I’m a NY S-Corp and I’m the sole shareholder and only employee. I have a family and I’m the sole provider. My salary is based on the minimum we need to cover personal expenses and 2/5ths of our rent. We have health insurance through Obamacare so the less I payroll myself the higher the subsidy.
I have and will work on any kind of shoot, anywhere in the world. If the money is right, I’m there. As for my style of teching, I am adaptable and versatile with any situation or shoot able to be handled with grace and precision. I can be as hands-on or as hands-off as the photographer needs me to be. My main goal is to use all my skills to make it so the photographer has to only focus on taking the pictures. I work well with assistants and lighting directors to dial in the light and grade. I am a sounding board and problem solver for the photographer, and have many times been an art-director-whisperer if the photographer gets in a rut or the shoot goes off track.
⅓ of my income is rate and ⅔ is from equipment rentals. A small profit comes from reselling hard drives and charging for EQ transportation.
Photographers for whom I work are as varied as they come. Young and old, varied nationalities, male or female or non-binary. There are a few photographers I refuse to work with due to their personalities, but it’s a short list. Sometimes a photographer who is an agent of chaos is fun to work for! Flip that, and a perfectly nice person can be a miserable photographer to be on set with. I only have 1 legacy client I work for where I don’t rent my gear, but they make up for it in rate.
I don’t have any employees, but I hire techs to work with my equipment for my clients from time to time. I always slice them off a bit from the EQ fees, and pay as soon as the invoice is received.
I have a desk in our spare bedroom, store all my EQ at home and use my personal car to transport equipment. My overhead is equipment/rental insurance at about $3500/year, accountant for $2500/year, bookkeeper for $1200/year.
My main costs are upgrading equipment, but that has slowed down in the past year. I only own camera systems I shoot personal work with (No Sony, Canon or Fuji). I’m sticking with the M1 laptops until the M3 series come out next year, so that saved $10k.
I have a Roth IRA and a SEP IRA. I’m barely able to contribute to the Roth because my salary is so low. I can put 25% of my salary in the SEP so that was $15K in 2022 and $24k in 2023. I’ve got $78k in retirement, $10k in personal savings and about $2K in stocks.
I work 150-170 days a yearSteadily increased then took a hit from Covid. Now it’s the highest it’s been.
I think best paying job post-Covid was an 8 day job where the rate was $750 and $1K for EQ. Ended up taking home more than $14k after OT. Best single day job was about $3500 for the day. Rate was $800, EQ $1500 and camera rental was $1200.
Worst paying jobs post-Covid was $500/10, no EQ. It was for one of my favorite clients and it was a personal project so I gave them a deal. They prefaced the confirm saying I should bounce if a money job came in. Worst job of all-time was in 2015, a 21-hour editorial for $350. And, the pictures were terrible too!
I can media manage motion data but I do not bill myself as a DIT or Stills/Motion combo. Sometimes there’s extra money negotiated to manage motion data. Sometimes I volunteer to do it if the second AC or solo videographer is swamped.
I’m pretty much 100% word of mouth and referrals. It feels like, if you’re out there hustling for work, there’s a reason you’re not working.
I have a website I can direct people to that has tearsheets, lists of clients and owned equipment. That’s something I can send once someone reaches out. I don’t have a resume and if someone asks for a resume it’s kind of a red flag. I did an email blast when I first launched my website a few years ago but that drummed up zero business, and I haven’t done it since.
Best advice would probably be that being a full-time tech and not trying to shoot is a great career path. I have less stress and make more money than a lot of my contemporaries who are either trying to shoot or have been shooting for a few years. I don’t have to bust my ass to get clients and at the end of a shoot I never have to think about it again.
Worst advice, that comes to mind, is the importance of working for top-tier photographers. The system of working for a huge photographer as a stepping stone to a successful photography career doesn’t apply as much these days, unless you’re with the top of the top of the top.
For techs, my advice is, when starting out, take whatever comes your way as long as you feel okay about the money. Take non-EQ jobs to hone your skills. You never know who you’re going to meet on set who will recommend you, and help jump start a successful tech career. For photographers, my advice would be to listen to your tech and treat them as a kind of creative partner. Photographers focus so much on their own imagery and how they make pictures, never imagining how others approach creating images. Many don’t take into account that I evaluate, color grade and crop, literally, over a million of images a year, and I am a wealth of knowledge, tips, hacks, workflow improvements, technological advances, trends, culture and aesthetic values.