EG: I always think that whether you can figure out how to start assisting is essentially a litmus test of whether you’re gonna make it or not. The formula is pretty easy, tbh.
1. Find photographers you like.
2. Email them. Say hello. Tell them you like their work and you’d love to assist someday.
3. Don’t expect a response. If you get one, great.
4. Stay in touch a few times a year.
5. Repeat until you no longer want to assist.
There it is. That’s the secret to a career in photography. Research. Interact. Repeat. This works for assisting, for magazines, for commercial clients, etc etc. If you’re cool, or talented, or a hard worker, or really pleasant, or any combination of those, you’ll be fine if you follow this formula.
JS: An easy way to get started is to assist your friends, you will both learn quite a bit in the process and it’ll be low pressure since you know each other. Another way is to reach out to photographers in your area. Send them a polite email sharing your background and experience level along with a link to your website, conveying your interest in assisting. Join a professional organization such as ASMP or APA both have databases for assistants.
CC: Do what is suggested above and follow up. I started assisting by doing 1, 2, and 3. I’ll also add that I didn’t get any responses from the 30+ emails I sent and when I followed up with all of them I received a response from 2 people who I ended up assisting regularly for two years and learned a ton from (while also testing and assisting my friends – make friends with other photographers at your level at local photo events and you’ll level up together as time goes on). As Emiliano said, it’s important to stay top of mind and if a photographer’s usual assistant isn’t available and you happen to follow up on your email, you might get hired. The tricky part is not having all the experience necessary (or any experience) to be a first assistant so Jake Stangel created this super helpful video. I’d have to say that nothing compares to being able to play with all the gear IRL so I would also suggest reaching out to 1st assistants and asking if you can be brought on as a 2nd or 3rd assistant on bigger jobs. I learned so much this way – during downtime, the 1st assistant would show me how all the gear worked. You can also try to get into the equipment rooms at studios or rental houses to familiarize yourself with the gear and meet photographers that way.