Most photographers will, at some point, receive an email with an offer of assisting from an aspiring photographer or student. Or you’ll be on the opposite side, sending out emails in the hope of getting some paid work and experience. It’s a tried and tested approach; college, assisting, working.
Inevitably emails I receive follow a familiar format, starting out with a brief introduction, what they’re doing now, what they’d like to be doing, how it’d be great (although life changing would be a more suitable adjective) experience for them and then a link to their portfolio.
Until recently I’d never really given this much thought. I don’t use assistants on a regular basis as most of my studio work is in a studio with a full time assistant on hand. I keep every email though in case the need arises. But earlier I started thinking about these emails and I noticed a similar pattern emerging – in every one there is a link to a portfolio.
But there’s no breakdown of skills needed to be an assistant.
I’ve never had a single email from an assistant looking for work where they tell me how they can assist. Ideally I’d like to know what lighting kit they’re comfortable with, camera systems and lenses they’ve used (a good working knowledge of movement lenses is very handy), computer skills (most importantly how quickly they can recover Capture One Pro when it crashes) and anything else that will prove useful on a job or in the studio. Got a strong back? Put it down! Make the best tea this side of China? Brag about it!
While it’s nice to see that you’re a competent photographer I’d rather have an assistant on a job rather than a photographer who’s assisting because they’ve been told it’s the best way to get experience to gain commissions. By all means contact photographers but address your request suitably, sell yourself as an assistant.