Dade Freeman
Photographer & Trainer
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Dade Freeman's blog page for all the latest photographic news.

Photographing behind the scenes

During 2013 I flexed my photography muscle and started work on several different film productions. "But aren't you a photographer?", I hear you cry. Yes - yes I am!

With video becoming better and better, grabbing a 'suitable' still from a video is a reality that is VERY close, but not yet capable of reproducing a Hi-Res image, on top of that, I believe that there remains a need for a photographer on a film set. Let me explain. As a professional photographer, you are uniquely placed to offer a whole raft of expertise as well as a differing viewpoint to cinematographers. You are free to mingle without being intrusive, you don't need the same amount of gear/space/lighting or setup as video and, additionally, your still images are great reference material - for example, how an actor was dressed, the make-up used, or even how the set was designed and laid out. This is especially important if shooting over several days and it's much quicker than having to watch unedited footage back.

More importantly, your images are likely to be used to represent the film, creating the DVD cover, inserts or posters, just as some of my shots have been. To that end, ensure you get a mix of the whole cast, the lead actors doing their thing and some offbeat moments. These can be used for social media to drive interest and create a buzz around the film.

Battle for the Ridgebacks

I worked with Victoria Grech and a great team of talented people on a fairytale shoot, specifically created for CreativeLive and which was aired worldwide to a multitude of creative people. This was a day-long shoot; head shots of the characters, action shots and behind-the-scenes were all required. The shoot involved a large production team with everyone assigned a specific role but also helping out elsewhere when possible. Brand new, never-before-seen gear was also tested on this shoot, which added an extra special air. The video below is the culmination of the efforts of all those involved and just goes to show what can be achieved in such a short space of time if you have a committed team.

Paper Doll

Paper Doll, a film short, written, produced and directed by Mat Keller, is the tale of Edward, a young man who dresses every day like it's the 1940s. He works in a dead-end office job where his colleagues make fun of him but comes alive when he's out dancing, drinking and womanising. Edward's world is turned upside down when he meets Agatha, the woman of his dreams, who helps him to become the gentleman he's always strived to be. But is she real or just a paper doll?

I was on board this production to photograph behind the scenes images, to be used in promotional material and to drive interest via various platforms. The element of interest for me in this shoot was the vintage aspect fused with modern-day. The stage for the shoot involved various locations around Brighton, including some outdoor beauty spots.

Knowing when to photograph and when to sit back is vital - there is nothing worse than the sound man picking up the click of your shutter as you try to grab a sneaky shot. It is best to stage it later or get it when they are rehearsing and the cameras aren't rolling.

The Treason Show

The Treason Show is a long-running live topical sketch show, performed by a very talented Brighton comedy troupe who are now taking their act from the stage to the small screen via Channel 8. Photographing behind the scenes was my initial role, but I quickly became the Director of Photography on this production, thanks to my extensive knowledge. When this show gets picked up by the network, I expect to be considerably busier, working alongside the team again. ;)

With the Treason Show, I had the privilege of hearing and seeing the sketches first-hand which was great and they honestly made me laugh out loud - not great when recording! But corpsing can't be helped sometimes. Mind you, those same jokes tend to lose their appeal after the eighth recording. I guess that's the thing, it isn't a one-shot deal - you need to record, re-record, ensure the sound is good and lighting is right etc, and then once you have it in the bag, doing it once more so you have a safe copy is vitally important.

During this shoot, I found out what it was like to work with green screen. I knew the concept, but I learnt that space is key to this effect really working. It did allow me to get creative with the backdrops used in the stills as you can see from the images below. I also had a cameo in a sketch, so look out for me!

Today, shooting behind-the-scenes footage is almost as important as shooting the feature, because viewers are interested in knowing how things were done, what it's like in this mysterious world and what happened that they would otherwise not get to see. As a stills photographer, you can get creative and grab snaps that can quickly be compiled to tell a story without the huge additional workload that editing video footage would require.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is a simple role though. The pressures may not be the same as photographing a wedding but still, looking for interesting angles and shots that tell the story are important and are what will separate you from regular snappers.

One aspect I hadn't considered before going in is how much I would learn about the other elements on set, such as sound, direction and filming set-ups. As photographers, we are used to setting the stage and moving quickly on to the next pose, location or concept - movies are a very different beast.

Here is a link to some amazing stills taken from major feature films, one day Dade, ONE DAY!


Dade Freeman is a Brighton photographer producing portraits and headshots for actors, musicians, corporate business and other professional industries.