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Stills photographers on set


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#1 grant mcphee

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 06:59 PM

Hello,

In the UK system a camera operator can discuss a shot with the director, choose a lens, set up a shot etc while the dop will light.

i.e. the operator can frame the shot on their own and the dop will get the credit. Obviously it is never is a simple as this, but in theory that is how it goes.

How does this work for a stills photographer? They will be using the dp's lighting on set but do they get the credit or does the dp?
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 07:21 PM

The stills photographer would get a credit as the stills photographer, just as the camera operator gets a credit as the camera operator.
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#3 grant mcphee

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 07:53 PM

well yes, but my point is the still photographer gets credit on publicity stills as the photographer - i.e. the creator of that still. They are essentially carrying out a similar role to the camera operator who does not get the same level of recognition. In frame grabs from a movie it is the dp who gets the credit for the shot, not the operator.
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 05:15 AM

well yes, but my point is the still photographer gets credit on publicity stills as the photographer - i.e. the creator of that still. They are essentially carrying out a similar role to the camera operator who does not get the same level of recognition. In frame grabs from a movie it is the dp who gets the credit for the shot, not the operator.


I don't think the camera operators skills are truly demonstrated by screen grabs, it's in the framing during the camera moves and framing throughout the film where their skills are shown and that's what they're proud of. Their work is not intended to used as stills, the "grabs" you see are usually taken by the stills photographer during production rather than from the film camera.

The only studio feature film that I can recall that used real "grabs"from a film camera neg for publicity is "Barry Lyndon". However, it's unwise of any producer to save money by not using a stills photographer and use the production camera (s) for the stills they need. These are a key past of your film's marketing, which could cost just as much as the budget of the film itself, so to save money on the stills is very foolish.

The DP is the head of the department, so they represent everyone in the camera department. However it's not difficult these days to find the names of his crew and they'll receive a credit in the film.

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 09 December 2008 - 05:16 AM.

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#5 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 06:02 PM

well yes, but my point is the still photographer gets credit on publicity stills as the photographer - i.e. the creator of that still. They are essentially carrying out a similar role to the camera operator who does not get the same level of recognition. In frame grabs from a movie it is the dp who gets the credit for the shot, not the operator.


I'm not sure if I understand your question correctly.
If you ask who gets credit for the still - then the answer is stills photographer.
Or do you ask who holds the copyright for the still?
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#6 Steve McBride

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 09:48 PM

The still photographer works by himself, therefore they get all of the credit.

All camera crew including the camera operator, 1st and 2nd AC's, loader, etc. all work according to what the DP says, therefore the DP has complete control over what is being seen through the camera and therefore they get the credit.
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#7 grant mcphee

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Posted 10 December 2008 - 09:46 AM

[/]
All camera crew including the camera operator, 1st and 2nd AC's, loader, etc. all work according to what the DP says, therefore the DP has complete control over what is being seen through the camera and therefore they get the credit.
[/quote]

I've been on shoots that, to an extent the operator is autonomous; in that they choose lens and set up the shot with the director rather than the dop, who would just light. Or in a few cases set up the shot while the director works with actors.

While the stills photographer works on their own, in a studio they are relying on the dop's lighting for their shots. A rather average shot can look fantastic due to it being lit well. Lit by the dop, not the photographer.

I don't have a real question, it's just something I've always thought was a bit odd and wondered what others thought. Probably does not apply so much to American sets as the operators work in a different way there.
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#8 Steve McBride

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Posted 11 December 2008 - 12:27 PM

It's just a weird question as the stills photographer isn't a completely vital part in a production.

And yes, some DP's will go to their operator to choose what they think would work the best, but it is ultimately up to the DP and the director to choose what works best for the desired feel of that specific shot.
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#9 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 11 December 2008 - 08:54 PM

It's just a weird question as the stills photographer isn't a completely vital part in a production.

And yes, some DP's will go to their operator to choose what they think would work the best, but it is ultimately up to the DP and the director to choose what works best for the desired feel of that specific shot.


WHOA! I'm insulted. I of my favorite sayings as a stills guy was "BUT I'M 600 DAMNIT!" especially when my cart got booted to the utility trailer with sound department. The still photographer was, is and always will be a VERY vital part in a production. Before the digital camera age, who do you think too all those continuity photos. Who do you think sells a film to the public, who is the person that took the great reference shots to any and everybody that wants to publish and article about a film, director an actor?

Sure there may be a few prima donna ones out there, but you bet your ass that they are respected by the veterans in the industry. On "Stomp the Yard" the DP would always flick me a bird in jest, he also gave me a bump in exposure if I asked him to help me out. He called me a few months later asking if I had any photos without the middle finger... nope... he learned his lesson on that one.

I've also had DP's reference my stills for color for the timing to the lab. The stills man is a member of the camera department and the nicer you are to them, you'll get some of the greatest work photos of your life.

-Alfeo "Ex-Unit Photographer"
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#10 Steve McBride

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Posted 11 December 2008 - 09:39 PM

I'm going to retract my previous comment. I thought about it and I was completely wrong. I have read lots of summaries by DP's here saying that they talk to the stills photographer about lighting and checking out other aspects.

Then comes the whole press and promotion as well as BTS, the stills photographer IS a very vital part of the crew.

My apologies Alfeo.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 December 2008 - 09:39 PM

Since stills are a vital tool for the marketing of a movie, not to mention documentation in stills of the production for historical purposes, the person taking them has quite an important job on the set. And even though they don't do the lighting for a dramatic scene, taking a good still picture of any moment in time, even if the photographer did not provide the lighting, is an artform in itself. Afterall, so many of the greatest works of photography have not involved the photographer lighting the moment they were capturing.
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#12 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 11 December 2008 - 10:21 PM

No foul Steve.

Just to follow up. I will probably more harsh on the stills guys just because I was one... and believe me, I had to fight for almost every shot that was a great one. Especially when the DP stands opposite the camera of the first and to shoot with good framing that tells a story with out having grips, electrics, pa's, flags, stands in your shot or having a light killing you by hitting your front glass... is a feat in its own.

I use to wake up the next morning feeling muscles I didn't know I had from contorting my self around, over, through, under or pass objects while on the move with a dolly and I pride myself of that. One of my favorite dolly grips Trip Pair would give me a ride in a heartbeat if I asked. He told me about his last show when the stills guy took it for granted and rode more than the operator damn near. I didn't ask one time for a ride... he would even ask me if I was sure.

And last but not least... ACTORS! doing all that contorting and trying to hold still as possible to not be scene nor heard, we are targets for the ones that can not remember their lines. What makes up for it Clooney throwing looks to me because he's working the camera (me) for better shots... I totally freaked and asked him if I was in his eyeline (very bad thing) he said no your totally good. The result was an international deal with the ad company to run my shots.

http://web.mac.com/a...ebirties.html#3


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#13 Michele Peterson

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Posted 12 December 2008 - 09:55 AM

Afterall, so many of the greatest works of photography have not involved the photographer lighting the moment they were capturing.


I completely agree. Ansel Adams didn't light his photographs himself, but he knew how to utilize natural lighting to make remarkable photographs. On set, the still photographer has to utilize lighting that wasn't done specifically for him or his angle, but he still has to & does make great pictures with it.
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#14 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 12 December 2008 - 02:18 PM

Before the digital camera age, who do you think too all those continuity photos.
-Alfeo "Ex-Unit Photographer"

Really? I remember about ten years ago when scripty, makeup, wardrobe, props, art, etc...all had Polaroids and were constantly snapping shots for continuity. Were unit stills folks doing this at some point?
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#15 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 09:52 PM

Really? I remember about ten years ago when scripty, makeup, wardrobe, props, art, etc...all had Polaroids and were constantly snapping shots for continuity. Were unit stills folks doing this at some point?


Oops, forgot about the polaroid error, nope, It was before the instamatic polaroids.

I found an unlikely friend out of tracking down a photograph that is hanging in the guilds office. He shared many of these stories with me. I think everybody should find an old schooler, the endless stories... he also just happened to document the first feature that Garrett flew "his contraption" as my friend called it.
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#16 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 03:31 AM

Oops, forgot about the polaroid error, nope, It was before the instamatic polaroids.

I found an unlikely friend out of tracking down a photograph that is hanging in the guilds office. He shared many of these stories with me. I think everybody should find an old schooler, the endless stories... he also just happened to document the first feature that Garrett flew "his contraption" as my friend called it.

Hmm, it's hard to imagine the unit stills photographer doing all the continuity shots and having time to do all the important marketing shots as well.
Polaroid, and instamatic polaroids were around long before Bound For Glory was shot (by about 30 years), FYI.
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#17 K Borowski

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 08:50 AM

Polaroids were around over half a *century* ago. . .
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#18 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 10:43 AM

Hmm, it's hard to imagine the unit stills photographer doing all the continuity shots and having time to do all the important marketing shots as well.
Polaroid, and instamatic polaroids were around long before Bound For Glory was shot (by about 30 years), FYI.

Bound for Glory was just a something cool that I latched onto from talking to Wynn about his golden days on set. I told him I was leaving stills to per sue camera and that I'm a steadi op.

From the what I was told, the photographers didn't want to do it because other departments could now take them easily themselves. I would have to ask around, but I'm sure I can find out when they actually let go of that from the contract, which is now a direct effect of the issue of "Proliferation of unauthorized use of Still Cameras on the set," which is a current issue being dealt with now.

Polaroids were around over half a *century* ago. . .

Yes they have been. Most notably used by photographers was the Land Camera and until the mid 60's, there wasn't anything affordable, quick, easy and may I note... not messy until then.

Edited by Alfeo Dixon, 15 December 2008 - 10:45 AM.

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#19 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 11:04 AM

One other thing... back in the days of film (stills) all you had to do is bag and tag it and your done... digital workflow has increased the amount of work the stills people have to do now. Before it was a few camera bags and that's his kit. Now you need a cart or flight case for laptops, hard drives, printers and etc.

I guess they could get back to that by just shooting the cards and sending them to production with the film and let them deal with the digital mass of files.
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#20 K Borowski

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 11:34 AM

Yes they have been. Most notably used by photographers was the Land Camera and until the mid 60's, there wasn't anything affordable, quick, easy and may I note... not messy until then.


They were affordable enough that they were used extensively in "2001" as an aide to gauging proper exposure. So they've been around on film sets at least 40 years if not longer.

Further, the Polaroid land camera was available in the '50s to the point it was affordable to families. I'm certain that productions were at least renting them by the very early '60s, if not the late '50s.
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