Ask the Pros: As an intern or assistant, will I get to go on photo shoots?

Ask the Pros: As an intern or assistant, will I get to go on photo shoots? To help prepare you for the real world, our Ask the Pros series is here to help answer some of your most common questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication and media art and photo departments.

Got a question you want answered? Send it to us at and we'll put it to our experts! A varying panel of professionals will give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work.

And if you're a working professional yourself, we'd love to hear your opinion too ... don't hesitate to add it in our comments or email us to be on one of our panels.

Today our photo pros talk about photo shoots....

As an intern or assistant, what are the chances I can go on photo shoots?

PRO: Whitney Tressel - Associate Photo Editor, Budget Travel
Going on photo shoots depends on the publication, its subject matter and the frequency of its shoots. It's important to ask, when the timing is right, if you could either help out as a worker bee on a given shoot or simply tag along as a fly on the wall to learn how it all works. A photo editor might not think of extending the invite on his or her own, so asking will show your enthusiasm and interest in helping the team out. When/if on set, make sure to hang back yet stay ready for any request that may be asked of you. Trust me, the littlest task is a huge help.

PRO: Leslie dela Vega - Director of Photography, Fast Company
In my book, the chances are 100%. Completely! I believe it's important for interns to experience all aspects of a photo department. From color copying and grabbing some coffee for a photographer to attending shoots, directing and editing. It's the only way to learn!

PRO: Michael Norseng - Director of Photography, Esquire
The frequency and role on-set really depends on the size of the photo department at the magazine, but I would say it is extremely likely that you'd be exposed to photo shoots. Whether that is being there for the entire day in a support role or just stopping by a shoot to bring something to set. At Esquire (Hearst) there is an in-house photo studio called Studio D that employs a large roster of photographers. A lot of our front-of-book shoots happen in that studio. As an intern, it is common that you'll be on set occasionally and helping in some way. Whether that is running out for props, arranging pick ups, or just being there as a support to one of the members of the photo department.  

PRO: Stephanie Kim - Photo Director, Woman's Day
It depends on the Photo Director or Photo Editor but from my experience most interns and assistants in the photo department go on several shoots.

PRO: Michele Ervin - Senior Associate Photo Editor, Popular Mechanics
Don't expect to be brought on shoots all the time, especially at first. If you work hard, prove yourself to get your job done well, I think most Photo Editors will start to bring you on a couple of shoots before your internship is done to observe and learn.

PRO: John Toolan - Photo Director, Field & Stream and Outdoor Life
The chances of going on a shoot are good, but it depends on what kind of shoot. In my case, we do lots of still life shoots right here in New York, so there are plenty of stress-free opportunities for interns to observe and even help out on shoots.
    We do plenty of shoots out of NYC, in areas where people actively fish and hunt, but like most magazines, we wouldn't pay to fly an intern to any of those.
    I always try to get interns exposure to shoots, since many of the interns we have are still very interested in becoming photographers. It's a great experience and honestly not much of a hassle for me.

PRO: Yvonne Stender - Photo Director, Sunset Magazine
Chances are slim unless you work on a publication with a small staff where there is generally more to do than there are staff, thus you get thrown into the fire much sooner even if the pay is much less. But the experience is well worth it and can help you move on to bigger challenges. If you are dying to attend a photo shoot, let your boss know that when the right shoot comes along, that you would like to attend and are willing to help with anything that comes up - and mean it. Don't demand or expect it, as that just gets annoying.

Thanks to our terrific panel of pros for their great advice! 
Check out our previous Ask the Pros questions below. And email us if you've got a question.

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