As a publicity stills photographer you’ll often hear tales of “the other guy” that they won’t work with again. Here’s the pitfalls that I avoid and that you should too:
DON’T interrupt the shoot. In many publicity photography environments the photographer is central to the process and has almost full command of the creative team. On a film set that is absolutely not the case. Principal photography is always the priority and as a stills photographer it’s imperative that you know your place. It goes without saying that you can’t stop the action mid stream, but you certainly shouldn’t take distract any crew (especially actors) when they are required to work make the motion pictures happen. By speaking to the first assistant director you can often negotiate specific time for working directly with the actors.
NEVER make noise during takes that will be picked up by the sound recordist. In particular, SLR cameras which are the mainstay of any professional photographer make an audible slap when an image is captured. Many on set stills photographers will use a blimp (a sound proof camera enclosure) to muffle the shutter sound and for some sound recordists even that’s not enough to shoot during takes. If in doubt, ask the sound recordist or sound mixer or, better yet – don’t shoot during takes. Save your shooting for before, and after the take or during camera rehearsals which usually precede the take.
DON’T miss the behind the scenes photos. Promotional packs for film and television don’t just include the main actors and scenes. They will often want to include images the depict the crew at work, the actors off-screen and even guests on set. Production stills is the ultimate in photojournalism projects. The photographer will greatly contribute to the publicity of the project by capturing and supplying to the production newsworthy images that will further develop media interest in the project.
NEVER fail to deliver. Not just in quality, but in a timely fashion. If you’ve made an agreement as to when you’ll turn over your stills to the production honour it. Your stills are crucial to the production in many different ways but often the whole way through the production process. Don’t be the responsible for holding up then publicity machine because your photos aren’t available.
NEVER EVER share images without approval. There are often huge sensitivities (if not contractual clauses) around the release of publicity still images. Part of a stills photographer’s job is to know who is entitled to the images. If in doubt – ask the film publicist or producers. Even if you do have approval to share images, you need to consider whether making an image available is going negatively affect the reputation of you as a photographer, or that of other film making professionals or the production.
Please feel free to hit me with any comments or questions, I welcome your input (as well as any web traffic you can send my way!).