How To: Photography Intern Hiring

Mar 10, 2015

Topic: Running Your Business
Time Investment: 8 minutes
Suggested Product: 
Second Shooter ContractIndependent Contractor (Non-shooter) contract

Your business is booming and you keep getting inquiries from fledgling photographers about internships. You start thinking about it, and a little extra help for your business might not be such a bad thing! Someone to take over some easier tasks for low (no?) cost could help ease your burden and allow you to take on more clients, all while mentoring a newbie. Sounds like a win-win, so what do you need to know?

Let’s start with a VERY important decision: to pay or not to pay?


Paid Or Unpaid?

While there are countless people willing to intern for free, it may not be your best bet. Surprised? Well, this is because the U.S. Department of Labor limits what an un-paid intern can do under the Fair Labor Standards Act.


An unpaid intern can:

  • Shadow you performing your duties.
  • Perform duties that do not have a “business need”, meaning a training exercise. For example, you can set up a fake photo shoot for the intern to shoot that your business will not benefit from in any way.


An unpaid intern cannot:

  • Complete any work that contributes to your business’s operations, meaning any task that helps run your business.


Yikes! While unpaid internships are still commonly used, this is generally only true for large corporations and other such entities. Most small businesses will be better served by a paid internship.

Keep in mind, if the intern is receiving school credit through an educational institution many are not paid but are legal as the intern is receiving a benefit in the form of credit.


Hiring an Intern

When beginning your intern journey, start with some basic considerations:

  • Do you have enough work for an intern? No need to waste your time or an intern’s if you don’t have the workload.
  • Do you have the resources for an intern? For example, do you have the time to manage the intern, a place for them to work, etc.


After thinking this over, if you think that an internship position for your business would be possible and beneficial, you can move on to thinking about what the relationship will look like.

  • What you need out of an intern? Do you need someone with a little experience or can someone without any experience be of help? What kind of tasks to you expect them to complete?
  • Come up with a job description, so expectations are set for both sides from the get-go. This includes things like pay, responsibilities, and term of the internship. This can be used in your search for an intern as well.
  • Consider what short-term and long-term projects an intern could complete.
  • Plan in advance for when you want to hire an intern, as the hiring process could be lengthy.


Great, you know what you want you want from an intern. Now where do you find said intern?

  • Register with career service offices of local colleges that have art departments and/or art schools. You can also post ads on bulletin boards at these locations.
  • Post with online photographer communities.
  • Post on your website and social media accounts.
  • There are also intern websites that you can post on and/or search for an intern yourself.


Managing an Intern

Remember, this isn’t just an opportunity for you and your business, but an opportunity for the intern as well. In order to have a successful and positive experience you must keep in mind why a person volunteers to work for little to no pay.

  • Sure, your intern will probably do some “clerical” work and will expect to! However, they will expect to have some “real” work as well. Let them attend client meetings. Let them shoot. Let them edit. Let them help with your website and social media.
  • Give the intern feedback! Not just constructive, but positive too! This may even by a requirement if the intern is receiving school credit.
  • Make sure they know what you expect from them. This means more than just how and when to complete tasks, but also what your professional expectations are. For example, timeliness, attire, cell phone usage, etc.


The Law

Remember an intern usually falls under all labor laws that apply to the workplace. For example:


In addition, depending on your jurisdiction, you may need worker’s compensation insurance for an intern.


Your Choice

In the end, only you can know what your business needs are and what type of internship relationship will work best for you.  

If you need more assistance check out the SBA website with these resources:


If you are ready to hire an Intern check out these TheLawTog Resources that may be amended for internships based on the scope of their duties:

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