Why a Set Photographer Is the Biggest Asset To Your Film

You can have the best script, director, cinematographer and a star cast but none of that will matter if your film isn’t marketable.  How do you make it marketable?  A stellar press kit.  But you can’t create a press kit without amazing photos to show the public what a great little film you’ve made.

Many great filmmakers and even great producers overlook this one essential detail on set.  Even in cases when a set photographer is hired, there is a high chance that he won’t be used properly.  The following are a few quick tips that will make a huge difference to your promotional campaign.

1.  Don’t overdo it.  Your set photographer doesn’t need to be on set every day or even all day.  This major mistake not only wastes money, it wastes precious production time.  Schedule your set photographer on days where you will be shooting the most action for your film.  In other words, the big production value scenes.  Big stunts, car chases and any scene needing the most special effects or makeup are a must.  If you’re shooting a drama or a romance, choose the scenes where your cast will show the most emotion and/or conflict.  Cover at least 4 of these types of scenes and you are sure to have more than what you need to represent your film truthfully.

2.  Set photography is not behind the scenes.  All too often I see press photos filled with shots of the crew and the equipment with little to no shots representing what the film is about.  When this happens what you’ve got is a behind the scenes look of your film in the making.  What you don’t have is market value.  Solution:  On the days your set photographer is present make sure you schedule time after each scene for the actors to reenact the action so the photographer can capture it.  He/she can’t take photos while the camera is rolling because it will drive your sound engineer crazy.  Setting aside time for your set photographer to act as the camera is the best way to get the best film stills.  Sure you can grab stills from the film itself but this saves so much time and headache in the editing room.  And wouldn’t you prefer to pay your editor for, oh I dunno… editing?

3.  Show off.  Okay, so this might sound like I’m negating everything I just said but bear with me here.  You want to show your production value as much as you can.  You want to take pictures of all the awesome equipment you used that will give you cool points with the big boys (you just don’t want that to be all you have).  If your psycho-thriller-horror movie has a great scene where your supporting role gets his arm ripped off, you better cover that from every angle possible.  This is called coverage in film terms but it applies to set photography as well.  You want to capture the best possible moment of this amazing shot your planned weeks and months in advance for.  Get the makeup artist applying prosthetics, the actor prepping for the big shot, the reenactment of the gruesome shot and the aftermath.  You likely won’t use every shot in your press kit but you better get the best shot possible.  So give your set photographer permission to go crazy here.

4.  Glorify your director and/or producer.  This is a tough one because for the most part the director and the producer roles aren’t very physical.  But it’s an easy fix.  Tell your set photographer that every time he/she sees the director or producer pointing at something or someone, that shutter needs to go wild. Trust me, this will result in marketing gold when you review their work later.  However, these occasions are actually rare on set.  So what you want to do is set up time for a director/producer mini photo shoot.  (And while you’re at it have your camera op roll on this funny little event for the cast and crew to laugh about later.)  Have them point at the script, the camera, the set, the lights, the floor, the cast, the crew.  Have them point their heart out and have your photographer click away.  You can thank me later.

5.  Action plus interaction.  Show too much of your cast and crew separate from each other and it will look like they were taken at two completely different events.  Instruct your set photographer to capture any and all interaction between cast and crew.  This demonstrates the unified aspect of the film set.  It also optimizes any down-time when the crew is most on set along-side the cast.

For more tips and tricks to a killer press kit check out Raindance.org’s “7 essentials For A Press Kit”.

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