What life is like shooting stills on a movie set

Aug 19, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

What life is like shooting stills on a movie set

Aug 19, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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I always thought being the stills shooter on a movie set would be such great fun. It probably is, too. But when one hears stories and sees footage of them in action one quickly realises how stressful it is. Under constant pressure to get the shot, it must be perfect every time. Your images are going to sell the entire movie to the general public. You need to not only get the technical side perfect, you need to capture the mood and spirit of the characters, too.

In this two part video interview from AdoramaTV, we peek into the life of world renowned movie stills photographer Aidan Monaghan. It’s interesting to hear how his career evolved from architecture to landscape, then theatre, and how it all helped him get started shooting movies.

In Part 1, Aidan talks about his background. How he got his start in photography, and the transition to movies. It’s funny where life takes us sometimes.

YouTube video

I found it quite intriguing to hear that he got his break in movie stills due to his background in landscape photography. But, there are many different genres of photography where techniques and styles learned from one can be advantageous to another.

In Part 2, Aidan goes into some depth about his more recent work. Particularly movies such as The Martian and High-Rise.

YouTube video

The preparation work that Aidan puts into each movie he shoots may seem a little extreme for most of us.

I always read the script. The script is key for me, because the script is the document that embodies all the direction, the description of the scene, the detail of what the actor is wearing, right down to their general expression or thought within a scene.

So, everything starts with the script for me, and I’ll read the script a few times.

I couldn’t imagine reading through an entire movie script to figure out what and where to shoot. But, not doing so would simply leave you unprepared. The script allows Aidan to visualise the scenes and the shots in his head before filming has even begun. When he shows up on set, he already knows what shots he needs.

I still think it’s probably a very cool job, but it’s definitely not something I could do long term.

How about you? Is this something you’ve always wanted to try? Do you do it already? For those that have or still do it, what are the biggest challenges you face? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “What life is like shooting stills on a movie set”

  1. Jeff Re Avatar
    Jeff Re

    Nice photo. :)