Understanding Associate Photographers


January 2, 2022

What is an associate photographer?

An associate photographer is a photographer who shoots on behalf of another photographer and their brand. Typically, the associate photographer is an independent contractor who is working for the lead photographer’s company. The lead photographer still does the editing and manages all the communication, booking process, and scheduling. The associate simply photographs the client’s session and hands over the raw images files for the lead photographer to edit and deliver.  You inquire and book through the lead photographer and credit the lead photographer for the images captured.

Think of it like hiring a restaurant to cater an event. You’re hiring the restaurant’s brand, but the head chef and wait staff may not be the same ones that are in the brick and mortar restaurant. However, the restaurant trained that staff on how to make the restaurant’s recipes and how to provide a parallel experience.

Pros and Cons of Associate Photography

What are the benefits of working with an associate photographer?

Associate photographers are often trained thoroughly with the lead photographer. The lead photographer teaches them how to pose you and what kind of backdrops to use in order to get images that look and feel true to the lead photographer’s work. They are often slightly less experienced than the lead photographer, but are still professional photographers themselves. Associate photographers also typically use the exact same gear as the lead photographer.

Additionally, most lead photographers offer discounts for hiring their associates in their place. Therefore, you can get the experience, images, and editing style of the lead photographer at a lower price. Also, associate photographers can allow you to work with a specific brand if the lead photographer is already booked. This allows the lead photographer to take on more clients

What are the drawbacks to working with an associate photographer?

The experience of working with an associate photographer can often feel slightly less personal. While the lead photographer is the one doing the communication, they are not the one there on the actual day of your shoot. Therefore, the process can feel more transactional and disjointed. Also, photography is an artistic, subjective activity. Despite the lead photographer training them, the associate is a unique human being with a unique personality, so no one can exactly replicate someone else’s experience.

Questions to ask a lead photographer before hiring an associate

Not every photographer has an associate program, and not every photographer runs their associate program the same way. Here are some questions to ask a lead photographer about their associate program before hiring an associate:

  • How long as this associate photographer been working for you/how long have they had their own business?
  • Can I see an example gallery shot by the associate?
  • What kind of training has the associate received from you?
  • What made you hire this photographer as an associate? Why were they a good fit for your team?

If you are not comfortable with the lead photographers’ answers to these questions, it may be a sign to go with a different photographer or hire the lead photographer instead.

The Rachel Graff Photography Associate Program

I have associates who shoot senior sessions and weddings on my behalf when I am booked or unavailable. It’s also a great way to get the RGP experience on a smaller budget. My associates will photograph the wedding day or your senior session, but I do the communication, planning, and photo editing so you still get the Rachel Graff look and experience along the way. The RGP associate program contains a small, talented team of photographers who I personally trained on:

  • Posing techniques and process
  • How to find the best lighting
  • My favorite locations and backdrops
  • Shooting techniques

I only hire photographers who I believe provide my clients the same level of customer service as me. I look for photographers who are super positive, encouraging, and uplifting. They are not only talented photographers, but also have personalities similar to mine. Finally, I require my associates to shoot on the same gear as me, so there is no difference in quality and resolution of the images.

If you hire an RGP associate for your senior session or wedding, you can rest assured that you are going to get not only similar images to my own work, but also an extremely comparable experience along the way.

To learn more about my associate program, check out the rest of my blog! Also, reach out to me if you’re interested in becoming an associate!

  1. […] sister’s rehearsal dinner. Brooke stepped up from being my second photographer to becoming my associate photographer for the remainder of the day. She did a wonderful job, and I’m so thankful to have other […]

  2. […] to share Annika’s senior photos on the blog today! This session was captured by my wonderful associate photographer, Jaylene. Jaylene clearly captured Annika’s essence so well and embraced her personal […]

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