How did you begin your career in the photo industry?

In 2000 I graduated from Penn State with dual bachelor degrees in Integrated Art and Psychology. I moved to Atlanta for a photography job at a catalog house, doing product shots and room sets. My next job was in a service bureau, where I scanned film and expanded my Photoshop skills. Next, I bought my own Imacon scanner and went freelance under the name Burn Photo, digitizing images and retouching for catalog and advertising clients. I also started assisting advertising photographers around the city, and some of them are still my clients almost two decades later.

At what point in your career did you realize you wanted to become a digital tech?

It evolved naturally. I was one of the earliest digital techs, and possibly the first in Atlanta. I was always a good retoucher, so I started doing on-set retouching when everyone still shot film (I scanned Polaroids on set and film after the shoot). When digital cameras started to replace film cameras, I started renting out the digital cameras and backs I owned.

What are some of the highlights of your work?

I love working in beautiful outdoor settings, so teching in Iceland and Alaska was great. I got to shoot out of helicopters for several jobs around the U.S, too. I’ve also been able to work in some amazing cultural locations, like London’s National Portrait Gallery and the United Nations. I think contributing to really creative campaigns with top photographers, directors, and celebrities has been most rewarding of all. For instance, I supported my client Jim Fiscus on multiple “Homeland” and “Penny Dreadful” key art shoots.

What are your on-set essentials?

I don’t have a single pouch of importance, I have many. I pack pouches inside of pouches that all end up in 68-pound bags that are flight ready. It’s hard to pinpoint what gear is most important because I usually bring everything necessary for the shoot—a minimum of 3 cameras with lenses, 2 computers, a cart, and so on. My personal Sony A7R series cameras and a 28-135mm cinema lens have proven surprisingly useful on set. The camera’s small, so I always have it with me, and it comes in handy because it’s super flexible. For instance, it came out at the last minute recently when a client who said they only needed stills suddenly wanted some 4K video footage.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to become a digital tech?

That answer depends on the stage of your career. If you’re a student or just starting in commercial photography, my answer is go assist for a few years first. Learn what it’s like on set, how to act around clients, how to travel for productions, how to make mental checklists of tasks, and how to identify what needs to be done and when. Watch photographers, techs, and assistants, and ask questions when appropriate.

As a digital tech, you’re in the middle of the production. You need to make snap judgements about lighting and help the photographer keep focus and camera in check. Art directors and clients are usually standing next to you all day, so you have to know how to communicate clearly with them. Not to mention the main task of backing up all the files to multiple locations as you go and keeping them secure. It’s tricky. An inexperienced tech will struggle, a good one handles all of it with style, and a great one barely looks like he or she is doing a thing.

If you have some time under your belt as an assistant or photographer and want a career as a tech, I would say specialize. There are a million digital techs out there, and it’s difficult to sell yourself without knowing what you’re good at. Identify what aspect of the position you’re drawn to and really work it. If you love computers and systems management, focus on learning the software, networking, and processing side. Learn how to handle really high-volume work and how to move thousands of files from multiple sources easily. If you’re into the gear, learn how to assemble multi camera arrays, study what’s currently being done with “bullet time” imagery and other advanced techniques, and try to streamline, improve, or create your own methods and techniques.

As for me, I’m part camera junkie, but my real love is visual imagery. I enjoy creating images that move viewers and make them question how it was done. So I study images all day; I think about color theory and the effects tones have on people. I’m also known for my retouching and comping ability on set. Because of my artistic and technical strengths, some clients like to brainstorm with me during pre-production, and they trust my opinions on how to help create images for their most challenging jobs.

Why Capture Integration?

I’ve been a Capture Integration customer so long that it’s hard to remember the beginning. The main connection is the salesman Steve Hendrix—I knew him from his previous jobs at other rental houses.

Connect with Andrea

Website: burnphoto.com

Instagram: @andreafremiotti

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