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Importance of still photo chops


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#1 ChrisFern

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 06:12 PM

I'm a firm believer (or have been led to believe by my teachers) that you need to have still photo skills in order to progress as a motion picture photographer, but I was reading a recent ASC Chat Room discussion by Owen Roizman, who said (sort of) that he wasn't quite sure how important still photo chops should be to a DP. Granted, I don't remember the exact wording of the answer to the question that was posed, but I remember he didn't think it was as important as I've been led to believe. Any thoughts, anyone?
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#2 Luke Prendergast

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 06:18 PM

Development of the visual sense is the main connection with cinematography. Still photography is very useful as a means of training your eyes, to help you see a frame and a perspective, but there are many other ways.
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#3 Patrick Neary

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 06:36 PM

Hi- My experience would say a background in stills (8 years as a photojournalist) is critical, but that's just where i came from. It's certainly not necessary, you could make an argument that it's necessary to gaff or AC first, and many people do. That's one of the great things about this field, everyone brings their own history and interests to it, it's not like structural engineering or something where there might be a very narrow path to follow education-wise.

But i would also think that anyone interested in cinematography would be drawn to stills as well, it's such a natural extension, or compliment to cine-shooting. and way cheaper.
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#4 Dickson Sorensen

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 06:48 PM

Many of the disciplins of still photography are directly transferable to cinematography. However, there is one fundamental difference you must not forget when you put down your still camera and pick up you movie camera. Stills are all about freezing that one moment in time. Motion pictures are about recording the change in time.
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#5 Dominic Case

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 07:15 PM

I forget who said this: but it's a reported conversation between a stills photographer and a cinematographer:

The cinematographer: "my pictures move."
The stills photographer: "mine don't need to."

Maybe this doesn't add much to the thread: but it emphasises that there are creative skills in stills that aren't entirely applicable to motion pictures - and vice versa.
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#6 timHealy

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 07:31 PM

I agree with those who have said there are issues like composition and framing that can easily be shared with still photography, moving images have many elements that are unique to the moving image. So if you have a back ground in stills great. If not, that's OK too. All sorts of backgrounds may lend themselves to cinematography from art to architecture. I have always had the impression just doing it and learning along the way may be the best way to learn a craft whether it be shooting stills, shooting film, or directing commercials and films. And most importantly never forget that you will keep learning. Just when you think you know everything, something comes along that shows you don't.

best

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#7 Michael Collier

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 09:14 PM

I agree it helps, but cinematography got me into stills, not the other way around. Good experience is needed. Is that too much headroom? well what did it look like last time you gave that much headroom. How deep should the lense focus? if I want to make the whole image warm how do I do that?

Experience comes in all varieties. I have shot with VHS, VHC, Video-8, Hi-8, DV BetaSP and HDV (in order of my progression) and it started when I was 8 years old. Since then I am having a horrible week if I dont shoot anything (Im a news photographer now, so now if I go more than 3 days im feining for it.)

Art is Art is Art. Its using your prior experience (from any art, i even bring music theory to lighting.) combine that with technical knowledge (if you dont know how to get the look you want, your dead in the water) and hopefully you arrive at your original artistic intent.

I would like to say that a person steeped in video as a start will give good base for a few reasons. 1. in still photography you can take 100 shots to get to the one good shot. 2. with only still experience you have no idea how the images cut together or how moving camera work affects the experience of the shot. 3. video is so cheap you can shoot EVERY day ALL day and have so much prior experience in favorable conditions and in poor conditions.
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#8 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 10:45 PM

i think still photo is a great way to learn certain technical aspects of cinematography... like fully understanding how a negative behaves, color balance, printing, neg's differences to positive film, using a light meter, etc. and lighting techniques too, but avoid using strobes if you're most concerned with moving over to cine. but most of all, i would highly suggest beginners to take up still photography and learn the zone system. its approach to exposure translates directly to cine and gives you incredible control over your images.

in my opinion, the best way for a beginning cinematographer to develop (if they need to save money) is still photo in tandem with a 24p camcorder-- the important technical knowledge of understanding emulsion, while also working on the formal modes of time, motion & space.
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#9 Ram Shani

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Posted 22 October 2005 - 09:17 AM

hi

i think that still photography is very importent practice becuse you learn to speak in images only

becuse you have to tell your story without text or dailog but thrue light and composition

and you have to be very clear with what you say becuse you have one frame

ram
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#10 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 24 October 2005 - 03:47 AM

I believe that a cinematographer should first be a competant if not professional stills photographer in sort of the same way that a surgeon is first a medical doctor.
Even if one is coming from gaffing, the principles of exposure, composition and depth of field must be learned at some point and it is far more economical and logistically less complicated to accomplish this with a fully manual stillls camera.
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#11 Greg Gross

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 07:11 AM

I use stills with my filmmaking(professional photographer) and now just starting to shoot in
16mm vs. dv. I shoot in the raw and edit with CS2,my stills are my storyboard now. I use
stand-ins when I shoot stills of location sites. I do not storyboard all of my scenes but just
selected ones, the rest are in my head. I print a contact sheet of my selected storyboard
scenes in order and carry it with me.

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#12 Chris Fernando

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 11:37 AM

Stills are all about freezing that one moment in time. Motion pictures are about recording the change in time


Sounds like you theorize that motion picture photography then is something of a multiple of still photography, correct me if I'm wrong. Since there is so much more that goes into creating millions of sequential frames vs. just one frame where do you think you stop seeing just the one frame and start concentrating on the change in time.

I still remember the first time I saw a 35mm print of Apocalypse Now and thinking every one of these frames would make an awesome 8x10!
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#13 Greg Gross

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 02:50 PM

Motion!

Greg Gross
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#14 Chris Fernando

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 03:34 PM

"Motion!" is possible with a still camera as well.
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#15 Dickson Sorensen

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 04:51 PM

Sounds like you theorize that motion picture photography then is something of a multiple of still photography, correct me if I'm wrong. Since there is so much more that goes into creating millions of sequential frames vs. just one frame where do you think you stop seeing just the one frame and start concentrating on the change in time.


Example: I once filmed an extreme close-up of a samuri sword cutting the flame off the end of a candle. The plan was that we would film at 300 fps as the swordsman sliced off the wick. On certain takes a funny thing happened. The sword would slice through the flame and the flame would disappear then a moment later the flame would reappear seemingly out of nowhere. It's not just a series of stills, it's that it takes you into an other demension and opens a whole other world of expression. Even the inclusion of locked down shots in a film works only in relation to the shots seen before and after. A still photo can hang on the wall all day long and is not to a great extent affected by what is around it, and that's fine.

Edited by Dickson Sorensen, 25 October 2005 - 04:53 PM.

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#16 Chris Fernando

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 05:27 PM

Thanks Dickson.
I see what you're saying (pun intended).
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#17 Dino Giammattei

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Posted 11 November 2005 - 06:15 AM

Back in the seventies, as a Navy mopic photographer, we would always get into good natured trash talking with the still photographers. They would say that the mopic guys would shoot a hundred feet then look for a bar. It was funny, and not completely untrue,but after a while it got old and I would counter by saying that a still photographer only has to be a photographer for a hundredth of a second at a time. Boy, did that piss them off.

Of course catching the perfect hundredth is the trick in stills..

An old chief used to say that mopic guys took better stills, because we didn't have the luxury of cropping our shots later. We would tend to frame our shots to fill the screen rather than leave a safety area for the darkroom guys.
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#18 Chris Fernando

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Posted 11 November 2005 - 06:12 PM

" In a collective art like the cinema there is only one director and the word 'photography' means expression in a single image. We express ourselves through 'cinematography', which means 'Writing with Light in Motion' and requires more than one image to become an art form; in fact, it needs a beginning, development, and an end."

by Vittorio Storaro, quoted from the following article:

http://www.cinematog...nl/THEDoPH1.htm
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#19 Ed Araquel

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Posted 19 November 2005 - 07:15 PM

As an actual stills photographer, I would say knowing and being good at stills is a good starting point for a cinematographer but cinematography in general is much MORE than still photography: motion (camera, light, subject and background) and the capture of it is more complex than simply a series of stills. You have to be cognizant of the interaction of all 4 in your scene and how they can be best arranged for maximal effect for the story you are trying to tell.
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#20 steve hyde

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 01:44 PM

i think still photo is a great way to learn certain technical aspects of cinematography... like fully understanding how a negative behaves, color balance, printing, neg's differences to positive film, using a light meter, etc. and lighting techniques too, but avoid using strobes if you're most concerned with moving over to cine. but most of all, i would highly suggest beginners to take up still photography and learn the zone system. its approach to exposure translates directly to cine and gives you incredible control over your images.

in my opinion, the best way for a beginning cinematographer to develop (if they need to save money) is still photo in tandem with a 24p camcorder-- the important technical knowledge of understanding emulsion, while also working on the formal modes of time, motion & space.


Novice cinematographer that I am - I have to agree that still photography work is a great way to learn about the way films behave. Motion picture and still photography requires a knowledge of the medium that is film. Not just how to expose a given stock properly based on tech sheets published by film manufacturers, but also knowing how to acheive various looks that can be acheived through over exposure, push or pull processing, cross processing and so on. For those of us that cannot afford to go out and shoot miles of super 8 - still photography with an SLR is the most cost effective way to learn the nuances of the medium.

Steve
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