I am starting this thread because the subject of assisting or second shooting comes up frequently with-in other threads ... often as a polarizing answer to a specific question. Less experienced shooters voice frustration about the lack of mentors or Pros to work with, and Pros lament the seeming lack of knowledge or related sense of responsibility of the part of less experienced "newbies". IMO, what we have here is a lack of communication. Here are my thoughts on the subject for consideration and discussion on the part of both ends of the experience spectrum. Gaining experience by working with an established professional wedding photographer: I almost always use an assistant or a second shooter ... except for my lowest end packages. Every single one of my assistants and second shooters added something valuable for the client ... not always right away, but soon enough to be a value added resource. Every one of my former assistants is now a successful professional photographer. Some more successful than I am. For example, Marcin Harla was one of my former assistants. I don't feel threatened by that, I feel proud I could help them realize their potential. I believe in the "play it forward" idea. How do you get to be an assistant or second shooter? Here are a few tips: The squeaky wheel gets the grease, the early bird gets the worm ... , etc., etc., is a good start, but not enough! What you need to do is think of ways you can be of value to a Pro. It isn't about what they can do for you (which is obvious) ... it's about how can you help them !!! Approaching a Pro with "I want to learn wedding photography" is about you, not them. Rethink your approach. For example, my current second shooter Noel Kelly started as an assistant. She contacted me from this forum! Her enthusiasm and confidence was apparent. I met with her, looked at her work, saw potential, and explained that I would pay her pocket change and she had to carry my heavy bags for up to 8 hours without whining about it ... LOL! The conversation was all about what she could do for me, Noel ALREADY knew what I could do for her. Now Noel is my second shooter when the package justifies the cost (which is most of the time) ... otherwise she is quite willing to just assist at lower pay. In return, I have handed off a number of paying jobs to her for newborn photography, family shots and senior photography ... and now engagement sessions ... when I am too expensive for the client's budget. Rather than lose the gig due to budget and lose any subsequent future business from potential referrals ... she does the work. Noel has said to me that if doing an engagement session for free would help me land a gig she would do it. THAT is about what is in it for me! As testimony, here are some direct client excerpts about Noel published in Wedding Wire ratings for Fotografz: "Marc Williams from Fotografz and his assistant Noel Kelly did an absolutely fabulous job with our wedding photography!" "Marc had an assistant with him on the day; she was able to focus on capturing the details, which showed through in the photos that we received." "Thank you Marc and Noel for capturing the best day of my life and not leaving a single moment out!" And this e-mail I just got from a former client: "Looking at our wedding photos again, I love your work. In addition, because Noel was your assistant, now we have beautiful pictures of our (new) daughter." So, next time you approach a Pro, think about value added things like that. A light bulb might go off over the Pro's head : -) To the other established pros out there ... think about what's going on in this business. A bunch of inexperienced people are grabbing gigs, often without any experience ... which people keep grousing about. We can counter that by taking on people with potential, guide them, and then use them for gigs we can't afford to do ourselves, or are already booked for ... or to expand out sphere of influence. When someone calls me for a 7 hour $1,500 wedding gig 8 months in advance, I often can't afford to block that date so far in advance for that kind of money. So I can turn it down, or I can hand it off to someone I have trained. For me, every single newborn gig Noel does, every senior shoot, every family portrait, becomes a potential networking wedding referral for friends and family members. Additional thoughts or ideas?