On Set Photography: The Job of Unit Still Photographer

Newark-film-productionThumbing the pages of film industry publications readers will often find photos of the films featured within the magazine.

Many of these photos are from a behind the scenes perspective. These types of photos are usually called Film Stills, but may also be referred to as a production stills or publicity stills. This is a role in film production known as the Unit Still Photographer (Dyzak).

From a marketing and documenting stand point, unit photographers are an important and valuable asset. Production still photographer Angus Young concurs saying that “the still image is still the most efficient and powerful motivator for audiences to invest their time and ticket money in watching a film (philarntz.com).” In other words, a great production image can generate a lot of hype and bring plenty of attention to a film.

Photographers like Angus Young don’t always start out as unit still photographers. Young’s career began shooting pictures of live bands for a local publication in the UK where his small company is based. From there, through his girlfriend who’s involved with post production work, he managed to gain access to some film sets and discovered the role of a unit still photographer. From there, the rest was history and has been involved in well over 60 different productions ranging from documentaries to feature length films for the last 13 years.


Production_stillAs a unit still photographer, a person is allowed to travel many locales around the world and is able work alongside many of the industry’s best. For example some of Young’s colleagues include Jasin Boland and Phil Bray. Boland has been busy at work on the new Mad Max film photographing Tom Hardy in Namibia whereas Bray’s previous credits include Life of Pi which was shot in Thailand and India.

Let it be known that in order to be allowed to shoot photos for a major studio or production the photographer must be a member of the IATSE Local 600. The IATSE or International Alliance of Stage and Theatrical Employees is an organization that represents thousands of professionals in the entertainment industry. The Local 600 is the International Cinematographers Guild which represents “camera professionals and publicists” which Unit Still Photographers fall under. Usually in order to work professionally, one must be affiliated with a professional union.

By Miguel Ponce

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