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Unit still photographer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Film still from the 1938 film Bringing Up Baby featuring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant

A unit still photographer (or simply still photographer) creates still photos specifically for use in publicity and marketing of feature films and television productions.[1][2][3] In addition to creating photographs for the promotion of a film, the still photographer contributes daily to the filming process by creating set stills (or plate shots). With these, the photographer is careful to record all details of the cast wardrobe, set appearance and background.

Cornel Lucas, a pioneer of film portraiture in the 1940s and 1950s, was the first still photographer to be awarded a BAFTA in 1998, for work with the British Film Industry.[4][5]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • How to be a Unit Still Photographer in the Film Industry Episode 2.
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  • Æon Flux Special Feature Onset Still Photographer


Uses in the industry

Due to their relatively low quality, it is not practical to use individual frames from film or recorded video material for still photographs.[citation needed][6] High resolution images are needed for theatrical release posters, DVD box artworks, official website photos, billboards, bus stop adverts, point-of-purchase displays, key art image sets released to the press and media, and other printed and online collateral materials.

Unit still photographers are also responsible for creating "photo props" and "set dressing images", the photos and images used on-camera to create various illusions such as forensic photos, crime drama booking photos, character driver's licenses, passport and I.D. photos, on-screen family photos, surveillance photos, computer screen displays, and any other image a producer may require in the course of a production.

In North America in particular, and some international locations, a unit still photographer must be a member of IATSE Local 600 International Cinematographers Guild[citation needed] in order to perform services on union productions and union studio lots and locations. The most prestigious of these unit still photographers are members of The Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers, an organization which promotes the work of those within the industry.

In the past, the director, costumer or the director of photography may have referred to these still images for continuity purposes, as the unit stills photographer was the only crew member permitted to take still photographs on set. With the introduction of instant cameras such as the Polaroid, and subsequent digital photo cameras, this job of taking continuity images has now fallen to the continuity and script supervisor.[7]

While often perceived as a "glamour" job for photographers, the reality is often long hours (70-plus hours per week) in remote locations under difficult and often extreme conditions.[citation needed] The unit still photographer often coordinates with the unit publicist but physically works in close proximity to the film's camera crew, director and actors, and also in close proximity to the film's boom microphone operator. Unit still photographers go to great lengths to muffle the sound of their camera's motor drive and shutter to avoid distracting the actors, and to remain inaudible on the film's recorded dialogue soundtrack.[citation needed]

Typically, this is accomplished using a sound blimp, which is a sound-absorbing, foam-filled metal case in which the still camera body is fitted with a proprietary remote operation cable.[citation needed] This allows the camera to be activated and operated from a two-button (activation, focus, and shutter release) exterior control.[citation needed] Limitations exist once the blimp is closed around the camera, as one can no longer access the camera controls (f-number, shutter speed, ASA/ISO settings) or menu displays directly.[citation needed] The LCD display for reviewing the images will also be obscured in the closed position.[citation needed] This requires the photographer to make control selections in advance and use those settings until the take in progress has been "cut", making adjustments only between takes or set-ups. Unit still photographers in this field typically produce over 2000 marketable images per week for their major-studio clients.[citation needed]

Since 2010, high-end DSLR cameras, which can be remotely controlled with mobile apps on smartphones and tablet computers, using the built-in 2-way Wi-Fi radio-controlled interface between the tablet and the DSLR camera, and offer internal active noise reduction technologies, have increased the ability of the unit still photographer to work quietly on the set.[citation needed]

Notable still photographers


  1. ^ Brian Dzyak (2010). What I Really Want to Do on Set in Hollywood: A Guide to Real Jobs in the Film Industry. Crown Publishing Group. pp. 303–. ISBN 978-0-307-87516-7.
  2. ^ Larry Goldman (1983). The professional photographer: developing a successful career. Doubleday. p. 117. ISBN 9780385157537.
  3. ^ Finola Kerrigan (2009). Film Marketing. Routledge. pp. 243–. ISBN 978-1-136-44000-7.
  4. ^ Martin Childs (11 December 2012). "Cornel Lucas: Photographer who made his name as a pioneer of film portraiture - Obituaries". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  5. ^ Andrew Dawson; Sean Holmes (2 August 2012). Working in the Global Film and Television Industries: Creativity, Systems, Space, Patronage. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 136–. ISBN 978-1-78093-021-3.
  6. ^ "What Is The Role Of A Still Photographer In A Movie?". Jun 13, 2018.
  7. ^ Miller, P (1999). Script Supervising and Film Continuity (Third ed.). Focal Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0240802947.

Further reading

  • Stage and Theater Photography, Jeff Lowenthal, 1965. ASIN B000NU0SJU
  • The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, photography by Susan Cook; commentary by Joseph H. Mazo, New York, Morrow (1978). ISBN 9780688033040, ISBN 9780688083045
  • Creative Techniques in Stage & Theatrical Photography, by Paddy Cutts, Rosemary Curr, Quite Specific Media Group (September 1983), ISBN 978-0-7134-0667-2.
  • Photography and the Performing Arts, Gerry Kopelow, Focal Press (June 9, 1994), ISBN 978-0-240-80168-1.
  • The Complete Guide to Night and Low-Light Photography, Lee Frost, Amphoto Books (March 15, 2000), ISBN 978-0-8174-5041-0.
  • Movie Photos: The guide to marketing and publicity photography, Alex Bailey, Imagebarn (19 Jun 2008), ISBN 978-0-9559337-0-7
This page was last edited on 29 April 2024, at 05:03
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