Tech Talk – 5 great ways to spend your on set down time

Film sets are not all action, you’ll spend lots of time waiting around. Here’s my top 5 tips for making use of that down time.

Christopher Berry - the charming romantic lead in The Brightest Colours Make Grey

  1. Crew Portraits – As I first discussed in TT 11, just about everyone on a film set will want some photographic record of where they have spent the majority of their waking hours for the period of the show. Your photos of crew members at work are a great memento for their loved ones and a great addition to their online presence. Your generosity with capturing and sharing great crew portraits will win you favours on set and recommendations for future shows.
  2. Character shots – I love a good character shot and more importantly so do publicists, producers and actors. The beauty of these images is that you can capture great images while not being on a dressed set. Actors often spend a lot of time at the ready for shooting and will often gladly pose for character shots if only to fill in time. The best thing about shooting character portraits while actors are not in the thick of filming is that you will get the time to work intimately with the actor that you rarely get while they’re in position between and after a take.
  3. Editing/Reviewing your work – Having a laptop with you on set is a great way to be productive during the long slow setup times or when the crew is shooting another angle on a scene you’ve already covered. I’m often in a quiet corner doing quick selections on my stills to minimise the work I have to do at night after the crew have wrapped for the day.
  4. Planning/Negotiating – If you’ve read your script (which you should have) and kept an eye on your call sheets (head to TT 06 for a refresh on why call sheets are awesome) advance schedule you’ll have an idea of what scenes are coming up. If the upcoming scenes are important to your planned publicity shots then negotiating with the powers that be (Producers/First ADs) is a great way to improve your chances to capture them.
  5. Aden Turner, First AD between takes

  6. Networking – I’ve discussed the importance of networking before (TT 12 Getting work as a stills photographer) the waiting around you do on set can be very social. Its a great opportunity to get to know other up and coming film makers with common aspirations and maybe even score a job or a referral for a job on a forthcoming project. Remember – networking is not just about how others can help you – reciprocity is the key. Read this great professional networking article (via

I absolutely love hearing from other photographers and film crew who are reading my blog. If you’ve got a topic you think I should cover or a suggestion or a recommended resource, please drop me a line angus at If you like the blog share it with your friends and colleagues!


Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

  • Minto ThorsenApril 29, 2014 - 3:27 pm

    Have to thank you so much for your blog. I cannot tell you how helpful it has been. I have shot a number of student productions for theater and several video shoots but never a film production. This is a shoot with more seasoned film pros, working for fun on the 48 Hour Film Festival in Washington DC, where a short film is produced–soup to nuts- in 48 hours. I’ll be using a Nikon D7100, and have a 28-70, f2.8. a 70-200, f2.8, and a 35, f1.8. I have a prime 85 but perhaps it’s redundant. I’m expecting to go in without flash at a high ISO. No one knows subject, location or conditions until the starting “Go!” I’m going through your blog as fast as I can to fill in what holes I can, knowing that “Don’t get in the way” is #1. Any other critical stuff to flat out not forget in a situation like mine?

    Thank you thank you thank you!

  • PSbyAYJune 7, 2014 - 5:42 pm

    Slightly, late reply I’m sorry! Congratulations on your first gig! Definitely take your 85mm prime, film sets can get very dark leaving your 2.8 zooms a little slow for the lighting conditions. I hope you had fun!

  • Dan AndersonJune 25, 2017 - 9:49 pm

    I just want to say thank you for this great website.  I wish I had found this resource a little earlier in my career.  I started shooting set stills about 4 years ago in addition to my editorial and corporate I had worked on for 10 years.  I had to figure out a lot as I went along but this website has given me some pointers.  Again, thank you for this service.