This blog post is co-written by Rachel of Rachel Graff Photography and Brooke of Brooke Elisabeth Photography. Rachel and Brooke met over Instagram and are both associate photographers for the sweet and talented Trish Allison Photography. Between the two of us, we have shot countless engagement sessions, weddings, and seniors. Over time, we learned a thing or two about being an associate photographer for another photog.
Thanks to the launch of Ali Leigh’s associate program course, many photographers are learning to scale their businesses by building associate programs. For those who don’t know, an associate photographer is a photographer who shoots a session in place of the lead photographer when that photographer is unavailable. Because of the massive benefits and Ali’s recent course launch, the demand for finding good associate photographers is sky-rocketing!
What is an Associate Photographer?
An associate photographer is a photographer who shoots weddings or sessions on behalf of another experienced photographer, but the images are edited by the head photographer in order to give them the look and feel of their own work. An associate photographer works as an independent contractor for the head photographer and represents the head photographer and their brand. If an experienced photographer is unavailable for a couple’s wedding date, but the couple loves the look of the head photographer’s work, the head photographer may hire an associate photographer, or have an existing team of associates, to shoot on their behalf.
Before we dive into how to become a great associate, let’s talk about WHY you should consider becoming an associate for an experienced photographer. Here are our individual “why’s” behind becoming associate photographers:
“I became interested in associate photography for two main reasons: 1) I wanted to learn from an expert to improve my wedding photography. When it came to the planning, booking, and shooting process, I knew I wasn’t quite confident and wanted to see how someone else did it! 2) I knew I wasn’t ready to quit my day job yet. As an associate, I can shoot weddings and gain experience without the responsibility of completing all the editing and responding to all the emails!”
“At the time, I was photographing mainly high school seniors, but I knew I wanted to expand. I have always had an appreciation and love for wedding photography, and I knew that is the direction I wanted to go. I decided to email a handful of photographers that had similar photography styles to me. It was through those emails that I was introduced to the idea of an associate program. The associate program has been a huge game changer for me both in my own business and my personal life. I knew I was not ready to be on my own, and I saw so much value in getting to shoot weddings and learn while doing so from someone I looked up to.
I also knew that I would have to finish college, and that my studies needed to come first. Being an associate photographer meant that I could have the best of both worlds. I could still go to school full-time and continue to grow my business, all while still having enough time to have a healthy, balanced college experience. Becoming an associate photographer was the best way for me to gain experience and confidence, without the pressure and overwhelm!!
Top 10 Reasons to Join an Associate Team
Here are Rachel and Brooke’s Top 10 Reasons to Become an Associate Photographer:
Work with ideal clients
You should work with a lead photographer who runs the business of your dreams. Associate programs work best when the associate photographer is truly passionate about working with the kinds of clients the lead photographer is booking. As an associate photographer, you’ll get to work with you ideal clients and practice serving them well.
Observe the pros
Typically, the lead photographer will have you shadow them before shooting your first associate session. Use these times to really pay attention to how the photographer poses, shoots, and handles situations. This is invaluable information that you get to absorb in exchange for representing the lead photographer’s business!
All the fun without all the work!
As an associate, you are only responsible for shooting the session and handing over your memory cards. You don’t have to worry about all the emails, scheduling, planning, culling or editing! This is an AMAZING way to practice shooting and build your portfolio without all the front- and back-end work. Just keep and edit your favorite shots and let the lead photographer worry about the rest!
Fill your calendar
Booking associate weddings can help fill dates you may not have booked on your own. Booking a Friday or Sunday associate wedding is like hitting the jackpot!
Shoot more high-end weddings, clients, or events
The lead photographer is likely booking in a higher price range. Shooting weddings as their associate lets you see and capture a different level of work than what you may be booking on your own. It’s also a great way to get to shoot at venues you’ve been dreaming about!
Build your portfolio
Most lead photographers will let you use the images you capture as an associate for your own website, social media, and portfolio (with some restrictions/rules of course)! Being able to use images from your ideal clients or a higher price point will eventually help you book more ideal clients yourself.
Get your questions answered
Do you ever look at a photographer you admire and think, “How the heck did they get that shot?!” Because I want to create images as similar to the lead photographer’s as I can, I need to ask them to reveal some of their secrets! A good lead photographer will answer all your shooting questions so you can provide their clients the images they want.
Improve your client experience
There is a reason a lead photographer is successful! Working as an associate allows you to get a glimpse of how the lead photographer runs their business.
Pose like a Pro
Because we want our photos to look like the lead photographer’s, that includes using their posing methods! We used to freeze up with posing, but now that we have another photographer’s ideas in our back pockets, it’s far easier to go into sessions with confidence!
Increase your network
Most lead photographers with an associate team will do meet-ups and trainings as a group. This is a great way to meet and bond with other photographers! We would not have met if it wasn’t for Trish’s associate program. Additionally, the lead photographer typically provides the second shooter, which leads you to meet and work with even more photographers.
Have we convinced you yet? 🙂 We truly love our experience working as associate photographers. It’s allowed us to build our portfolios, improve our own photography, and manage our calendars in ways we never thought possible. Next week, we will share our secrets of how we became associates and how to make your lead photographer fall in love with you and your work!