This is Niccole. Who is she? Let me tell you: Take away my light meter, my go-to softbox, the best lens in my kit or my number one tripod, but don't take away Niccole. Or Dawn, Shawn, Scott, Ted, Toby or many other talented people who assist or have assisted me when I shoot. All the attention is on the model/subject(s) and the photographer at a shoot because they're the place where all the work comes together, but they certainly don't do all the work. Assistants make a HUGE difference by making everything go more smoothly for everyone, because they do the little things that make a big difference. It's not always obvious just how big a difference they make.
For example, when I ask Niccole to turn a light slightly, it takes her less than a second to make the adjustment. I could do it, but I would have to walk all the way over and back, and that takes a minute. Twenty times on a setup means 20 more minutes to get the shot, so she saves your value time if you're the client. And, through experience, she knows precisely how much a smidge is when I say, "cheat the light a smidge toward talent. . . woof!" (For reference, a "smidge" is less than a "bit" but more than a "hair.")
When Dawn sets up a shoot, she does it faster and better than I ever could, and doesn't forget the details I invariably would. She also knows how to politely tell me to where to go when I tell her I want to reschedule so that I more than happly shoot at the time she sets to begin with. My friend Scott recently "assisted" me on a wedding for two close friends (I don't normally shoot weddings, but this was an exception). In his case, "assisting" meant "shoot the stuff I'm not good at shooting" because he's a way better wedding photographer than I am.
Good assistants like Niccole, Dawn, Shawn (that's my wife), Scott and so on make me look good. When you see Niccole whisper in my ear, she's not telling me my fly's open (not usually, anyway). She's reminding me (as I asked her to) to get the profile view you asked for. Or, more importantly, she's suggesting the shot that will be the one you absolutely love and give me the credit for. But, you won't hear her or Dawn or any of the others shout out their ideas. Why? Because that causes chaos. Good assistants flow everything through the shooter (or director in motion imaging) so good ideas don't die in the confusion of who listens to whom, when and why. (By the way, if you shoot but don't listen to your assistants' ideas, get over yourself and start listening. Otherwise, you'll not only stop getting their ideas, but you'll be adjusting all your lights yourself). Good assistants have great people skills, too. When I see Dawn whispering in a client's or model's ear, I know she's saying something reassuring, like "Please sign this model release, and don't worry, he's not as stupid as it looks."
Assisting is sometimes a sit-here-while-I-test-the-lighting job (so you don't have to if it's a shot of you). Usually, I delete test shots, but sometimes I get one I love. So, you now you get see the real talent.