Our membership is comprised of Full Members who are currently working in our field, Members Emeriti who are members who have retired from the film industry, Honorary members who are fellow photographers working in association with film and television, and Associate Members who are select industry professionals working infields that support our craft.
In 1995 the Society was founded by a group of like-minded professional Unit Photographers dedicated to the art, science and advancement of motion picture still photography. They strove to improve the professional rapport in which we work, to publicize the achievements and works of noted leaders in our field, to preserve artistic works of archival quality, to promote the welfare and common interests of Unit Photographers, and to provide a forum for members to exchange ideas and discuss issues facing our trade. Our founders intended that membership in the society would be a mark of honor and distinction based on merit.
Full Membership requires a minimum of 8 years experience working predominantly as a unit still photographer, two Full Member sponsors, and to be selected by the New Member Review Committee. Photographers with the requisite experience may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an application. The New Member Committee evaluates applications and portfolios once a year, usually in September. Fulfilling the requirements for membership does not guarantee entry into the SMPSP as we strive to maintain the high standards of the founders.
There is no “one” way to become a unit photographer. Every member has a different story as to how they got into the Industry. The SMPSP as an organization does not do internships, work referrals or mentoring. We encourage people looking for assistance in getting into the field of unit photography to network with their local photographic and film community.
While many of our members are also in the Union, union membership is not a requirement.
With very rare exceptions, the unit photographer does not own the imagery created on set. The stills are property of the studio or production company. Because of this, we cannot sell or share any of the work we do. Please contact the appropriate studio photo department if you have need of unit photography.
The unit photographer is responsible for creating assets that are used in the marketing and publicity of the film. Initially this largely meant a press kit of 20-30 slides and 5-10 black and white prints distributed to magazines and newspapers. These days, our purview has expanded to include websites, blogs and social media. Our work can be used for anything, ranging from a designated Instagram account to a movie poster. In addition to capturing images from the film itself, we are responsible for creating images that document behind the scenes and photographs that appear in the movie/tv show itself such as surveillance photos, crime scene photos, family portraits, etc.
When the SMPSP was formed, there was a notable difference between working on feature films (motion pictures) and on television shows. Given the rise of streaming platforms and epic level television series, in 2017, the SMPSP expanded our membership to include additional types of unit photographers.
We work in tandem with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), archivists at film studios, and labs to ensure that our work survives for posterity and is recognized for its inherent cultural and historical value. In the past, countless bodies of unit work were damaged or trashed for lack of interest or appropriate storage space. Today the SMPSP works not only to support stabilization of existing assets, but also to stress the inherent historic and cultural value in our bodies of work. We encourage interested parties to bring our images out of the archives and into use for all to see.
While the majority of us generally do not own the copyrights to our work, we do work in tandem with the Studio publicity, archiving and licensing and departments in order to exhibit and otherwise show images selected by our members from their own bodies of work. For details, please see our Galleries, Exhibitions & Publications tabs above.
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