A group of people become silhouettes while they look out from The Hotel window in Brussels

Kickstart your career by becoming an assistant photographer

When I started my photography business, one of the first things I did was contacting local photographers in Brussels that I admired and ask them to meet. In this article, I want to share my experience with you to encourage you to go out and assist professional photographers you admire in your area. 

Becoming an assistant photographer was beneficial for me when I was starting my photography business, and it was also advantageous for them because of what I was providing to them. Let’s get right into it.

Contact local photographers.

When I knew I wanted to start my photography business, I contacted about ten different local photographers. Some of them never replied, some did but were not interested, and a couple of them took the time to respond and met me in person.

At first, I was interested in knowing about their experience as professional photographers. I wanted to understand if it was feasible to be a photographer in Brussels and make a living out of it. I was coming from an IT world and needed to understand the market before jumping into it. I was, however, decided that I wanted to give it a try. 

Having an honest and open conversation with local photographers allowed me to understand better what my chances were, and perhaps even what were the steps I needed to take to succeed. After our meeting, I got a call in which they asked me if I wanted to be their assistant photographer. I gladly said, yes. It was the beginning of my assisting experience.

Show readiness and enthusiasm.

I had no experience being an assistant photographer, but that didn’t impede me from being ready to get my hands dirty with excitement so I could be of help to them. In the beginning, I had to get used to their rhythms and ways of working, the equipment, and preferred techniques. My willingness to be helpful allowed me to keep working with them over time, so I became their partner of trust when they needed an assistant. I was ready for all challenges ahead.

Eventually, with time, we started working as a team, and we were in sync, I knew what they needed, so it was easier for me to be of help to them. The more we worked together, the better I got at it, and the more I learned.

Learn by observing.

Since we spent lots of time together, I had the chance to see them closely in action at work. This experience allowed me to learn first hand what I could do when I would be taking pictures of my clients in the future.

I didn’t want to be a burden and be asking a bunch of questions every time they would do something so I could learn. I was there to help, not to question. Of course, it was not a problem if I asked at the right time. However, when they were in their zone, I stayed put, helped as much as I could, and observed everything they did. An attentive observation was everything I needed to learn when assisting.

Get professional experience.

While assisting professional photographers, I was in the first line of action seeing their interaction with subjects and clients. My intentions were transparent and honest, and I was absorbing as much information as I could that could help me learn from the experience.

I was able to see the business aspect of their photography venture and take everything I could to make it my own. Believe it or not, some experienced photographers are more than happy sharing tips and tricks about their business with their assistant. They know how important it was for them when they started to get help, and so they are happily passing that information to the next generations.

With the right intentions and questions, I managed to obtain lots of valuable information and knowledge that still sticks today and that I apply to my own photography business.


Last but not least, I decided that enjoying every moment of my assisting career was of utmost importance. It was my willingness to learn, help, and work, combined with my passion for photography that made me a good assistant. I enjoyed every step of the experience, and in exchange, not only I got paid for my efforts, but I also learned a whole lot.

Final thoughts

Becoming an assistant photographer was highly beneficial to my career as a professional photographer that taught me many things and accelerated my success. Having that first-hand experience was extremely valuable in my early days, and I still apply many of the things I learned in my own photography business.

If you are an aspiring photographer, I strongly recommend you assisting established photographers in your area. Get to know them, show interest, and see if they need assistance without sounding desperate. If they need help and you show charisma and transparency, they will probably call you, and you are on your way to starting a fruitful relationship.

I hope you find value in this article from my own experience, and that you can increase your chances of success by becoming an assistant photographer. Do you have any advice or personal experience being an assistant? Let me know on the comments below. I would be happy to hear from you. Thank you for your time.

Video on YouTube available here https://youtu.be/Np-CuLNrx8c

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Closeup of a hand writing on a notebook during the EHC 2018 in Brussels

How to build an event photography portfolio without clients

You have started or are thinking about starting your event photography business, only to realize you have no pictures to show to your potential customers. How do you do manage to create an event photography portfolio without any clients? Well, the answer is more straightforward than what you think, and although it can take time, you can and should always improve it.

When I started my photography business, I was a bit lost and had a minimal idea of where I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to take pictures professionally, and I needed to put my name out there for more people would know about my services. I was new in Brussels and had no business network, so how were people going to know I could offer photography services? And, which pictures of my previous work was I going to show to them? I had no portfolio and nothing professional to show, so I came up with something that helped me.

Contact local no-profit organizations.

I have worked as a volunteer in the past, and I know the value you can bring to an organization when you help them. I started contacting local no-profit organizations that would potentially benefit from having professional pictures for their communications.

Raise awareness with your photography.

Sometimes, no-profit associations they have a limited budget and cannot allow themselves to spend big on communications, especially on photography. By approaching them and offering my photography services, I knew they would primarily benefit from an improved visual strategy that would help them raise awareness for their cause.

Many event opportunities.

No-profit associations organize more often than not events to raise awareness or attract new members and receive donations. They usually have annual meetings, general assemblies, or volunteer parties. All these occasions are great for photo opportunities, and unfortunately, they do not always have the means to request a professional photographer to cover those events. When I offered my help, and after they accepted, I had an excellent opportunity in my hands to start taking event pictures and build up my portfolio.

Be genuine, always.

Another important aspect is that with your help, you will be helping an institution of your like by supporting them with your photography skills. They do not require the best images in the world, but just enough to allow them to increase their communication strategy. They will always appreciate it. You can improve your event photography portfolio, and your favorite organizations benefit and increase their awareness, attract new members, get new donations, and engage new volunteers, all because of you. How cool is that?


Often, non-profit organizations accept volunteers for all sorts of help, and visual communication is no different. Don’t feel intimidated by offering your support for free to your preferred organization. I am confident they will be delighted to get your help. 

In my case, I decided to help a couple of local organizations that I genuinely wanted to help with my photography as a volunteer. Indeed, I still work with one of them to this day. They have used my images numerous times, and I am proud that my pictures have been beneficial to their cause. If you are curious, the local no-profit organization I help is called Missing Children Europe, and we have been working together for 6+ years now.

Be clear about your intentions.

Remember to inform them about your intentions of building up a portfolio for your new business. You never know if they have certain restrictions about the usage of the images. Be open about it, and tell them upfront what you are looking for instead of facing bad news afterward.

Ultimately, and although it wasn’t a requirement for me, these organizations might even talk about you to their networks and share your pictures with your name and website on it. Remember, though, that your genuine help is what will get you on the right track.

Prepare and show.

Before going to document events for the local associations, I prepared by going online and looking for tutorials about event photography. I wanted to have an idea of what I should do or not, and what type of shots I should obtain for my event photography portfolio. My objectives were clear, to make the best photos I could with the knowledge and gear I had so I could help the organization, and build my portfolio.

After covering a few events for free, I was confident to show the best pictures online and start promoting my website’s portfolio. Defining a target audience can certainly help you to choose the right images to put on your collection, so take the time to understand what type of events you wish to cover, and show those photos on your portfolio.

Final thoughts

When starting to build your event photography portfolio without clients, offering to work for free could be a good idea to kick start your business. Be genuine and provide your help to local no-profit organizations that could benefit from your photography skills and have limited resources. One day you will be able to build a portfolio, improve your skills, and start showing what you do to your target audience and preferred client.

I hope you find value in this article from my own experience, and that you can build a portfolio because of it. Do you have any advice or personal experience relating to building a photography portfolio from scratch? Let me know on the comments below. I would be happy to hear from you. Thank you for your time.

Video on YouTube available here https://youtu.be/_EeFfoHeg78

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Thank you!

Let's work together

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