Hype Machines — the Photography + Art of Movie Posters [Academy Award Nominated/Winning]

UPDATE: Argo wins for best picture! Love or hate the Academy, it’s hard not to get a little swept up in the fever. And with the Oscars now behind us, it gives us a reason to ask “why did he/she/it win?” and disagree or agree with our co-workers at the water cooler for the next month.

I was walking into the movies with Kate not too long ago and it occurred to me that of the things I love most about going to movies is not simply seeing the movie I’ve bought tickets for — it’s seeing the trailers for movies that won’t come out for another year or so. Trailers have a ton of influence on driving interest for a new movie. And then what followed that thought was, “what about the influence of the movie poster?” Some people might think them an afterthought, but they leave first and final impressions hanging on the walls of the movie theater hallway… I stared at 100 of them.

For obvious reasons, I gravitated waaaay more heavily toward the posters that use photography to illustrate the film, but I was overwhelmingly intrigued. (side: I’ve been asked in the past to shoot on movie sets and have passed, usually because the photography is second to everything else that’s going on… ) That said, more than one artist has made a career from movie posters. John Alvin was famous for his work on E.T., Blade Runner, The Little Mermaid, and the Lion King. Bob Peak was another one. His illustrations were featured on the posters for Apocalypse Now, the first five Star Trek films and Superman.

But my intrigue got me digging around for some recent ones (limited availabilty of photographers who shot these, sadly… can we change that?). So recognition of the films AND in hopes of elevating the people behind the posters going forward (where can we find these artists?), I present them here [some in multiple form] in alphabetical order…I think (maybe?)I’ll do a follow up on photographers who shoot movie posters. If you’re one of those, or know of some people who shoot them, lemme know. In the meantime, here are some recent ones (that were up for Academy Awards) with a wide range of merit. We now know that Argo won for best picture…but who won for best movie poster? And the winner is???:

31 Responses to Hype Machines — the Photography + Art of Movie Posters [Academy Award Nominated/Winning]

  1. JQ Jr February 7, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    A good place to start your hunt is on the IMP Awards website: http://www.impawards.com/designers/index.html

  2. Chase February 7, 2013 at 10:33 am #


    If youre going to mention incredible movie poster creativity, Drew Struzan is up there along side and in some cases more iconic than John Alvin. However my comment post is not to push for that but to say you often speak of “creativity and the community of creatives”, the movie poster field is so formulaic its sad.

    More photographers, more illustrators, more designers, more out of the box thinking.

  3. EMIBLOOM February 7, 2013 at 10:37 am #


  4. Mike February 7, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Michael Muller shoots a lot of movie posters, and Greg Gorman used to shoot tons as well.

  5. Randolph Carr Photogapher February 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    We talkin Movie posters ! Check out my
    main man Robert Zuckerman ! His work
    awesome ! The man himself awesome !
    Movie posters like “Training Day , Battleship
    and the Crow to mention a few . And he
    does it all from a go round scooter . Ya
    see Robert can only walk about 20ft
    due to a degenerative disease in his legs .
    An even then only with a cane .
    Robert Zuckerman a true master of his
    craft and a true Kindsight soul.

  6. Jason February 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    Movie posters are actually called one sheets (you’ll find more by searching for that term). Some of my favorite one sheet photographers are Michael Muller, Nels Israelson and Jasin Boland. These guys can be kind of hard to track down by genre. My understanding is the standard for working on the advertising of a film is a complete buyout/work for hire situation so the photographer is often uncredited.

  7. Stephen Shefrin Photography February 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    My vote is for the last Zero Dark Thirty poster but it was a hard pick. Personally I hate selective color so that rules out the Silver Linings.

    • Studio Finch Jason February 25, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Yeah why did they feel the need to ruin that photo(s) with spot coloring on the eyes??

  8. Ben Clarkson February 8, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    Stumbled across this website ages when looking at postrs and photos. Always had an interest in the other aspects of film making, particularly stills and publicity shots.


  9. faisal February 8, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Beautiful art, difficult to choose as all are so good.

  10. Karen Ballard February 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Hi Chase, Love your site, blog, and LIVE show, which I just recently watched for the first time. One sheets are shot by a variety of photographers, but more often than not, by the unit photographer, or ‘on set photographer’. My background as a photojournalist actually led me to working on movie sets, shooting my first poster on Steven Spielberg’s film “Munich.” More often than not, the ‘unit’ photographer shoots the movie poster, as is the case with “Lincoln’ above that was shot by legendary movie photographer, David James. While you say you passed on working on sets because photography is ‘second to everything else going on’ that is often where a poster may in fact get made! Grant you post production takes place like with any AD campaign, and also there are ‘set up’ situations where stars are often photographed after a movie has been shot, (or during) by another photographer, but the unit photographer is primarily where the first looks for posters are taken. My latest one sheet is from the current Tom Cruise movie, “Jack Reacher” which you may have recently seen as you perused the 100 or so you saw at the theater as it’s still showing–that was a shot I set up while on a night shoot on set, where I had about 5 minutes with Tom in between takes. This is often how the on set photographer will get the shot that can ultimately lead to the poster. It’s crazy, high pressure, hard work, but that’s the root of all great assignments, and with movie posters, if you nail it, it’s wonderful to play a part in the pop culture of our time, not to mention, if it’s a great film, (and sometimes not so great) to have shared in the collective collaboration–which clearly you appreciate! A few of my one sheets are on my site: http://www.karenballard.com

    Cheers and thanks for all your good work!

    Karen B.

    • Anonymous February 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

      Great Post Karen. Thanks for that!

    • Michael Bissig February 25, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

      Hi Karen, thanks for sharing. Love you work!

    • Michael Bissig February 25, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      Hi Karen, thanks for sharing. Love your work!

  11. Fred Mullane February 20, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Jennifer Clasen is young but has been at it for quite a while now. I worked with her dad, Norm Clasen, on the Marlboro cigarette account as a 2nd camera for about 6 years. She might be better than both of us combined and he is the best combination of photographer/ business man I have had the pleasure to know (and a lot of legends, at least in the sports world, are old tennis partners of mine).

  12. JP February 25, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Some studios, for example Sony Picture Classics that did Amour, do not put in a budget for additional photography for the posters. Instead the agency in charge uses film stills or on set photography to create the posters. That is a great way to get tears.

  13. Simon Heime February 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Gotta love the one with the big chain on the right! brilliant.
    thanks for the post chase, great just as always.

  14. Rob Jinks February 25, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    So many of these have in common the intensity of emotion that is comes from the eyes. It’s fascinating to see all the varying emotions that are shows that way. That is where the intrigue lies. It’s the human part we can all connect with.

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