I, Photographer: Primetime Show Shooter

Chris Haston captures images behind-the-scenes for shows like "The Office," at NBC Universal

chrishaston

chrishaston

Captured here on the set of The Office, Chris Haston, 49, of Redondo Beach, CA, is a staff photographer for NBC Universal. You can check out his personal images at www.ChrisHaston.com.Dina Douglass

Do you ever get star-struck?
It might sound jaded, but I learned a long time ago not to want to work with your heroes: You find out what they're really like. I got to work with Robert De Niro on a feature—it was one of my dreams to work with him, but he's one of the shyest people I've ever met. At NBC I have crossed paths with many celebrities. It's amazing when you see someone who has such history, but when I have a camera in my hand I go into work mode.

How did you start out?
I've been at NBC for 25 years: I knew someone here and just kept bugging him. He said someone had to either die or retire, and eventually both happened. I was an auto racing photographer at the time, and for a year I kept that job while doing on-call part-time work for NBC before getting the full-time job.

How has your job changed?
When I started, we had 12 staff photographers, but NBC has changed hands over the years and there have been a lot of layoffs.

How many are on staff now?
Three in L.A. and one in New York. Here in L.A., besides me, there's a studio guy and a guy who mostly shoots the Tonight Show. Five years ago, I stopped doing studio work and started doing more unit work.

How do they differ?
A unit photographer shoots stills on set that replicate what the motion-picture camera is getting. A studio photographer shoots the images for billboards and ads. These are more pre-lit, posed shots—it's the rock-and-roll part of what we do.

Unit photography is a tough and sometimes thankless job. You’re the only person on set who can be asked to not do their job: If an actor doesn’t want you there, you have to leave, and then you have to explain to the photo editor why you don’t have the pictures. It’s one of the most difficult jobs in Hollywood—and one of the best. I have to build a relationship with an actor in the first 30 seconds and hold that for 10 minutes to 12 hours.

What's your day like?
It's different every day. I could get home tonight and find out that tomorrow I'm shooting a fake dead body in an alley for an ad, or taking the headshot of the president of the company, or covering a reality show for Bravo. Any time there's an awards show I get a call, because I know all the executives and publicists and actors involved with those. My job is very versatile; I'm not just on the set. There's no day that's standard—I'm at a different show every day, and it's rare that I'm ever in my office.

How do you prepare?
I usually travel with the same gear for all my shoots. In one bag I have a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV in a blimp—a soundproof housing—for unit work because it's so fast. It's best for shooting things like stunts and explosions, where you have to fire quickly. That bag also holds a 70–200mm f/2.8L IS and 24–70mm f/2.8L zoom. My second bag has more lenses and two other bodies, including a 5D Mark II. If I do a studio shoot, it's a whole different ball game—NBC has a lot of gear, and we can take a truck and pre-light.

What's your biggest challenge?
Dealing with personalities of actors. They are worried about getting their lines out and hitting their mark, and if they don't have anyone else to pick on, the stills guy is always there.

What do you like most about your job?
I love that it's completely different every single day—I don't have to worry about getting bored with my job. The versatility of the job is great. I love what I do. I feel like I hit the lottery with this job.

the office in the park.jpg
This is one of my latest shots from The Office. Shot in pieces, to look like the famed, George Seurat painting “Sunday in the Park with George”.Chris Haston
jerry s.jpg
This B&W; is of Jerry Seinfeld for the first season of Seinfeld. He is a great guy.Chris Haston
scrubs fisheye.jpg
This shot of the Scrubs cast was done for Hasbro. They were doing a version of the game, “Operation” with the show’s logos and stars.Chris Haston
er 1st season.jpg
This is an early ER shot with George Clooney, Anthony Edwards and Sherry Stringfield. That is my old boss Paul McGuire on the gurney.Chris Haston
brian cox.jpg
Brian Cox, He is a famous actor. I wanted to do something special. I came up with this shot of file cabinets from floor to ceiling to fit the storyline.Chris Haston
dead saresh.jpg
This shot is from Heroes, That was one of the most creative shows I have ever worked on. Always a good picture.Chris Haston
golden globes.jpg
This was being in the right place, at the right time. This is Kate Winslet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Sam Mendes reaction to winning a Golden Globe.Chris Haston
homicide andre braugher.jpg
This is one of my favorite images of all time. Andre Braugher for Homicide, Life on the Street. VERY intense photo shoot, but worth it.Chris Haston
leno & carson.jpg
A classic (3rd generation image) of Jay Leno with Johnny Carson. I am lucky to have worked with both Carson and Leno.Chris Haston
mark & brian.jpg
This is a shot I did of Mark and Brian, 2 L.A. DJ’s who had a crazy show on NBC.Chris Haston
old cabin.jpg
You get to see a lot in my line of work. This is an old cabin on the Disney Ranch in Santa Clarita. Very picturesque.Chris Haston
prince street.jpg
This was a shot I did with Mariska Hargitay before Law & Order. We were on a train trestle in the meat packing district in New York City.Chris Haston
rita & tom.jpg
This is a beautiful “Grab” shot I did of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson at the Golden Globes one year.Chris Haston
trauma.jpg
This is an incredible shot from Trauma. I was on a closed portion of I-280 in San Francisco to get this image.Chris Haston
vegas roof top.jpg
This shot of the Las Vegas cast was done at 4am. It is a straight shot. No photo shop. I like to work like that. If it’s possible to get a shot in camera, without stripping anything, that is how I prefer it.Chris Haston
will & grace bathroom fight.jpg
This was a “Unit” shot from Will & Grace. One of the best experiences of my career.Chris Haston
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