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Set Photographer


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#1 Matt Workman

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Posted 01 May 2008 - 11:30 PM

Hey,

I have a potential feature coming up that I'd like to get a photographer I'm friends with on board as our official set photographer.

This is a non-union low budget feature but decent sized indie. I was wondering what the on-set and off set responsibilities of the set photographer are.

Guessing:
- Shoot production stills to use for promotion of the film. i.e. website, IMDB, press kit, magazine articles, potential cover, artwork, etc.
- Continuity? Probably the scripty job, but I'm not familiar...

On a 4 week indie feature how frequently are they on set? I'd assume at the minimum for when the bigger stars are on set.

Considering that the production company most likely owns the photos after the shoot was is a good rate for a set photographer on a $1-2 million feature?

Any input would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Matt
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 04:33 PM

Hey,

I have a potential feature coming up that I'd like to get a photographer I'm friends with on board as our official set photographer.

Having friends is good, but make sure he also knows proper set etiquette (eye lines, when to be in place, when to back off, when to shoot, when to stop). A good photographer who is inexperienced on a movie set can quickly anger Actors and crew if he is in the way or shoots at inappropriate times.

Also, if he hasn't done a movie before, he should know that his cameras have to be blimped or else the Sound Mixer will be very upset with him.


This is a non-union low budget feature but decent sized indie. I was wondering what the on-set and off set responsibilities of the set photographer are.

Guessing:
- Shoot production stills to use for promotion of the film. i.e. website, IMDB, press kit, magazine articles, potential cover, artwork, etc.
- Continuity? Probably the scripty job, but I'm not familiar...


On a 4 week indie feature how frequently are they on set? I'd assume at the minimum for when the bigger stars are on set.


The gist of the job is that the Unit Still Photographer is on set every day primarily to take photos that emulate the shot that the motion picture cameras are getting. This means, in most cases, keeping "behind the scenes" elements out of the frame. An average of 250 frames a day is not uncommon.

The photos are then sifted through by someone at the studio or production company (marketing). A proof sheet, or the like, is delivered to the Actors. Normally, Actors are allowed to "kill" a set percentage of the shots, typically the one's they don't like for whatever reasons they choose.

The remaining stills are then used by the marketing department for whatever they might be needed for.

Sometimes the Unit Still Photographer will take the "one sheet" photo, but often not. A "special shoot" like that involves setting up an elaborate backdrop and lighting. Having to deal with that would mean taking the Unit Still Photographer away from set and potentially missing valuable shots, so a new Still Photographer is brought in.

The Unit Still Photographer does NOT take continuity photos. The Script Supervisor has a Polaroid or digital camera for that. Other departments like Wardrobe, Props, and Sets (On Set Dresser) will take their own continuity photos.

The Art Department may ask the Unit Still Photographer to take photos that will be used on set in some way (such as in a mock newspaper or in a frame). Otherwise, the Unit Still Photographer is there for marketing purposes, working with the Unit Publicist and studio marketing.



Considering that the production company most likely owns the photos after the shoot was is a good rate for a set photographer on a $1-2 million feature?

There is a set union rate for the minimum basic agreement, but given the budget, whatever the Photographer can negotiate is up to him. At best, he should receive a fair hourly rate with overtime provisions as well as a box rental to cover his camera equipment and any expendables. What "fair" means is really up to him and what he needs to live on while he's working for someone else upwards of fourteen hours a day.

Hope that helps!
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#3 Alex Plank

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Posted 04 May 2008 - 02:20 PM

Brian,

Thanks for the really informative post. Do you know if many set photographers still use film instead of digital?



Matt,
take a look at this video. It gives a kind of general overview of the role of set photographer:

http://edcommunity.a...Photography.mp4
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#4 Christopher Arata

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Posted 04 May 2008 - 04:24 PM

Alex,

I just wanted to say that was a great video post. I really enjoy watching little snip-it's of things like that.
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#5 Mike Williamson

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Posted 04 May 2008 - 06:59 PM

Thanks for the really informative post. Do you know if many set photographers still use film instead of digital?


Every set photographer I've encountered has been shooting with a digital SLR camera, I think the ability to shoot volume cheaply is a great asset when doing set stills. I'm sure the turnaround schedule can be very fast as well, I heard about one still photographer doing a promo shoot, then handing over the compact flash cards to the publicist straight out of the camera, he didn't even get to back up the images!

I recently filled in for a day as set photographer, covering for friend who's making a career out of it. I didn't have a blimp so I was limited to shooting rehearsals and MOS shots, but it was an interesting job. There's a lot of set etiquette to be aware of, trying to deliver shots of the actors without sitting in their eyelines, or getting in the way of the camera crew, sound, etc.
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#6 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 03:29 AM

Do you know if many set photographers still use film instead of digital?

Last year I did a favor for my friend and shot stills on two movies he shot. The main reason he got me to do it was because some distributors still have a clause in their contracts that stipulate that there must be production stills shot on slide film. He knows that I shoot a lot of slide film anyway, so he didn't have to worry that I'd get the shots. So, yes, some people still do shoot film (I'm sure that # is shrinking fast), but they also shoot digital, as I did.
I had a lot of fun doing it. And I shot a lot!
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#7 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 10:50 AM

Brian,

Thanks for the really informative post. Do you know if many set photographers still use film instead of digital?


For the most part, the studio marketing departments request the format (film, digital) and most seem to be on the digital plan.

This has allowed the Still Photographer to do some level of pre-editing on set before he/she turns over the storage cards, discs, or harddrives. This can be as simple as deleting bad shots to touching up some photos with Photoshop. Some Still Photographers don't feel it's their job to do touchups like that while others choose to if they believe it will help a photo survive the "kill" process.
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