Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Mary Ellen Matthews: It's Saturday Night!
SNL staff photographer Mary Ellen Matthews does the photography equivalent of herding cats every week as she makes cool, quirky and creative images of the show’s guests
Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt
“I think it just helps the image pop off the screen,” she says. “If you use soft or flat lighting, it becomes not as dimensional. The advantage I have is I have dimension to work with. It’s not just a billboard; it becomes something that has some depth to it. The [classic Hollywood lighting] gives a little more contrast, and if I use edge lights and then light the background, it goes farther and farther back. I try to achieve that depth as much as I can.
“I want to determine a look and stick with it,” Matthews continues, “but each person looks different and reacts to the treatment a little bit differently, so there’s kind of a balance of keeping consistent and yet making everything look great and also artful. There’s definitely a lighting thing, a color palette that we’re working with, and I’ve used a kind of solarized look this season.”
This year was busier than most for Matthews because in addition to her weekly portrait responsibilities (as well as all of her team’s other photographic responsibilities for the show, including shooting rehearsals, archive management, promotional photos, cast photos and more), this year she took on the added role of director—wielding a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with SNL producer and director Jim Signorelli to shoot video as well.
“I got very busy because I worked on the opening credits, the title sequence” Matthews says. “We had the Canon guys come, and they were with us for the whole shoot and they had the 5D Mark II and the 7D. We just used those two cameras, and
it was amazing. The look is incredible. How it picks up ambient light is just amazing.”
Actor Will Ferrell
“Because of all the national affiliates,” she explains, “because it’s a live show, they all go to different commercials at different timing, and they have to come back to something still to start the show. So there’s a real good reason for the photographs.”
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