Photography in the Film Industry

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Their imagery travels across the world as part of publicity, advertising and marketing campaigns, but what is this industry truly like for these photographers?


Commercial Photography

South Africa has some incredibly talented commercial photographers like Jan Verboom, David Prior and Alexa Singer, the latter of which is renowned for her editorial, travel and beauty shots with a client list including GQ, Elle, Mercedes, HSBC and more. This year, there have been reports of a downturn in international shoots to South Africa, particularly as locations in the Eastern Bloc begin to compete with South Africa’s rates and capabilities.

Jan Verboom of Roodebloem Studios reported a great 2016 – although this year he’s done more local jobs than international ones. Verboom has worked on multiple advertising and TVC stills for a variety of international clients such as Heinz, Birds Eye, and Samsung to make a few. He says over the last decade that digital technology has affected the way they market themselves. “In the old days when you quoted on a job, the final image would be with a client for much longer than a final image today. When you have an online campaign, variety is of essence and you want to look like it’s not an image you’re selling to the client. There are a lot more people advertising than before as well, because digital has made it more accessible. Even if you look at Instagram , there are people that have never marketed before who are now marketing, so there are a lot more photographs being taken than before and budgets are less than before, but that’s okay because the spread to photographers is different.”

A renowned commercial photographer in Africa’s brand communication industry, David Prior has a keen eye for capturing the moment. He’s shot for some of the largest brands on the continent and has been recognised at Cannes Lions, The One Show, D&AD and The Loerie Awards. One of his latest projects was an aerial shoot for Nedbank of Hillbrow at night. “The vibrations and long exposure made it seriously challenging,” he says. “After intensive preparation, the right gimbal and a ridiculously high ISO, I got some great shots.” Earlier this year he shot alongside Bomb Productions for MTN on a challenging shoot with large time constraints.

High-pressure is the nature of the job in the commercial world, and 2017 has made it no less challenging. According to Prior, companies are spending their budgets mainly on digital, social media and television advertising. “Local shoot budgets are small and shoot requirements are becoming increasingly more, within a shorter shooting time,” he explains. “I’m grateful to be used for the more technically challenging shoots, and have been lucky enough to enjoy loyalty from bigger brands like Nedbank, Castle, MTN, Anglo, and MacDonald’s, but I do have concerns about what the future holds for up and coming stills photographers.”

“The industry is changing so fast, and people are becoming ever-more time poor. Images are being created using all the exciting advances in CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) more and more frequently, and the Internet is flooded with cheap stock images to fill other gaps, so the next five to ten years are going to be like nothing we’ve seen before, and nearly impossible to predict.” Prior adds that recently the stills photographer’s pie has been a meagre one, although he hopes that some of the South African film industry’s popularity overseas rubs off on stills.

For more on Special and Unit Stills Photography read Issue 9:

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