How to Become an (Amazing) Associate Photographer


October 3, 2019

This blog post is co-written by Brooke at Brooke Elisabeth Photography and Rachel of Rachel Graff Photography. If you haven’t already read Part I of our associate photography blog post series, check out that post first!

Now that we have convinced you that becoming an associate photographer is a fantastic way to propel your business forward and gain valuable experience, we’ll give you the tips and tricks of how to get there.

Currently, there are a lot of photographers in the Twin Cities seeking associates to add to their team. There’s never been a better time to get your foot in the door! However, becoming an associate takes time, effort, and the right fit. You will have the best experience as an associate photographer when you work with a lead photographer who you respect, like, and admire. Once you target a photographer or two that you want to work for, here’s our advice on how to be an amazing associate from the first email to your first shoot!

The Initial Email

We all know first impressions are EVERYTHING. If the lead photographer has a posting for associate photographers, complete their application thorough and take your time to ensure your personality comes through in your answers. Even if the photographer isn’t outright “hiring,” don’t let it stop you from reaching out! If you want to “cold email” a photographer, be sure to email rather than sending a DM. It’s more professional and allows you more room to express yourself.

When it comes to crafting your email, take your time! Make it personal so the photographer can get to know YOU. The worst thing you can do is just link your website and leave the rest to chance. Here are some items you should be sure to include:

  • Your business name, website, and Instagram handle
  • Tell them about YOU. What are your other hobbies/passions? Tell them about your family or relationship status. Include where you live so they know if you can travel to their clients appropriately. A connection point can go a long way!
  • Tell them a little about your business. How long have you been shooting? Are you a full-time photographer or is it a side hustle? What kinds of sessions/clients do you love working with? Be honest about your experience level!
  • Provide a full gear list, including your camera body, lenses, and flash makes and models
  • Link a few sessions you’re proud of. This could be a blog post or gallery link. It will be helpful for the photographer to see an end-to-end view of your sessions!

Assisting & Observing

If the photographer is interested in working with you, they will typically open up an opportunity for you to second shoot or observe a session with them in order to get a feel for them and their work. This is an opportunity to show you are eager, helpful, and knowledgeable. However, the best thing you can do during this time is observe and respect the photographer’s space. The last thing you want to do is be over-eager and be distracting. Here are some quick tips for second shooting or assisting:

  • Ask what lens the photographer is shooting with and why. This will help you know how to shoot like they do! Also, if you’re second shooting, choose a lens that’s different than theirs so your shots provide variety to the gallery!
  • Take note of how the photographer is posing clients. This is a huge part of the client experience and will help you recreate similar work.
  • Don’t just shoot over the lead’s shoulder. Get creative and shoot different angles so they have variety to add to the client’s final gallery.
  • Take note of the background and locations they choose. While lighting is the most important factor is choosing locations, some photographers seek out bright and light backgrounds while others like to find more contrast. Locations and backgrounds are a huge factor in photographers’ work looking consistent, so this is an important feature to notice.
  • Observe how they handle challenges like difficult clients/family members, inclement weather, and high-stress situations.

Shooting & Follow-Up

Once you land the gig (way to go!), you need to put all your learning and training into action. To be an amazing associate photographer, be sure to do these things at your sessions:

  • Review the timeline and/or client questionnaire multiple times. The more you do your “homework,” the more prepared you’ll be!
  • Print the shot list (if applicable) or have a way of tracking what you’ve captured.
  • Handle yourself like the lead photographer would. Be professional, upbeat, or whatever they act like with their clients!
  • Take your time to get the shot right. Don’t feel rushed! Feel free to be picky too if something isn’t working.
  • Don’t overshoot! Get a few good shots and move on. Giving the lead photographer a million photos to cull won’t make for a great experience.
  • Provide the photos to the lead photographer ASAP! It’s easiest to meet up in person or use one of their cards if you have a dual memory card slot.
  • Be sure to follow the lead photographer’s rules for sharing and posting on social media! You’re typically free to share the photos on your own portfolio, but be sure you’re following all the guidelines laid out in their contract.

You’re SO ready to take this next step in your business! We hope our experience and insight is helpful, and we would LOVE to hear your associate photography success stories!

  1. […] 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! […]

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