The Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers is a non-profit organization dedicated to the art, promotion and archival preservation of still photos shot on motion picture sets for their historical and cultural importance. Associate Members are individuals who have been supportive of the goals and philosophy of The SMPSP and have assisted The SMPSP and its members over the years. They are elected by a unanimous vote of the directors.  This year, the Society Board of Director selected just three new Associate Members including one from the southeast region.  Each has been an exemplary leader throughout their careers in managing the efforts of still photographers on motion picture or television production sets.  They’ve guided and edited feature film still photographer supervising editors and staff for on-set, advertising photos and other key art shoots while, at the same time, coordinating with producers, line producers, talent, internal marketing, advertising, publicity, and legal staff. -Andrew Dietz

The Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers elected the following film/television industry leaders for their Associate Member honor:

  • Barbara Griffin. Formerly SVP of Image Management at Turner Broadcasting where she worked for over 20 years. For the past few years since leaving Turner, she has been an Atlanta-based freelance creative consultant, book and website editor, and photo producer through her firm, Barbara Griffin Productions.

  • Diane Sponsler. Previously, VP Marketing Photography for Warner Brothers Studios, Sponsler now runs her own Los Angeles-based firm – Diane Sponsler Productions – specializing in photo shoots for the movie industry.

  • Bette Einbinder. Presently retired and living in Los Angeles, Einbinder most recently held the role of Vice President of Still Department for Universal Studios. Editors note: Bette was unable to participate in our 5Q. However, South x Southeast would like to congratulate her, also, on an outstanding career and this honor.

5Qs with Barbara Griffin 

Photo of me by Art Streiber

Andrew Dietz: What led you to managing and editing on-set photography for the film and television industry?

Barbara Griffin: My first real interaction with movie stills was at Premiere, The Movie Magazine in NYC. Prior to that job, I had no idea where movie stills came from, nor how they were created, who photographed them, or what it took to manage or distribute them. They seemed to magically appear in publications, at the movie theatre, in books, the newspaper. At Premiere, I worked directly with stills that came from the film companies, often as part of press kits or selections of images that were sent to the magazine to accompany an interview, review or story on a film, actor, director, or some aspect of production. When Turner Advertising’s Photo & Video Services hired me, one of my responsibilities was to oversee unit photography shot on the sets of TNT and TBS original productions. That included working directly with the producers, productions, photographers on set, managing the editing process, preparing images for distribution, helping our internal TBS, Inc. marketing and pr clients select and use the best images to represent each show. It still felt like magic to me, and I loved it



AD: Tell us your most memorable on-set photography experience?

BG: My first experience on a TNT set was almost a disaster.  We were shooting a movie in the desert, and it was a huge scene. While watching from the sidelines, I decided that I needed to get closer and started walking only to feel a hand grab the back of my shirt and literally yank me backward. Luckily, I didn’t screech, make a sound, or glare daggers at the publicist who grabbed me. I quickly realized she did me a huge favor and saved me from certain embarrassment. I was on the verge of walking right into a shot…in the middle of a scene…as it was being filmed, a definite rookie mistake and a huge no-no. I was mortified and learned a hard lesson about set life. Be aware, know where the camera is facing, know when they are about to shoot, listen for the cues. When they say “hold the work”, “quiet on the set”, “rolling,” or “Action,” they mean it…especially for me.


AD: What was the most surprising thing that you learned from working with still photographers on film and TV sets?

BG: First of all, I learned how hard still photographers work and how committed they are to making great photographs to tell each film’s story, including shooting scenes, behind the scenes, portraits of the actors, the director at work, the crew, and producers. Also, photographing props, sets, special effects, explosions, in short, any and everything that depicts what it takes to make a film. The still photographers have to have a wide range of skills, be able to shoot in any lighting condition (day, night, dawn, dusk – in low light to no light), as well as any weather condition (snow, ice, tropical, city – anywhere and everywhere). And the most amazing thing is that on a set, they are basically a party of one. When you read the film credits at the end, you’ll typically see the name of one still photographer on each production. Still, photographers must be self-motivated and have the ability to interact successfully with every other department working on the film. So I’ve always been amazed at the photographs they make and have a massive amount of respect for their hard work, dedication, and ability to function as a part of a complex team.


AD: What’s the biggest challenge when editing still photography for motion pictures and television?

BG: For me, it starts with finding the appropriate photographer for each project, knowing whose skills, background, experiences, passions will bring something special to their photographs. Shooting a comedy is very different than shooting an epic war movie, which is different than an intense drama. Who excels in shooting action or explosions? Who works best in low light situations, who thrives on working in extreme weather conditions.

Once that important decision is made, the next biggest challenge is selecting the best several hundred images out of the thousands that will be taken on set. Photographers are no longer limited by 36 frames on a roll of film, digital allows them to shoot more, experiment and not have to pause at the end of the roll. That also leads to infinitely more images that must be edited.


AD: How do you see the art and role of still photography changing in the coming years?

BG: Oftentimes more people will see or be exposed to the photographs that promote a movie than will see the actual movie. The internet, social media, advertising, and publicity, have a seemingly endless need for more images, faster. That said, the ubiquitous availability of images makes it difficult for photographs or artwork to stand out, to be memorable, and connect with the viewer in a meaningful way. I still believe that great pictures have the ability to make that connection.


Alternative Q:

AD: What’s one piece of advice you have for others who are interested in getting into this field?

BG: It’s difficult to name one piece of advice as we live and work in a complex world, so here is my list. Fall in love with photographs and photography. Watch movies, a lot of movies. Read books, a lot of books.  Write, a lot. Study painting to understand light, color, and shade. Be visually curious about popular culture, the world around you. Develop a broad set of relative skills, including photo, video, film making. Remember that you are working in a world that is both art and commerce so develop your business skills…at some point, you will need to function as a creative person, a manager, a strategic visionary. Stay up to date on technology, be aware of trends in social media. And, by doing all of this, you will develop, shape, grow and hone your storytelling skills. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.


Barbara Griffin is an independent Creative Director, Producer and Photo Editor whose work ranges from photo shoot direction and production, from exhibition curation to fine art photo book editing. Barbara was recently honored as an Associate Member of The Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers. In 2018, Barbara was named President Emerita after 8 years of leadership at Atlanta Celebrates Photography (ACP), a non-profit arts organization that produces the largest annual community-oriented photo festival in the U.S.

Barbara currently serves on the board of War Toys, a California based non-profit whose core mission is to advocate for children who have been affected by war. Unique, art-therapy-based collaborations with children amplify their voices and relay often traumatic accounts to audiences around the world through exhibitions, presentations, and media engagement.

Barbara’s commitment to photography and photographers is exemplified through her service on the advisory councils of Space for Arts, the only studio listings site built specifically for the photography community, and ATL Photo Night, a creative organization that hosts monthly talks featuring photographers.

Formerly, Senior Vice President of Image Management for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., Barbara was responsible for all photography created globally for Turner’s entertainment, animation, and news networks.


Contact information

 Twitter: @barbaragriffin Instagram:   @barbaragriffinrocks