1) What is the SMPSP?
The Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers (SMPSP) is a nonprofit, honorary organization dedicated to the art and preservation of set still photography. Our members represent some of the world’s leading international Unit Still Photographers. Our membership is comprised of Full Members who are currently working in our field, Honorary Members who are now retired or are fellow photographers working in association with film and television, and Associate Members who are select Industry professionals working in fields that support our craft.
2) Why was the SMPSP formed?
In 1995 the Society was founded by a group of likeminded 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.
3) What are the requirements for Full Membership?
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 email@example.com 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.
4) I really want to be a unit still photographer. Can the SMPSP help me?
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.
5) Do I have to be a member of the Union (International Cinematographers’ Guild) to be in the SMPSP?
While many of our members are also in the Union, union membership is not a requirement.
6) Some of your members have created my favorite still images from movies. May I buy a print or use one for an article I am writing?
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.
7) Why is there a still photographer on set?
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.
8) Why are you called the Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers if you allow photographers to join who work in television and streaming platforms?
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.
9) Why is preservation part of the Society’s interests?
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 due to 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.
10) Does the SMPSP exhibit, publish, or otherwise show your work?
While the majority of us generally do not own the copyrights to our work, we do work in tandem with Studio publicity, archiving and licensing 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.
11) How can I see more of what you do and where you exhibit?
Look for announcements and updates on this website, and follow us on
• Facebook at www.facebook.com/smpspstills
• Instagram at @smpspstills
• Twitter at @smpspstills