DPP: Do you think of it as extracting frames from video footage or as shooting individual still frames? In other words, are you filming and just pulling out a frame that you’re going to use as a still here and there, or are you actually thinking like a still photographer shooting at a very high speed?
Dalla Chiesa: You have to be extremely aware of what you’re doing. When I’m shooting a scene that I like and I think what I’m shooting could be a photo, I change the dynamics of the shoot. I repeat the scene for the stills. I’m still shooting in motion, but I slow down the movements, and I ask the actors or models to understand that I need a much more steady approach to their movements. So let’s say that I really like a scene—that scene would have been very fluid—I say to them, let’s do the same scene again in a much more definitive and sort of posing way. You’re repeating the scene, but you don’t have the connection of the click that you do with a still camera when it fires a frame. So I have the actors or models slow it down and hit the pose moments more. I also remove some of the filters that I would use in motion. Because the RED camera is very sharp, I use some filters to soften the image slightly for filmmaking. I do that to soften the skin tones, and I use light that’s a bit softer, as well. When I’m thinking that I’m going to shoot for still photos, I take those filters out and I shoot it raw for the sharpness.
DPP: Why do you think it’s important to have a distinctly different mind-set for shooting for still photos than shooting for motion?
Dalla Chiesa: I’m very sensitive to sharpness. This is my approach. In still photos, I want to have the most sharpness I can get, but some photographers don’t mind or even want a bit of blurriness. It just depends on your approach. Focusing for motion can be much more forgiving because when you’re watching something in motion, you don’t have time to see that it’s a little blurry, but when you want to extract the photo, you have to be aware of it. Is it a look that you’re looking for, or is it an accident?
The lighting is another aspect that’s very different. I came from a still photography background, and I was used to having these big beautiful lights up close, and when you’re shooting motion, you don’t have that. The lights often have to be far away because of the camera movement and the actor’s or model’s movement in the set. So it took me a while to figure out how to deal with this problem.
I think a lot of photographers using a DSLR are thinking, "Oh, I can do this," and then as they start doing it, they realize how difficult and how complex it can be and how different it is from straight stills. It’s not that simple to just go from photography to motion.