Career Development

What Does a Gaffer Do?

Find out what a gaffer does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a gaffer.

Gaffers are responsible for the lighting in a film or television production. They work closely with the cinematographer to determine how each scene should look, and they ensure that all of this is achieved while staying within budget constraints.

Gaffers may also be called upon to perform other tasks related to the camera department. This might include operating cameras during filming, maintaining equipment, etc.

Gaffer Job Duties

A gaffer typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Managing the workflow to ensure that tasks are completed on time and within budget
  • Coordinating with other departments such as art or production design to ensure that lighting design requirements are included in the planning phase of a shoot
  • Reviewing and approving plans for lighting setups in order to ensure that they meet safety standards and are within code requirements
  • Overseeing the installation of lighting equipment, including light stands, diffusers, reflectors, bulbs, and electrical components
  • Ensuring that the crew has adequate supplies of gaffer tape, clamps, extension cords, and other equipment necessary for set up and tear down operations
  • Staying up to date on new lighting technology in order to make recommendations for improvements in lighting setups
  • Working with the director to establish the look and feel of a scene in terms of lighting effects
  • Collaborating with other department heads to determine the best time of day for filming based on natural light sources
  • Supervising other members of the lighting crew, including electricians, grips, and camera operators

Gaffer Salary & Outlook

Gaffers are typically paid hourly, and their salaries can vary depending on a number of factors. Some gaffers may receive additional compensation in the form of overtime pay.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,570 ($25.27/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $124,000 ($59.62/hour)

The employment of gaffers is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Gaffers will be needed to install and maintain lighting equipment for television shows, movies, and commercials. In addition, more gaffers will be needed to install and maintain lighting equipment in large retail stores, stadiums, and other venues.

Related: Gaffer Interview Questions and Answers

Gaffer Job Requirements

A gaffer typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: A gaffer needs a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. Some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as engineering or film production. A degree in film production can provide a gaffer with the technical knowledge needed to run a film set.

Training & Experience: Most gaffers learn the skills and knowledge they need for their role while on the job. Training may last for a few weeks or months and may include shadowing an experienced gaffer or member of the film crew, performing basic tasks under supervision and practicing until they are comfortable enough to complete tasks on their own.

Certifications & Licenses: A valid driver’s license is often required for gaffer jobs. If you do not have a license, consider getting one before applying for jobs so you can demonstrate your ability to operate a vehicle.

Gaffer Skills

Gaffers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Electrical skills: Gaffers work with electrical equipment and machinery, so it’s important for them to have a good understanding of electrical systems and how to safely work with them. Electrical skills can also help them troubleshoot problems with electrical equipment and machinery.

Communication skills: Gaffers often communicate with many different people throughout the day, including other gaffers, production assistants, directors and other crew members. Having strong communication skills can help you to better collaborate with others and to explain complex ideas.

Problem-solving skills: Gaffers often use their problem-solving skills to find solutions to issues that arise on set. For example, if a lighting fixture isn’t working, a gaffer might use their problem-solving skills to find a way to fix it. They might also use their problem-solving skills to find ways to save time and money on set.

Organization and planning skills: Gaffers often have strong organizational skills, as they need to keep track of many different aspects of a production at the same time. This includes keeping track of the location of all the equipment, materials and tools the crew needs to complete the job. It also includes keeping track of the crew’s schedule, so they know when they need to be at each location and what they need to do when they get there.

Physical stamina: Gaffers often work long hours and may be on their feet for most of their shift. Physical stamina can help them work efficiently and safely. It can also help them lift and move heavy equipment and materials.

Gaffer Work Environment

Gaffers typically work long hours, often more than 40 per week, and may be required to work overtime on short notice. They typically work on movie sets, which can be located indoors or outdoors, and may be required to travel to different locations. Gaffers typically work under the supervision of the director of photography and must be able to take direction well. They must also be able to work well with other crew members, such as the electricians, to ensure that the lighting for the movie set is effective and safe.

Gaffer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how gaffers work. Gaffers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Technical Skills

The need for more technical skills is a trend that is quickly becoming apparent in the film and television industry. As technology advances, so too does the need for professionals who can keep up with it.

This means that gaffers will need to be able to not only operate complex equipment, but also understand how it works and how to troubleshoot any issues that may arise. In addition, they will need to be familiar with software such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro, which are used to edit and color correct video footage.

More Collaboration Between Crews

The trend of more collaboration between crews is happening because it is becoming increasingly important for projects to be completed on time and within budget. This requires everyone to work together in order to ensure that all aspects of the project are being taken care of.

As a gaffer, you can capitalize on this trend by developing strong relationships with other members of the crew. This will allow you to work together to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that everyone’s ideas are heard.

Greater Focus on Safety

The film and television industry has always been a dangerous one, but recent years have seen a greater focus on safety. This is due to the fact that many people working in the industry have been injured or killed on set.

As a gaffer, you can help to ensure that your crew is safe by making sure that all necessary precautions are taken. This includes making sure that there are enough safety officers on set, as well as ensuring that all equipment is properly maintained.

How to Become a Gaffer

A career as a gaffer can be rewarding and fulfilling. It’s important to consider the many different aspects of this job before you start your journey.

First, you need to decide if you want to work in film or television. There are some differences between these two industries, so it’s important to understand them before you make a decision.

Second, you need to think about what type of equipment you want to use. Do you want to specialize in lighting, rigging, or camera? Each field has its own set of skills that you need to learn.

Finally, you need to consider where you want to work. Do you want to stay close to home or travel around the world? There are many different opportunities available, so take some time to explore your options.

Advancement Prospects

Gaffers typically start out as grip trainees or electricians and then are promoted to gaffer after demonstrating their knowledge and experience in the field. Some gaffers may eventually become lighting directors or lighting designers.

Gaffer Job Description Example

The gaffer is the chief lighting technician on a film set, in charge of the electrical department. They are responsible for the design, set-up, and operation of the lighting equipment and power distribution on set. The gaffer works closely with the director of photography (DP) to achieve the desired look of the film. They must have a strong understanding of lighting equipment and how to use it to create different effects. They must also be able to troubleshoot any problems that may arise. The gaffer is responsible for the safety of the cast and crew and must make sure that all electrical equipment is properly grounded and that all cords are in good condition.

We are looking for an experienced gaffer to join our team. The ideal candidate will have experience working on feature films or television shows. They must be able to work long hours and be available for overnight shoots. They must be able to lift heavy equipment and be comfortable working at heights.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Adhere to all safety protocols and procedures while working with potentially dangerous equipment
  • Understand the principles of lighting and how it affects film
  • Work with the director of photography (DP) to execute their vision
  • Operate, maintain, and troubleshoot lighting equipment
  • Select and position lights to create the desired effect
  • Hang and focus lights
  • Run cables and connect power sources
  • Work long hours, often overnight or on weekends
  • Be available to travel for work
  • Lift and carry heavy equipment
  • Climb ladders and scaffolding
  • Stand for long periods of time

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Minimum 5 years experience in the lighting industry
  • In-depth knowledge of film and television lighting equipment, including but not limited to: tungsten, HMI, LED, fluorescent, and Kino Flo
  • Ability to troubleshoot and solve problems quickly and efficiently
  • Excellent time management skills and ability to work well under pressure
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Valid driver’s license

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Experience working on union sets
  • Proficiency with Vectorworks or similar software
  • Familiarity with grip and electric department procedures
  • Knowledge of rigging and safety standards


What Does a Substation Technician Do?

Back to Career Development

What Does a SAP Manager Do?