What does a unit stills photographer actually do?
As a unit stills photographer I create images that are appropiate for use in public relations campaigns. This could be shots of the actors during action sequences or in moments of intense dialogue, beautiful sets and locations or behind the scenes. A good unit stills photographer knows how to create iconic key art that supports the marketing of the film.
Why does my production need a stills photographer?
Still images are vital to the marketing campaign of a movie. The right image can convey the excitement and magic of your film in microseconds. Having the right images in the right places builds your audience.
All films need well presented press kits with striking still images alongside the written biographies and synopsis, this helps film festivals program work and press gather the information needed to make tight deadlines.
I've got a crew member with a good camera offering to take stills in her/his downtime, What are the advantages of having a dedicated unit stills photographer?
When on a tight budget, this kind of offer can be hard to resist. However you’re not only risking inconsistent or potentially unprofessional images but also that the crew member won’t perform their original role efficiently, due to the distraction of their photographic duties.
I hold myself to an incredibly high standard that requires 100% dedication to the task at hand, I would not expect that same standard from someone stretched over two roles that requires two different mindsets and sets of priorities.
With a dedicated stills photographer you have someone who has invested heavily in specialist equipment. A dedicated photographer will also have considered in advance how to tailor the images for the specific purpose of marketing the film. A good unit stills photographer will also have back-up hard drives, secondary cameras, memory card corruption reversal software and wet weather protection gear. An investment in a professional photographer is an investment in professionalism from pre-prod through shooting, delivery and after care.
What kind of turnaround time can I expect between principal photography and delivery of images?
As fast as is needed. It depends on the length of shoot and length of the shoot days, if you need a constant supply of images throughout filming for publicity then I am happy to accommodate that.
Who owns the copyright?
Typically I sign copyright over to the production company, in the same way that your director of photography, make-up artists and all of the other crew members sign over theirs.
My budget doesn't stretch to having you around for the entire duration of the shoot, Can I hire you for the key locations / dates?
Of course, whilst I prefer to cover the entire production, I do understand that this way of working doesn't suit every production. Let's discuss together the key scenes and create a shooting schedule that will get you the stills your production needs.
Can a unit stills photographer help provide stills needed by the script supervisor / make-up / continuity departments?
Definitely, I'll happily assist other departments. On some period films the props department may wish to utilise my film/darkroom skills for authentic film photographs, I love doing this and I am always happy to discuss the needs of all departments.
Won’t your camera make noises during filming?
DSLR’s do inherently make a slapping sound when fired. I use a specialist piece of equipment called a 'camera blimp' which silences the noise from the camera.
I want to upload photos on twitter/instagram/a blog constantly throughout production; can you work to such tight turnarounds?
I understand just how important this style of marketing is in this day and age, it’s hard work but yes it can be done. Ideally being able to have a base within the production office will streamline the process, as will knowing the intended copy a day or two in advance so that I can help make a selection suitable for your intended posts. I strive to make images that make an impact in the microsecond glances afforded to online images.
Our production is high profile and therefore sensitive to PR leaks, what assurances can you offer that on set photos will remain secure…
When it comes to access to the stills only authorised members of staff / crew will be able to obtain any pictures, I will never release any photos to the public unless explicitly given permission. I will also sign any non disclosure agreements related to the production.
Do you use your own equipment? Do I need to hire anything for you?
I use all my own equipment which iv'e invested in over the years. I have equipment capable of covering the vast majority of situations, If you require underwater photography or something very specialist then a rental may need to be arranged, I have good contacts with reputable rental companies.
Do you shoot Video as well? We are thinking about commissioning a Behind The Scenes Documentary.
Video is a brilliant way to attract an audience! I am doing more and more work with video and I love it. However I believe in doing one job exceptionally well and so if I am brought on board as your unit stills photographer then that is what I will be doing on set.
I’m shooting with a Red, do I need a dedicated stills photographer when I’m shooting at 4K/5K?
The Red is a great piece of technology with incredible resolution and frame-rate. However resolution and frame-rate aren't all that separates the RED and it's operator from the dedicated stills photographer.
- The Red is often shot at slower shutter speeds (i.e. 24fps) that cause motion blur that's beautiful for cinema but is rarely fast enough for stills.
- A stills camera and a photographers feet will be able to cover far more angles in the space of time than you ever could with a Red and the additional gubbins needed to make it ergonomic to handhold.
- The unit stills photographer puts themselves into many different perspectives to get wide ranging coverage of the set and the story being portrayed, whilst the RED will always show what is going to be in the final film, non of the context around it that the stills photographer can unearth.
I have a crew member who’s camera-shy.
I'm on set to serve the wider production, my job is never to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Oftentimes as I get to know the crew they open up and by the end of the production are happy to have quality pictures of themselves at work. I won't push it though, if someone doesn't want their photo taken I fully respect that.
I'm producing a small Indie film with a small crew, are you prepared to muck in with other jobs?
Absolutely! I love the camaraderie of filming and am happy to pitch in, my background in lighting even makes me a half useful gaffer where needed! So long as I can do enough of my primary job to get what you need for your PR purposes.
We’re shooting outside, are you prepared for bad weather?
Absolutely! I'm of Scottish decent, I only notice rain if i'm actually drowning.
Another reason for using a professional stills photographer is that they have invested in high-end weather sealed equipment that means they can still get those key shots when the heavens split!
Do you backup your images?
Yes! I backup to to a local drive and an offsite drive, should there be flood, fire or other natural disaster your photos will remain safe.
Are there any expenses you occur that I need to know about?
I do incur costs outside of travel, accommodation and food. For feature films, I request a pair of hard drives to be purchased that are dedicated to stills.1TB each should be sufficient to cover a 6 week shoot, USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt is preferable. Usually I’ll keep one hard drive, to allow for any post-shoot support. The other hard drive is an exact copy of my work on the project and is yours to use as you see fit.
I want to work with you! How can I get in touch?!
Brilliant! You can reach me on my Contact page!