Is acting in front of the cinematographic camera different from acting in front of the photographic camera?
Is the actor’s feeling in front of the photographic camera the same as their feeling in front of the cinematographic camera?
Is it better to capture a picture of the actor in a fixed pose or in the act of acting?
Is capturing a picture while acting in front of a photographic camera practical?
And finally, what is a best way to photograph an actor?
These are the questions that I always asked myself when photographing dozens of actors who have acted in front of a photographic camera. I write my experiences here and share them with you.
First, we have to specify whether we want to take a portrait picture of an actor, or an advertising picture, or a picture that shows their acting. I will talk about portrait photography in the next articles. But here, I will talk about the type of picture that is based on the actor’s performing. The actor’s feeling is transferred to the audience and affects them. And it can be an artistic work or an effective advertising picture.
Having a Script
When an actor stands in front of a film camera, they have already studied the script. They have analyzed the character that they are going to play and immerse themselves in that role. They become someone else. With the atmosphere created by the set designer, lighting and director’s strategy, they create a role that is continuous and the film camera records it. But when the actor stands in front of a photographic camera, they have to imagine a role for themselves in the moment and visualize themselves in that imaginary space. Using acting techniques, they start to perform the role so that the photographer can capture one or a few frames of that performance.
Still or moving photography
In this situation, if the photographer asks them to freeze in a movement, they may only have a few hundredths of a second to capture their picture. Because the actor’s feeling will change and if they want to keep that feeling, it will become artificial. If they are photographed while moving, the photographer’s job will be harder. But it is more suitable for capturing the actor’s feeling. But the main issue is the actor’s feeling, not how to capture it. Whether their feeling is the same as the feeling in front of a film camera, a feeling with continuity and depth, or depends on their experiences and momentary imagination of that feeling. Which my answer in my experiences is the second case.
Considering that photographing the actor while moving is better, another problem which the photographer faces is the lighting of the scene and the subject. It may change in the moment and not have the desired result for the photographer. In such a way that if the feeling is joy, more light is needed and if the feeling is sadness, less light or a different lighting model is needed. If the narrative is anger, sharper shadows and if it is kindness, softer shadows. If we define a photo like this: “Photography is writing with light.” Then the photographer loses the most important factor in creating a photo. Or it will face some limitations that will prevent it from properly controlling the light in the direction of the actor’s feeling.
Here the question arises whether photography of the actor playing in front of the camera is useful or not?
My answer to this question is as follows: that if in the ways that were discussed above, no! This kind of photography is not only useless, but also the photos will lack the depth of emotion and good composition. And they will have a lower artistic value.
The best method of photographing an actor
The best method of photographing an actor is to go towards staged photography or stage photography. In such a way that for each photo there should be a narrative or a story. It is better to be in the form of a screenplay. Before photographing, the narrative should be shared with the actor and the actor should put themselves in that role. The photographer should actually direct the scene. What happens in this type of photography is that the actor performs their role according to the elements of the scene, the light and the emotion that the story conveys. And all the factors are aligned with each other. When photographing, the photographer knows what stage of the work they are in and is not surprised. And actually, they choose the best frames for their photo from among all the frames that they have seen before. And in the end, they will reach a more desirable result.
In the end, I thank and appreciate the dear artist Ms. Mahdieh Nassaj for accepting the trouble and acting for creating this article.
Mahdieh Nassaj was born on November 12, 1981 in Tehran, and is a theater, cinema and television actress. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a bachelor’s degree in directing. And she started her acting career in 2008.
The first two photos of the article are related to her role in the series Mino, which Pedram Namdar has captured. The series Mino is a romance that takes place in the summer and autumn of 1980 in the early days of the imposed war and tells a story of love, betrayal and revenge that suddenly changes with the start of the war and everything and everyone changes place.