I’m a Sole Proprietor and looking into incorporating, but held off to maximize my income on paper in the interest of getting a mortgage (In Canada, for sole proprietors, most banks take your previous two years income, average it and multiply by 5 to determine the mortgage amount you are eligible for). I recently did and will likely be incorporating at the start of the coming year
90% is digi tech work, 10% is photography. I occasionally shoot editorially and sometimes get the opportunity to shoot for small brands or small/pick up portions of a larger commercial shoot. I worked 4 years prior as a Photo Assistant.
80% of jobs are for clothing brands based on the West Coast of Canada that sell internationally.
I own a lot of digital tech gear, but not as much as a lot of other techs I know. Most of my shoots are on location and “medium budget” shoots, usually a tripod mounted tech station, a fleet of ipads, maybe a cart and monitor. I own and maintain enough to service clients needs for these shoots and rent anything that I won’t be able to get on set regularly or pay itself off efficiently.
I don’t have a studio or office space, but I do have a home office. My personal vehicle is insured for business use and is a great gear hauler. Small costs like new tether cables, hard drives, memory cards, digi accessories, etc. are the most frequent. I usually spend 10K~ per year on digital tech gear.
I’ve only recently got to a point where I can comfortably contribute to an RRSP, I aim to put 10% of earnings per year into it, hoping to increase that and create a more solid plan in the coming years.
100 average digi tech days a year and 10~ as a photographer.
To be very honest, I got lucky with the timing of Covid. In the previous years, I had invested a lot of time and money into tech gear and transitioning from primarily an assistant to a digi tech. Early 2020, I had paid off most of my current gear and found clients that hired me semi-consistently – if it had of been a year earlier, I would have been in a much more precarious position. When work picked back up again, I was busier than ever with digi tech work as creating space by providing screens and alternate ways to collaborate was more necessary. The clients that were busiest and have continued to be my most frequent were primarily clothing brands with most of the campaigns targeting online sales.
Most shoot days are on location, usually right on 10hrs, some more with travel time to locations. Roughly 60% of my bookings are 1-2 day shoots, while the other 40% are 3-5 days. Most shoots have two photo assists on our crew, sometimes three, sometimes just one. We rarely have video, sometimes incorporating a day or two of it into a multi-day shoot, but more often than not, purely photography.
My digital tech rate is $750CAD/10hr, except for some clients I have worked with since I started teching, the lowest being $650CAD/10hr which will raise at year end. I aim to raise my rates every year or two to account for inflation and for the most part, clients are receptive to the increase. My basic digi tech gear kit starts at $550CAD/day for a tripod mounted laptop setup and increases with additional add ons (ipads, cart, monitor, battery power, etc). As an average, gear rental usually amounts to roughly $650CAD/day. Most photographers I work with use their own camera(s).
I sometimes have the opportunity to hire photo assistants for photographers I work with frequently, if so $550CAD/10hr or higher depending on the budget or the assistant.
There hasn’t been much variation in my pay as a digital tech. On the rare occasion I tech for a commercial job from the US that is shooting in Canada, it can be more lucrative where rates are the same number, but in USD ($750/10hr CAD becomes $750/10hr USD or higher). Most of the time production will come to me with a rate they have already budgeted for. Those shoots usually require a lot more digi gear, but that doesn’t make much a difference to my take home pay as I’m usually renting that extra gear to supplement my modestly sized tech kit.
Nothing stands out as the worst paying, but everything low paying for me has been associated with editorial work. Whether it is teching or assisting for a photographer friend with a small budget or shooting my own editorial, I have taken budget cuts to make something creatively satisfying happen for myself, a friend or to try and distribute a slim to non-existent budget evenly between a small crew.
As a digital tech, almost all of my work has been word of mouth. Consistently trying to meet new contacts and being a reliable, friendly person to work with has done well for me.
Best Advice – be friendly, helpful and support the people you work with! No one wants to work with a jerk. Be aware of the varying reasons you might be a part of a crew and try to excel at those. Support your talented friends and help them make connections that will help them grow in the industry. We’ve all got different stories and are all trying to make this work. Also, most things on Jake Stangel’s instagram are great advice!
Check your ego with your crew – not just digi techs and photo assists, the whole crew. We’re all here to help you do this job in the best possible way if we’re given the space to. Be direct and honest, but there’s no need for unnecessary shade to be thrown.