For creative photographers, it can seem like a very boring idea to shoot behind the scenes during a short film. I thought so too until a friend of mine called me to ask if I should shoot on a school project of his (he’s in film school and needed to shoot three sequences). I didn’t want to say no to my friend, so I showed up on the day. Much to my surprise I got to meet many people and learn lots of things. The best thing of all is that I ended up taking some of the best photos I have ever taken since first picking up my camera.
The following are some of the major reasons why you should think about shooting behind the scenes and how your photography can benefit from it:
1. It’s a great chance for a photo shoot
While a short film is being shot, a majority of the actors aren’t afraid of cameras and are used to modeling. There’s a make-up artist, and director of photography for working on the lighting (and many more individuals on the set of course taking care of the costumes, sounds, etc.). Basically a short film is a photo shoot, but people act and are being filmed instead of just images being taken.
Actors have their make-up and hair done and are wearing their costumes, and all of the lighting is done for you by the director of photography. This should be seen as an advantage since weeks are spent planning and you are just there to take beautiful photographs in ideal conditions. Most of the beautiful images that I took were during the short film and I wouldn’t have been able to reproduce the ambiance, costumes and scenes by myself.
Even if you prefer planning your own photo shoots or don’t care for the theme too much, trying out other people’s ideas is another way to help you progress by getting you out of your comfort zone.
2. You are surrounded by other creative people
I have been helped so much by working with other creative individuals. The best things are not wanting to disappoint anyone and having the shared interest. Working with other individuals who create provides you with that added boost and gives you that push to do your very best. These images are need by most people who are part of a film crew. Just think of all that work they do to create their projects, ranging from make-up artist remaining on set all day along, to negotiating to borrow very expensive film equipment, to finding the perfect actors, as well as all of the detailed planning that goes into the sequences. You automatically try to get stunning shots since you can’t disappoint other creatives with average images.
It is hard since you only can shoot photos after the scenes while the film director is briefing the actors. So they aren’t posing for you. What you have to do is walk around without drawing any attention to yourself to get some good images taken. While the video camera is going don’t take any image. The sound of your camera’s shutter can ruin an entire scene, and you definitely don’t want to do that. Just wait patiently until the director says cut. That’s when you can start to take photos.
Whenever an actor isn’t part of a scene, you can always ask them nicely to pose for you. A majority of them need to have portraits for their portfolios or websites, so many of them will say yes. If someone does say no, just let them know if they change their mind that you are always happy to take portraits.
3. You might get to work on future projects with these people
An entire day of filming make take eight hours or even longer. You will meet many people (depending on how large the crew is), and there will plenty of time for getting to know everybody. I definitely recommend that you socialize during breaks and get to know everybody. A majority of them will share the same passion with you, whether it’s someone from the sound team or the assistant, you can talk about future or previous projects, have technical discussions on camera gear, or many other topics.
The most talkative are usually the actors, especially at times when they have a couple of hours without scenes to do. Let them know about your photography. Ask them if they want to do a photo shoot with you in the near future. Make-up artists are great contacts as well, so get their business cards and call them for your next photo shoot when you need somebody for hair and make-up.
I met one make-up artist who had a little girl who was wanting to get started with modeling. A few weeks later we met and I photographed her. I wound up with a great image for my portfolio.
Get your images ready quickly so that you can show them
One useful tip I can provide to you is work on your images as soon as you can. Once these individuals see your images they’ll start to spread the word to others they know, on social social, etc (as long as your results were good). You most likely will end up being friends on Facebook with a majority of the crew and will be able to stay in touch that way.
Many of them post on Facebook or will contact you directly when they are need of a photographer. After you have done a good job,most likely they will call you again. Then their friends will start to call you also, along with other make-up artists and actors and increase your contacts further.
4. You’ll learn many technical things
Lots of advanced equipment is used by most film crews. When you watch them set everything up, you’ll learn a lot about organization, tracking shots, team work, communicating with actors, sound, lighting, framing, choice of lenses and cameras. Just keep your eyes open and try to absorb as much information as possible.
A majority of photography directors use various lighting techniques including back-light, soft light, harsh light, key light and hair light with various modifiers. Make sure you pay close attention their work and do you best to replicate it after you get home. Another thing you can do is take images of their light set up so you will know precisely how each light was placed on the set.