How to hire an associate photographer

by David Em
Last updated:

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Hiring the right associate photographer is a big step for your photography business. Not only will you increase revenue, but you’ll also have more time.

Selective focus on a photographer wearing a hat.

What’s an associate photographer?

An associate photographer is a photographer who shoots a session in place of the main or lead photographer. Usually, it’s because the main photographer isn’t available.

Related: How to find more photography clients

Generally, associate photographers have a lower rate for photoshoots than the main photographer, but it doesn’t mean their photos aren’t as great.

Associate photographers don’t have to bear the cost of running a business. Therefore, their rates don’t need to be as high.

Related: 11 ways to take better indoor natural light photos

Having someone on your team to help is a game-changer. It means you don’t have to do everything on your own, and you don’t have to say no to as many potential clients.

How to know if you’re ready

Adding a person to your team is a big deal, and how will you know if you’re ready? If you answer yes to the following questions, it may be time to hire an associate photographer:

1. Are you turning away people who are excited to work with you but can’t afford your price?

2. Do you find yourself rejecting inquiries because you’re constantly booked?

3. Do you feel overwhelmed or burnt out because you’re always shooting?

4. Are you missing out on other aspects of your business because you’re constantly shooting?

If you’re overwhelmed or feel like you don’t have enough time, it may be worth investing in help. Another photographer can be the key to taking your business to the next level.

What to look for

Treat hiring an associate photographer like a business partner. The person you hire needs to be amazing.

It’s not easy finding the perfect photographer to join your team. Especially if it’s your first time hiring someone. You want to make sure that you hire someone that’ll enhance your business instead of giving you more work and headaches.

The following are characteristics of a good associate photographer:

1. They have character. To be a good employee and photographer, they need to have character. They must have integrity and be genuinely friendly.

2. They want to shoot, but not run a business. If your potential associate photographer plans to keep their part-time or full-time job, it may be a good fit. If they want to end up running their own business, you may run into conflict later.

3. They have a similar photography style. You may not have the same personality as your associate photographer, but your photography styles should be similar. This ensures that there’s consistency in your brand.

Things to do before hiring

Before you hire someone, you need to have a solid foundation. From building an emergency fund to having the right contracts in place. Think about the following before you hire someone:

1. Finances and payroll. The first thing you need to look at is your finances. You need to have an emergency fund for yourself and your employee because you’re going to be responsible for another person’s paycheck. You’ll also want to set up a payroll system.

2. Contracts and define the role. To maintain clear expectations, have a contract, and define the role your associate photographer has. The Contract Shop is a great resource for creating contracts.

3. Get an EIN. The IRS requires every business with employees to have a unique nine-digit number used for tax ID purposes. This is called your Employer Identification Number (EIN).

4. Non-compete. The non-compete is optional, but you still need to consider it. If you require your associate photographer to sign one, they’re agreeing to not take the client list when they leave the job. They’re also agreeing to not compete with you for the same clients for a specific time frame.

5. Run a background check. To ensure you keep yourself and your clients safe, run a background check. Make sure your potential associate photographer authorizes the background check before you do it. For guidance or advice on background checks, talk to a legal professional.

6. Make sure they can work in the U.S. If you hire someone who isn’t legally able to work in the U.S., you’ll face penalties.

What to do after they’re hired

You’ve found an associate photographer and even hired them. You’re not finished yet because there’s still more work to do.

First, you need to have an onboarding process. That includes setting up workers’ compensation insurance if your state requires it, setting up a payroll system to withhold taxes, filing a W-4, and reporting to your state’s new hire reporting agency.

Also, you need to have a workflow. Figure out who is going to book the photoshoots and how. What is your process going to look like from beginning to end?

Try new processes and adapt to create an efficient and effective work environment. Make sure you and your associate photographer have scheduled time off for your personal lives.


Hiring an associate photographer will pay off. You’ll free up time for yourself, and increase your revenue. By hiring the right person, your business will grow, and you’ll build a great brand.

Featured photo courtesy of Pexels.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.