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A photographic assistant, also known as an assistant photographer or a photographer's assistant, is "an individual with both photographic and related skills who assists a professional photographer". The work of an assistant photographer is often referred to simply as assisting. The photo assistant is most often employed on a freelance basis, but in some instances photo assistants are full time employees primarily in major markets and with big name photographers.
The latter will often involve assisting a studio or location photographer, not just helping out on shoots but also carrying out the mundane day-to-day running of the studio.
A freelance assistant, on the other hand, will typically assist a number of different photographers on a shoot-by-shoot basis.
Previously, the main tasks of the photographic assistant would be loading and processing film (primarily 35mm, 120 and 220 roll films, & 4x5, 5x7, 8x10 and 11x14 sheet film), setting up lights, doing meter reading, and color temperature readings, shooting lighting test Polaroids, and basically presenting the photographer with a set that is ready for the photographer to simply press the button and create the images. Now with Digital having replaced traditional film photography, the photographers assistant also needs to be a highly skilled lighting technician; as these skills are no longer being pass on by photographers, who themselves are less technically proficient than their counterparts 20 years ago. 
With the onset of digital photography, the task of the assistant increasingly involves digital work, be it downloading compactflash cards, setting up the computer for digital capture. However, the traditional onset skills of lighting and metering are still the basis of the assistants duties.
An important ongoing task of the assistant photographer, whether working with digital or film, is setting up lighting, taking light meter readings and, generally speaking, doing all of the manual setup on a shoot.
- Professional Studio Strobes - ProFoto, Broncolor, Dynalite, Briese, Comet, Elinchrom, Speedotron, Hensel
- Lower grade Studio Strobes - Norman, Calumet, Alien Bee, White Lightning
- Meters - Minolta and Sekonic Flash meters | Minolta, Sekonic and Broncolor Color temperature meters. As well as full knowledge of color correction on the lights and on camera.
- Roll Film Cameras 120/220 - Mamiya 645 & RZ67ProII, Contax 645, Phase One 645, Pentax 6x7, Hasselblad, Fuji 680
- Sheet film Cameras 4x5/8x10/11x14 - Horseman, Sinar, Deardorff, Linhof, Cambo, Toyo, Graflex, Speedgraphic
Training / Workshops
Photo Schools have previously done a fairly adequate job of exposing their students to a great deal of traditional photographic information and photo history which could often be apply to some situations in the real world and on commercial photo shoots. But this has changed since the advent of digital still photography. As of around 2001 most schools offering a photography curriculum have now adopted the practice getting as many paying students through the doors of institutions as possible every year. Most schools are placing an emphasis on digital capture programs, and retouching of digital images and or use of third party programs filters or effects in order to achieve a result. None of this is how commercial photography editorial photography is done. This leads to a glut of unskilled individuals who have paid a great deal of money for an education that in the real world is completely useless. The best trained photo assistants, digital techs and thus the best photographers all came from having a background working as a freelance photographers assistant. Other training and educational options include taking Photographic Assistant Training courses or workshops offered around the country. And it should be noted that just as working with only one photographer will not endow you with all of the skills to become a working photographer neither will taking only one workshop or training course. The skills that these industry professionals have to pass along are invaluable and change from course to course.