Stills for your film or project are essential. Human beings are image driven and as the saying goes, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’.
It’s so frustrating then that all too often I help filmmakers or see projects where fundamental errors were made when gathering photographs to support the inevitable marketing.
This is not an article about what (compositionally, aesthetically of even commercially) makes a great or appropriate image, rather simply technical issues that dog projects and people. I wrote an article here about creative choices with stills… Top 14 tips for getting KILLER stills that will help sell your film
Rather this is a list of technical issues that can cause issues later on.
- Black and White
No, no, no! I can’t tell you how many times a professional photographer has sent me a black and white image and I need to go back and say can you resupply in colour please? It’s easy to convert a colour image to black and white but practically impossible to colourise a black and white image ‘back’. While we all love the aesthetic of black and white, black and white is an end usage choice and NOT a delivery choice.
- Landscape please
Many images lend their framing to portrait format, but the internet is largely landscape format. Yes you may have a single image poster that is in portrait orientation, but as a rule, I would suggest ALSO getting images in landscape format too.
- Low resolution / High compression
I have had producers pull images off Facebook streams assuming that they are good enough for printing. It’s OK to supply ‘social media ready images’ that are smaller and compressed but please do keep the originals safe.
- Screen grabs
It is possible to use a screengrab from your film, though it can be a little hit and miss. Nothing (yet) beats a great photographer with a fast lens and an eye for an image that sells your story. If you grade professionally, you can get direct access to the film as a DPX stream which should yield very good images too.
- Forgetting to archive masters
Keep your masters in an ongoing online archive – I use both Dropbox and Flickr. Here are my Flickr albums (LINK). This means my images are always available and saved to the cloud in more than one place. Only today I requested access to images taken a year ago for a project (that I got involved in later) and no-one knows where the originals have gone.
- Layered artwork with text
If you get someone to do your poster artwork, make sure you get the original Photoshop or Illustrator files (layered) so the text can be edited later. Because you can bet it will be edited.
- Over cropped
Resist the urge to crop and tightly frame for delivery. That can be done later but cannot be put back once it’s gone. Often times, dead space around the image may be used for text or other information to support the image.
- Phone Photos
I shoot loads on my phone and use the images extensively, often retouching and grading on the phone before sharing on social media and syncing up with Dropbox (all on my phone and all remotely and instantly – very cool). Often the tool is less important than being in the right place at the right time to grab the image. The newest iPhone also has a VERY cool portrait mode that mimics shallow depth of field.
Many photographers will watermark their images. That’s cool so long as the Watermark does not dominate the image. It should be used to identify the photographer and not to make the image unusable.
Onwards and upwards!