Kimberley French: Life as an Production Stills Photographer

Productions always need still photographs for marketing. That’s where Kimberley French comes in. She’s shot still photos and behind the scenes on such renowned movies as Oscar award-winning film Brokeback MountainThe Assassination of Jesse JamesShooter, Twilight and Halloween Resurrection, but French even claims the poster images for Brokeback MountainJesse James, and Red Riding Hood.

Fstoppers: Tell me a bit about how you got your start with photography.

Kimberley French: My grandmother gave me a Kodak Instamatic camera when I was seven, I’ve loved photography since then. I went to college for English literature and philosophy and I loved it but was attracted more to the visual, so after two years I decided to go in another direction. My mom said “do something you love”. I took the photography program at a community college, and I ended up working for a local newspaper, the Nelson Daily News. I worked as a freelance photographer for five years after that, as well as working jobs to pay the rent, that was my early 20s.
Fstoppers: Feature film still photography is a pretty specialized niche. Did you always know this was what you wanted to do?

Kimberley French: No, a friend of mine was an independent director, and he said, “You’d make a great still photographer.” And I said, “What’s that?” A few years later I went to film school, and a still photographer came in to talk to us, and I loved what he had to say about the job.

I was really curious so I apprenticed with him. There is a little bit of snobbery when it comes to television versus movie photography. A lot of major studios won’t hire you for films if you do TV, but TV will be thrilled to have you if you shoot film. My mentor suggested that I shoot both, and that’s what I did, although most of my early years as a still photographer were spent on independent film sets. I got my big break with Brokeback Mountain and The Assassination of Jesse James.

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