What do Still Photographers do?
Many big stars have a clause written in to their contracts enabling them to "kill" any images of themselves which they do not approve — often the bigger the star, the greater the "kill factor," which can be as high as 75%. Unit Stills Photographers must therefore be prepared for the rejection of what they may consider to be their best work. Unit Stills Photographers are employed, on a freelance basis, by producers, film PR companies, film sales agents, or distributors, and usually combine unit stills work with a variety of other professional stills photography (portraiture, travel, beauty, editorial, film festivals and special events). The hours are long and they often spend considerable periods of time away from base.
What is the job?
The number of days Stills Photographers work on set depends on the budget and scale of each film. On medium sized films, they are usually employed for at least 15 days; on big budget films with A-List casts, they may be required to be on set every day of the shoot. Their first responsibility is to run through the shooting schedule with the film PR, and decide on the best days for them to visit the set.
Once these days have been approved, Unit Stills Photographers make their own way to the set or studio with their equipment, including 4 or 5 different cameras (both manual and digital) which enable them to shoot concurrently on different kind of film stocks, lenses, tripods, etc. Unit Stills Photographers must be patient and sensitive when working on set, because actors may feel that having another camera pointing at them could adversely affect their performance. In these circumstances, Unit Stills Photographers use the morning blocking rehearsal to attempt to capture some good shots.
Usually, however, with the actors' permission, Unit Stills Photographers position themselves as close to the film camera as possible, and shoot every scene in detail using a piece of equipment called a Blimp, which houses the stills camera and cuts out any noise it might make.
Unit Stills Photographers send the exposed film to processing laboratories every 3-4 days and continuously choose the best shots and mark up contact sheets. If a studio shoot is planned, they work with the actors to create the desired shots, usually based on a brief from the poster artwork designers. Once their work is completed, all the images are sent to the sales company, distributor, film PR or publicist, who use them for the P&A (Press and Adverting) campaign.
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Santa Monica, CA
Job description sources include (but are not limited to) imdb.com, skillset.org and wikipedia.