What It’s Like Being the Stills Photographer for ‘Game of Thrones’

We all dream of having huge production budgets for our shoots, so imagine being one of the lucky few who get to work as stills photographers on one of the TV’s biggest shows, “Game of Thrones.” With a budget of $10 million per episode for its latest season, you can only imagine the fun these photographers have on set.

Helen Sloan and Macall Polay form part of a huge crew that make “Game of Thrones” what it is. As stills photographers, it is their job to work around the rest of the production team, documenting candid shots as scenes are filmed — a job that Polay describes as requiring one to be “as stealth as possible.” They’re also responsible for the portraits you’ll no doubt have seen on promotional posters all around the world.

“There’s no sort of normal day on ‘Game of Thrones,’” said Sloan. “One day we’re kind of on a nice boat in the middle of a lake and the next day we’re setting fire to Dave the stuntman and chucking him off the side of said boat. You have to just approach each day as it comes.”

Polay and Sloan discussed their schedule in a new interview with Time. A typical working day involves trailing film crews during a 10-hour shift, although they do get to travel to places such as Northern Ireland, Spain, and Croatia.

Admitting that he “overshoots everything,” Polay says the crew’s set-up is forever changing. “I would shoot with a wide angle lens and try to show the characters within the scope of where we were filming. Sometimes it could be very difficult, because [the crew sets] the lights and the equipment and sometimes it’s hard to get that scope, because they’re already shooting a tighter shot, for instance.”

Their kit includes Nikon D5s and DFs, encompassed by sound blimps to reduce shutter sounds during filming.

Sloan lists the “Battle of the Bastards” from season six as her most memorable shooting day. Describing it as “chaos,” she recalls being unable to capture everything she wanted due to the sheer volume of “cool stuff” that was going on.

Read more from the interview here.