Neglected Crew #2: Still Photographer

I’m not sure if it’s the collaborative nature of filmmaking or my tendency to hang out in coffee shops, but as a filmmaker I often find myself surrounded by other artists. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with musicians, actors, painters, and makeup artists, but often forget to ask people with more cameras to join the shoot. This brings us to today’s Neglected Crew: the Still Photographer. A “Still Photographer” takes photos, as opposed to the cinematographer shooting the film, who is occasionally credited as “photographer.” I thought I should clarify for those thinking “Yep, Still a Photographer,” as opposed to “Not a Photographer Anymore” or “Actually, I’m a Lawyer Now”…

Why you Need Behind-the-Scenes Photos:

I promote my projects during and after production, and usually run a temporary blog for cast and crew to follow the film’s progress. I may post immediately after a shoot, while some people may do so during a break on set. This helps me build a following for current projects, and build support for more films in the future. Good behind the scenes stills give cast and crew an immediate reward they can share with friends. People who didn’t take you up on that offer to “come be an extra at our crazy fun film shoot” may see your photos and decide to join you next time. If you have a grant, Kickstarter backers, or other investors, photos will show what you’re up to along the way and, again, provide an immediate reward.

My leading man on Bone to the Dog, Dan Fowler, took many of our most priceless production stills with a compact camera he diligently brought with him everywhere, even for scenes he wasn’t in.

A Bone to the Dog Blog Post

Here’s a shot of a blog post, showing a behind the scenes shot of Dan taking a behind the scenes shot… (Photo-ception…)

Why a Dedicated “Still Photographer” is Better:

Phones and point-and-shoot cameras are fantastic in many situations, and letting cast and crew double as photographers will often get the job done. If possible, though, find a friend with a great eye and a decent camera; these photographs will become your PR package, and you want to promote with a quality that reflects your film. Film shoots are full of great photographic opportunities for a photographer looking to build their portfolio, or for a seasoned professional if your budget allows. Respect your photographer as an artist, but be clear about what you’d like them to shoot and what you plan to do with the photos. In addition to candid production stills, your photographer can pull cast and crew aside for quick snapshots during breaks or as they’re being dismissed, and a group photo with everyone at the end is always appreciated.

Some tips:

Make sure your photographer turns off their flash or avoids shooting during takes; if you’re recording audio, make sure you can’t hear their shutter. Point-and-shoot cameras will usually let you turn off the fake shutter sound effects, and some DSLRs have a quiet mode which makes their shutter less noticeable. If the photographer hasn’t been on a film set before, keep them in the loop with other crew when explaining call times, schedules, safety issues, and various set etiquette.

Once you have a still photographer, make sure you discuss with them how you’ll get the photos, how quickly you might need photos, and whether they will edit the photos. Consider also giving them credit for the photo, or allowing them to watermark their name on the photo. And of course, make sure you credit them in your film!

Read Also: Neglected Crew #1: Assistant Director


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