To me, being a still photographer on a video production means one thing: Stay the hell out of the way, and do your job.
Being a set photographer is a challenge. You’ll immediately recognize that you are not the priority, which is difficult for most photographers to fathom. You need to stay out of the way of the video crew, make little noise, and deliver terrific photos. Some of the normal angles you’re used to working from are most likely occupied by a videographer and audio guy.
Still photographers really need to speak up on set to get their needs fulfilled. A set photographer may need a selection of portraits in each filming location. If you don’t speak up, people will cruise on to the next location or scene. You’ll want to work quickly. Have a plan in place to execute your ideas.
The photo above is a Golf Channel show with Hall of Fame golfer Raymond Floyd at Old Palm Golf Course in Palm Beach. Two cameras on a tripod (one is also in background) and a camera on a jib. If I remember correctly, Mr. Floyd was delivering lines into the camera during this particular set up. You’ll also notice a lighting crew member holding a stand, which already has 10+ sandbags. What you don’t see is many more crew members, consisting of jib operators, producers, director, makeup, audio, wardrobe, PA’s and grips.
Still photographers don’t usually show up when the crew does. They spend hours setting up their cameras, scouting, calibrating and lighting. I often get a call sheet, and my call time is 1 – 2 hours after the crew. Let me be the first to tell you that you’ll be made fun of when showing up at 7am, when the video crew was there at 5. I’d share my favorite come backs when this happens, but it’s best for you to learn on your own in this situation.
Here’s another tip: Don’t mess with lunch! Talent get cranky if they have to pose or take a few extra minutes right before their lunch break.
As a still photographer, get familiar with the lighting gear and crew. Big productions bring in flags, scrims and generators to power their lighting. Going back a paragraph, you’ll want to make friends with the lighting crew. Once the crew calls “lunch” or “wrapped”, I can’t explain to you how quickly these lights shut down. It’s milliseconds. Make sure they know you’ll need these lights on for a few extra minutes. They take several minutes to fire back up, and I can tell you first hand, that your subject will be GONE when they turn back on.
Which brings me to my last point. Video crews work LONG days. They’re used to it. Still photographers are not. Get used to a 12 – 15 hour work day. For a 15 hour work day, video crews may only create an hour long show. There’s a lot of down time.
Feel free to email me any questions about being a set photographer.
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