Tips To Improve Your Communication With Your Gaffer

Maura N.

The Last Black Unicorn
Staff member
The name "gaffer" comes from the hooked metal pole that was used to adjust the stage lights back in the days, which was called "gaff". Today, the Gaffer, also known as "chief lighting technician", has a very important role on set because he is the one responsible for executing and sometimes even designing a production lighting plan. There is a close connection between the DoP and the Gaffer and the two must work together and their communication skills are important for the smooth running of a shoot.

Talk to your Gaffer

The Gaffer can help if you talk to him. You can talk with your Gaffer about the quality of a light that you want on your subject to send a specific emotion of the scene. Based on this information, the Gaffer can make a few helpful suggestions.

Make the plan with your Gaffer

You are not alone on set and you have experts that are willing to help you achieve the best results. The lighting plan can be produced by the DoP alone and executed by the Gaffer, but it would improve the outcome if the DoP would work together with his Gaffer during this process.

You can ask your Gaffer: "If I wanted to do this, what do you think would be the best lighting for this?". Then, the Gaffer can come up with a few ideas and take care of the technicality.


When working in a team, you need to be a team player and allow each team member to do his part and contribute with their valuable knowledge and advice. A humble attitude always gets you a long way.

István Kovács

Active member
The Gaffer is a key asset on set and yet there is so little content available about this profession. I looked it up at some point and I barely found anything.
To be honest, I never understood why so little people talk about the "Gaffer". The Gaffer is one of the key people in making a successful movie. I could compare this situation with having a rock band. Everyone is talking about the lead singer and maybe the guitarist but little people are talking about the drummer or the bass player. Sure, the guitarist and the singer are more visible and they are also important, but you can't ignore the importance of the other key people. I am happy that someone finally approaches this topic.