What Does a Photographer Apprentice Do?

Alex Tree

A photographer apprentice, also known as a photographer assistant, assists a photographer with his or her job. The job’s requirements vary, but generally include adjusting lighting, creating sets, and sometimes assisting customers with appointments and check-ins. By assisting with grunt work, a photographer apprentice learns more about photography, which is the point of the apprenticeship. Being an apprentice is not always the most exciting work a novice photographer can do, however, because the pay is often low and some employers are more interested in assigning unimportant tasks than teaching advanced concepts of photography.

A photographer's apprentice may help with location scouting.
A photographer's apprentice may help with location scouting.

In many cases, it is the photographer apprentice’s job to create the stage and ensure the lighting is correct. He or she can sometimes do everything except push the button on the camera to take a picture for customers. The apprentice is often allowed to handle cameras for lighting tests, however. In addition to setting up the props and special lighting, a photographer apprentice might accept calls and book appointments for people who wish to have their photos taken. Some studios may require multiple apprentices to run efficiently, because a busy photography business can be constant work.

A photographer apprentice may be responsible for creating the stage and correct lighting for a photo shoot.
A photographer apprentice may be responsible for creating the stage and correct lighting for a photo shoot.

The point of an apprenticeship with a professional photographer is to learn more about the art. Some photography schools even require at least 100 hours as an apprentice for students to graduate. The exact amount of hours depends on the school, with some schools requiring double that amount. Apprenticing is a good way to handle expensive equipment without purchasing it and to learn to deal with everyday chores of a professional photographer. The job is also used to polish a resume by showing that the person is serious about the art and his or her chosen career path, sometimes leading to bigger and better jobs for a beginner.

Becoming a photographer apprentice is not always the best career choice and is sometimes criticized by professional photographers. The pay is often as low as the local minimum wage, with the employer uninterested in assigning work closely related to photography and preferring to assign cleaning duties or everyday errands. Some people view the job as a crucial stepping stone into the photography business, while others view it as a waste of time or way of learning a few things about photography techniques or how to run a photography business. Either way, what a photographer apprentice learns and how much he or she is paid vary significantly from job to job.

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