Tech Talk – 3 More crucial on set relationships for a stills photographer

I’ve recently been fortunate enough to get some feedback from some very experienced unit stills photographers on my previous article TT 02 – 5 Crucial on set relationships and this week I’m going to add 3 more key relationships for a photographer’s success on a film set.

Camera crew in a narrow hallway - Wavelengths

Camera Crew – The most important camera operators on a film set are the camera department who are led by the DoP. Friendly relations with these guys will grant you knowledge of the motion camera’s settings (including Lens\Apeture\Shutterspeed selection, Film Stock as well as any filters being used), give advice as to where you can “safely” be (ie out of their way) during rehearsals and takes as well as be more likely to make concessions to their personal space in constrained sets.

Michael Rich. Superstar Grip.

Dolly Grip– When camera crew are doing a dolly shot (the motion camera is on a smooth moving support) the Dolly Grip is the crew member responsible for setting up the dolly and its tracks then moving the dolly between the camera positions during rehearsals and takes. Dolly Grips will also provide safe guidance for the camera operator when hand held and moving. When the camera is in motion its important to ensure the Dolly Grip is not obstructed or bumped. Often the stills photographer’s camera position will be achieved by choreographing movement around that of the dolly and its Grip.

Unit Publicists – The unit publicist (or, on smaller projects it will be a Producer) is a stills photographer’s primary “client” on a film shoot. They’re the person who will provide guidance in relation to specific images required for the production. Publicists will also have the clout to negotiate for time to explore specific photo opportunities. These shoots are called “Specials Shoots”. I’ve got a forthcoming article about running a specials shoot as its quite different to working on a film set.

Special thanks to three US based unit stills photographers Greg Gayne, Matt F. Kennedy and Justin Lubin for providing some great suggestions, based on their experience on set.

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!).


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  • Ken StrainDecember 9, 2014 - 6:21 am

    You’re forgetting the boom operator. I am a boom operator, and I have a few still photographer friends. They love working with me, because I maintain an awareness of their position and what they’re trying to get. By helping them get their shot, they can leave the scene quicker, and I can have more room to work. Just make sure you’re not getting in my way, and I’ll make sure my elbow or body is clear of your shot.

  • PSbyAYJanuary 13, 2015 - 11:22 am

    That’s an incredibly insightful comment and I am a little embarrassed that I hadn’t included my esteemed sound department colleagues. Booms ops and sound recordists can absolutely be key relationships for the stills photographer on set. Thanks for making contact!