EG: In NYC and LA, you can be paid anywhere from $200-$650 as a photo assistant. $200 being very low, $300-$350 for an editorial job with an established magazine/photographer, to $500-$650 for a full commercial rate as a first assistant. I’ve heard of realllllly experienced assistants getting a little more, but that’s pretty rare. Some assistants will get some jobs as “lighting designers” and that can pay $1000 or more.
Other markets are usually about the same range, as far as I know. In my experience, assistants in other markets are less flexible with their rates since they probably don’t have a personal relationship with the photographer coming in from out of town (me) and they have less jobs per year, so can’t afford to be flexible.
CC: One thing I want to add to Emiliano’s answer is to keep in mind that if you offer a very low rate to an assistant, even if it’s “quick and easy” or just helping you carry gear, like yourself they can’t book anything else that day. My personal rule is not to pay less than $300 and if the editorial budget is less than that then I pay out of pocket. For commercial jobs, I inform the client and budget as Emiliano suggested above. I used to work with photographers who would hand me a check at wrap and I really appreciated that. Let the assistant know your payment terms when hiring.