, we’ll do a group photo soon.

Alright so I lied – it’s 12 tips, so sue me. Did we leave anything out? Care to add? Leave a comment or let us know whats up @crismanphoto, @robertluessen, @jaredcastaldi, @jeffelkinsphoto, @tonOFworthy

9 replies to “Top Ten Twelve Assistant Tips”

  1. This is great information, thanks for sharing. Do you guys have a resource you use for finding assistants? Also do you have any suggestions on determining pay for assistants? I know it’s not an exact science but looking for a general idea and things to consider.

Comments are closed.