Moonshine Moonshot Blog

Why you need to capture still images for your documentary-production!

Apr 18, 2023

Relax your shoulders and pose for the camera!


Welcome back movie-makers! Or if this is your first time visiting, welcome to Moonshine Moonshot; your ultimate guide to making a documentary film. 


In the last few blogs, we’ve been deep diving into production. In this blog, we’re continuing that trajectory and If you’ve opened up this page and then thought “Oh dear, I think I need a refresher,” head back over to the blog page and take as much time as you need. 


Okay. Ready to get into it?


Why do I need to take stills? Reason #1


Fair question! So many reasons. Firstly, you’re going to need stills for your promotional material. That means posters, thumbnails, websites, social media posts and any other advertisements you might run. 


In the digital age, taking a screenshot does seem like the optimal way around this. But it really depends on the quality of the screenshot you can capture, and this can vary from device to device. So I would still highly encourage you to hire a photographer if your budget allows you and you should also keep a DSLR camera in your kit so that you can capture high res shots yourself whenever you can. 


I’ll also add that I’ve spent hours scrolling back and forth through footage to try and screenshot an image I can use. And just as one person smiles, the other has their eyes closed, or someone's arm is blurring or they look away. It can be really hard to get a good shot.


Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Reason #2


The “Hero shot.” By this, I mean all those slick images that are used as headers or thumbnails on Netflix.  Think Ryan Gosling facing one way but looking over his shoulder to the carnage and mayhem behind (I appreciate that was a very specific example but it’s what popped into my head!)


But of course, you don’t just need these types of shots for epic action films. Header images are needed for every film! And a hero image is more than just your headers and thumbnails.  They are important for your poster artwork as well.



Strike a pose.  Reason #3

So you’re going to need a range of different shots. No.1 I would suggest is headshots of all your cast or participants. For these, you’re going to want a generous selection of hi-def images to choose from. 


A great time to capture the headshots of your talent or participants is immediately after their interview while the lights are still set and they are already in front of you.  It only takes a few minutes to get them to pose and take a range of shots. Voila… headshots captured. 


In my previous blog about location, I spoke to a film Mike and I recently were shooting in Sydney. Immediately after the interview with our participant, we captured several stills which still had the lighting set up and everyone in position. Doing it at the end like this is another super simple way to get those pics. You can see the stills we took in the companion video of this episode 61 of the  Moonshine Moonshot!

Behind the scenes. Reason #4


Similarly, taking lots of pictures of your location and your participants on location is going to be really useful for social media promotion, your press kit and sometimes they could form part of your poster!  Check out our recent title Live the life you please for an example of how a location was used as a background on the poster 


And never forget the fun content that is made with behind-the-scenes imagery! The great thing about BTS pics is that it doesn’t need the same level of quality as the hero shots and you can just grab anything from your crew’s phones. I can say from much personal experience, the audience loves a sneak peek behind the curtain. 


Think big!  Reason #5


The other place your images will be needed is everywhere! You may be managing this yourself or through a publicist, but getting your stills into every form of media is a brilliant form of publicity and it can be the images themselves that grab their attention (as lovely as your article may be).




Don’t forget it!


In the chaos that can be production, taking photographs can easily slip through the cracks and be forgotten about. But don’t worry, there is an easy way around this: schedule them by simply putting it on the call sheet.


One last helpful hint! When taking your jaw-dropping poster shots, be sure to include a decent amount of negative space (the title has to go somewhere!)


That’s all folks!


Hopefully, all that info has your brain filled to the brim on production stills. So take a break. Relax. Watch a movie. Then, jump straight back in! In the next blog, we’ll be getting into the tough (but fun!) Work of managing your production. 


But until then, jump over to our social media where we’re constantly sharing new helpful tricks and guides to making movies that matter so be sure to check it out. 

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