actor facing a camera

How I Shoot | Capturing Images on a Film Set

Christophe Brachet

It may sound strange, but I originally learnt photography underwater. I arrived in Paris from Martinique where I was a diving instructor and surfing teacher, and got my break in shooting for film productions when I met Dominique Besnehard, a famous French actor/agent turned film producer, who gave me a chance on a film he was producing. My career took off from there as I applied the techniques I’d learnt to a new photography style.

actor having his hair done by a lady

© Christophe Brachet | Sony α7R II + FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS | 1/320s @ f/4.0, ISO 320

Working on Set

As a self-taught photographer I approach the film set instinctively. Learning to take photos underwater provided me with a surprisingly good foundation for shooting on set; to take a good photo underwater you have to be extremely discreet so you don’t scare away the fish. Believe it or not, it’s always important for me to remember this while I’m set, as I’m working in such a restricted space.

2 actors at a table during a scene

© Christophe Brachet | Sony α9 II + 85mm f/1.8 | 1/125s @ f/1.8, ISO 1250

It’s crucial to not distract anyone or make sound that could be picked up by a microphone, which is why the silent shutter function on my Alpha cameras is also vital to my work. Not only does it allow me to get the images I need without interrupting filming, but it helps me to capture the most natural moments possible that the members of the production team will love.

Choosing the Right Lens

To create my images, I use a variety of different lenses – each offering something a little different.

For capturing a whole scene, or when I am in a particularly tight space, I use the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 G Master lens. Then there is the FE 35mm f/1.8 lens, which has a great advantage of being small and light.

2 actors on a smoky set

© Christophe Brachet | Sony α9 + 85mm f/1.8 | 1/640s @ f/1.8, ISO 250

For portrait style shots I will use the Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA and the FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master lens. They’re all extremely sharp, but my favourite is the FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master lens, as I find it produces exceptionally sharp images, with fast, silent autofocusing.

Trust Through Tech

Besides being respectful and mindful of those around me, one of the ways I gain the confidence of the cast and crew is by letting them see images as I take them. I use a Wi-Fi connection to transfer some of the best images from my camera to my phone using the Sony Imaging Edge Mobile app. It makes it so easy to show them and is a good way to build on-set rapport. It also helps later on when I may need to ask them to pose for some of the production images.

actor with a cigar looking at the camera

© Christophe Brachet | Sony α7R II + 85mm f/1.8 | 1/160s @ f/1.8, ISO 400

As well as the Alpha 9 and Alpha 7R series, I also shoot with the Alpha 7S and Alpha 7S II, as their low light capabilities make them great to use for my style of documentary images. I'm also looking forward to shooting with the Alpha 7S III and making use of its video features to create some small behind the scenes content to accompany my images.

make up artist applying lipstick to an actor

© Christophe Brachet | Sony α7S + FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS | 1/60s @ f/4.0, ISO 2000

Setting Up and Using the Camera

There are a number of ways my Alpha kit helps me capture the images that I want. I will often have to work in a tight space or shoot at an awkward angle, so the size and weight, and articulated screen of the Alpha cameras, is a real advantage over a DSLR camera.

Focusing speed is also important to me. I usually shoot with very large apertures, so I need to know that I will get the subject’s eye perfectly in focus. Using the Eye-AF makes it possible to shoot with a shallow depth of field, knowing that the eye will be perfectly sharp in every shot. It allows me the freedom to compose an image more creatively, with the camera continuously tracking the eye, even towards the edges of the frame.

actor being filmed lying in bed

© Christophe Brachet | Sony α9 + FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS | 1/80s @ f/4.5, ISO 4000

I always shoot in manual exposure mode, adjusting the exposure settings as I need to. The advantage of shooting using a mirrorless camera is that I can see the exact image that I will be capturing, both through the viewfinder and on the screen. I can check the exposure, the colour balance and see the depth of field, all in real time as I'm shooting.

actor sitting on a bucket

© Christophe Brachet | Sony α7S + FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA | 1/1250s @ f/2.8, ISO 640

I shoot most of the time in JPEG and sometimes in RAW for movie posters. I usually shoot all my black and white images live in the camera using the High Contrast Black and White effect. I love the idea of creating a beautiful image and then being able to use it straight from the camera without having to edit it.

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Christophe Brachet

Christophe Brachet | France

"What I like about my α7S is that it’s small and inconspicuous, allowing me to capture natural moments"

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