Budgets are tight on any film project, but here’s the case for why you shouldn’t skip photography on set

The images from a film set are often the first publicity materials available to celebrate, promote, and sell your film. And you want those first looks to be high quality imagery that show the production values and the storytelling of your project, your cast and your crew. 

Screen grabs are not equal

Some people think they can shortcut unit stills and pull screen grabs at the time of edit. Screen grabs are not equal to, or anywhere near as good as, stills taken by a professional photographer using a professional digital camera. It’s difficult to extract a crisp, clear single frame from the moving image film at a resolution high enough for promotional needs. Plus screengrabs can take so much time in the edit suite to extract. Crucial time that you want to be paying for editing the film and trailer!

It's the First look to sell your film

In my former life as Communications Manager for the New Zealand International Film Festival we would receive promotional stills for films early in their festival life. In some cases these films were still in post-production and the stills were the only promotional material available to sell a film. A poster, let alone a trailer, were weeks or even months away. Often film trailers would be completed after the world premieres/local premieres as films got picked up by sales agents and distributors or were accepted into other international festivals. It was significant the films that had great quality stills, and the advantage they had to find their audience. These were projects that clearly had a photographer on set capturing the story, versus the films that had only considered photography after filming had wrapped. 

Social media demands

Posters, trailers and publicity materials are very important to market your film. And yes you’ll aim to have a trailer once publicity budgets kick in. But social media demands more than a single trailer. And social media is now one of the key ways to reach your audience but hey ho it’s content hungry! Stills from the set can provide a vast array of options for what you share and to build anticipation. And stills can easily be cropped into a range of different aspect ratios. 

Behind-the-scenes record

The trend for behind the scenes content to tell the filmmaking story can be incredibly useful for your different social channels. And a unit stills photographer will be documenting that process of making the film in photos. 

Whether you’re a short film filmmaker, a new producer, or a seasoned crew member wondering why this photographer is on set, remember that unit stills help your film find an audience. The images tell the story in a single frame, document the beauty of the production values, and show the craft of your actors and director working together, and these photographic memories are actually priceless. 

contact me

If you’re wondering about unit stills for your next project do get in touch. I’d love to chat with you about what you’re working on and how I can help. 

A gallery still from REUNION


Loren Taylor, Filmmaker

Rebecca’s behind the scene's gallery captured many moments of joy and intimacy which I treasure!