Set photography, take one

Two weeks ago, I got asked to do some set photography at an ongoing film shoot in a studio at the University of Arts in Zurich.

It was my first time on a professional film set, in a proper studio, and the experience was very memorable. As it is usual on a set, it was a very hectic, busy, and stressful day for the whole crew, so the addition of a ‘guest’ who intrudes on the set to snap photos between takes initally made me a little bit nervous. The level of seriousness, focus, and organization felt during and between takes was impressive. The actors, depending on their technique, might see a set photographer as a nuisance. I decided to go up to them and ask for their permission to take pictures between takes. Sometimes, it’s all it takes to break the ice.

For a set photographer, it is all about not being in the way while at the same time getting close up and catching the mood and feel of the shoot. At first quite difficult, but as the film crew gets to know you better, you also get more courage and therefore you are comfortable enough to closer and closer.
In certain cases, if schedule allows, an extra take is prepared for the set photographer to take stills that would be used for promotional material. However, in this case, the schedule was tight, and there was no room for “extra” takes.
Nevertheless, this was a great experience and highly interesting day.

Because of the difficult and limited light availability, fast movement on set and required flexibility, I decided to shoot digital. I used the OM-D E-M5, with its versatility and silent operation as well as fast lenses.

The set is an extremely busy place
The set is an extremely busy place between the takes


Each shot requires an enormous deal of planning and precision
Each shot requires an enormous deal of planning and precision


The camera operator at work
The camera operator at work


Each scene will take many takes until filming it is finally done
As each scene will take many takes until filming it is finally done, patience and endurance are required from every member of the crew


With the overhead boom mic, sound is caught live during a shoot
With the overhead boom mic, sound is caught live during a shoot


The first camera assistant's job is to keep the picture in the desired focus
The first camera assistant’s job is to keep the picture in the desired focus


The director watching as the shooting of a scene takes place
Director watching as the shooting takes place


Foot markings are essential for actors to maintain the correct positions
Foot markings are essentials for actors to maintain the correct positions


An almost-POV from the camera
An almost-POV from the camera


Director and crew reviewing a take
Director and crew reviewing a take


Filming a dolly scene
Filming a dolly scene


An extreme amount of detail and attention is asked from the light crew
An extreme amount of detail and attention is asked from the light crew


Steadicam and boom mic getting ready for another scene take
Steady cam and boom mic getting ready


The 2nd camera assistant handling the slate/clapper
The 2nd camera assistant handling the slate/clapper as she announces the take

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