Still photographer for the motion picture industry and President of the Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers (SMPSP)
I fell into photojournalism in 1988 (seriously…fell in). By late 1996, I was living in Mexico City working as a photojournalist and began to see the writing on the wall. I had just gotten attacked by an angry mob and was otherwise getting really tired of getting shot at.
So I went the movies. I saw the credit that said “Still Photographer,” and I pointed to the screen and said out loud, “I want THAT job”. So I moved to LA and started all over again.
I always refer to shooting on set as diet photojournalism. The skills are the same: Be quite, lay low, don’t affect the action that’s going on front of you and capture the story.
I came up through low budget world (Leprechaun in tha ‘hood, Blood Surf, Leprechaun: Back 2 tha ‘hood) and television (My Name is Earl, Modern Family).
From there I got movies like Hidden Figures, The Boss, Ghostbusters, Game Night, and Captain Phillips (alongside BlackRapid Ambassador Jasin Boland)
Do You Have a Photography Tip?
It takes just as much effort to build a business shooting the kind of photos you want to do and are interested in than it does to build a business doing what you don’t want to do. So, if you’re going to put the effort into being a professional photographer, shoot what interests you; not just what you think will make you money.
Also, I wish someone had told me when I was younger to pay more attention to ergonomics. I ran around with 35 lbs of camera gear on one shoulder, thinking I was invincible. Let’s just get this out of the way: Photography is a rather unhealthy endeavor.
30 years ago, a sore back, bad shoulders and a ratty camera bag were badges of honor. I tell a lot of the younger folk out there that it’s super important to invest in proper bags, pouches and, yes, camera straps. Take it from an Advil Warrior!
Balancing Requests On Movie Sets
I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but every day on set is really different (which is I guess why it doesn’t get boring). One of the greatest challenges is finding the right shot while taking everyone’s likes, needs, and preferences into account.
I had one movie in which I had contradictory requests from each actor: One insisted on being shot from above. Another insisted on being shot from below. Another didn’t want to be photographed from the waist down. Another didn’t want to be photographed straight on because of a lazy eye and the last one was 6 foot 5.
And I had to fit all of them into one frame which they would all approve during filming where I couldn’t direct anything (and stay out of the light, the camera view, the direct eye line of the actors and reflections). Or as I like to call days like this –”Wednesday.”
What’s In Your Bag?
- 2 Sony A9’s. Sony lenses: 12-24mm, 24-70, 70-200, 90 macro, 200-600
- Leica Q. Leica M10. Leica Monochrom. M lenses: 21mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm
- Leica SL2. 24-90mm and 90-280mm lenses.
(Yes, I have a camera problem)
I Carry a Variety of BlackRapid Straps
Back in the day when I had to keep an SLR in a sound proof box called a sound blimp, I used the DR-1. This strap literally saved me from needing neck surgery (or so my doctor told me).
Now that we are mirrorless, I use the Hybrid breathe when I’m slinging 2 bodies.
I still have a few Classic and Sport straps which I keep around as backups or which I’ll loan out to crew members who I see struggling sometimes (Visual Effects data wranglers are taking pictures all day. I’ve also loaned straps to countless focus pullers who are holding a remote focus unit around their necks).
My Leica SL2 is on a Black Rapid Groovy strap, which is a great throwback to the kind of strap I used when I was a young photojournalist.
What I also love is keeping my Sony 200-600 on its own strap. So if I need it, I can just pull a body off the 70-200 which is on my Hybrid Breathe, throw a lens cap on it, put the A9 on that longer lens. When I’m done with it, I just swap the body back.
The BlackRapid strap is a great way of carrying long glass around.
And yes, when I took a trip to Italy and only brought my phone, I had a WandeR Bundle attached to it.
Social media links/website
Instagram – @hopper_stone
Website – stonefoto.com
Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers – smpsp.org
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