Lights, Camera Action! A Day as a Stills Photographer

I recently had the opportunity to do something a little different from your typical headshot photography.

Director Richi is an ex-camera man, lecturer and film student who’s been busy making his new short film – Against The Grain. Without giving too much away, Richie’s film charts the journey of an aging carpenter who has to deal with some life changing news.

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With filming about to be wrapped up, Richie needed a Stills Photographer to help with promotion and invited me on-set for an enjoyable afternoon’s worth of shooting.

For those that are unaware, a Stills Photographer (or Unit Stills Photographer) works as a behind the scenes photographer on TV and film sets; capturing shots of the production for promotional purposes. It’s these images that often grace posters or are released to journos and critics and the media.

As a portrait photographer, most of my work is done in silo with only myself, the subject (maybe an assistant if we’re lucky) and some strobes. Not so here. Walking onto a fully crafted film set complete with 3k lights and 6’ diffusers was something of an eye opener. I’m quickly introduced to some of Richie’s crew who’re responsible for controlling the studio’s rather impressive lighting (and have been given the job of gophering for me today), along with the Art Director who’d be responsible for the graphic design and finally Paul – our lead actor.

As filming had wrapped up the previous day, shooting was split between some pre-planned shots that Richie and myself had worked out along with some re-envisioning of some previously filmed scenes.

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The key goal was to emphasize the sense of isolation our subject initially feels whilst also highlighting the character of his surroundings (in this case a well used garage/workshop).

Lighting was accomplished with the help of Richie’s film crew and those monster spotlights which were aimed through the window of our set. Fill light, when required, was handled by the trusty AD200.

To add to the atmospherics, we broke out a dry ice machine and directed the vapor through the shafts of light coming through our window.

After selecting some promising images, our designer set to work and you’ll be seeing the results on the forthcoming poster and promo material. The shoot has definitely given me a desire to do more of this kind of work and has also encouraged me to add more of a narrative in my subsequent approach to photography. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in story-driven photography to reach out to some local film-makers and explore this intriguing field.

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2019-08-28T21:10:05+00:00