My Issue with Set Photos

This is more of a rant but I’ve ran out of comics to review for the week.


“I think the whole spoiler thing has taken over the media” (Peter Capaldi)

As a fan of both comic books and movies, I often find that my news feeds are filled with ‘news’ about upcoming comic book movies. I don’t mind this for the most part, it’s easy enough to scroll past links without opening them, but I get irritated when stories are based around set photos.

In themselves, set photos aren’t a horrible thing. If I were to witness a major movie production I’d probably try and take a photo or two as a novelty. However, I wouldn’t publish them online. For me, set photos ruin parts of what I like about movies.

For starters, the actual photos are usually terrible quality. You’re lucky to make anything out if it’s at night and if it’s during the day it’s probably just a couple pictures of Actor X waving to people. Occasionally you’ll get a set photo that has someone in a certain costume that will lead fans to speculation. ‘Why is Captain America wearing a different outfit’ etc.

Where I begin to really take issue with set photos is when entire news articles are created from one or two photos. Take for example the recent set photos from the new season of Jessica Jones. Spoilers for that I guess.

Untitled(screen-cap taken from Gamesradar. Available at:

This is all very interesting but do fans seriously NEED to know about this months before the show airs? There’s so much room for speculation that multiple articles have been published asking the basic questions like “what’s happening?” I might be old school, but I’m happy enough to wait till the show is released to discover the plot. I don’t need to know everything beforehand. This is just one example. The same thing happened months ago when photos of Tom Holland in a different Spider-Man suit suggested that Peter Parker would go through a costume change during the movie. The film still isn’t out yet but I can tell you (from set photos and trailers) that Iron Man takes back the suit he made Parker in Civil War, forcing Parker to relearn how to be a hero without the aid of fancy gadgets.

Personally, I feel Iron Man reclaiming the Spider-Man suit would have worked well as a twist during the movie. It would add some tension to the story. But the photos (and subsequent trailers) told me all I needed to know about the film. There’s the photos of Shocker letting me know Spidey will fight him twice, probably at the beginning and end (a la Rhino) considering Shocker’s costume upgrade which contrasts with Spidey’s. Now all that’s left is for me to spend money to watch what I expect to happen within 120 minutes, roughly. I need to reiterate that I never openly look for set photos. They appear in my news feeds because they count as news now. That’s an issue for me.

“Pleasure is often spoiled by describing it.” (Stendhal)

What is it about comic book movies and adaptations in particular that encourages people to find out as much as they can before the movie’s release? What does it say about the comic book community that we need to know every minute detail even if we all know we’re going to see these movies anyway?

Considering the number of set photos are growing, will we reach a stage that any movie filmed outside will have a majority of its plot spoiled before release? The two issues for me that spawn from that are:

  1. Will this encourage more movies to go the Dawn of Justice route and just have entire acts filmed on green screens in studios to avoid photos?
  2. Will this encourage set photos to be used as advertising, promoting costumes over story?

With regards to the first point I don’t think it’s fair to blame the trend of green screen studios on set photos. Especially considering part of the marketing for Justice League has been set photos with huge green screens in the background. But that brings me to my second issue. If set photos are becoming advertising then what’s the point in a trailer?

I could write another issue with trailers but at least they suggest the film has some sort of plot to it. Set photos as advertisements are the worst because they show fans ‘how cool the characters look’ and nothing else. For some that’s enough to convince them to hand over money for a movie with almost no story but cool visuals.

Personally, when a movie offers me nothing new I struggle to enjoy it. And recently movies haven’t been offering me much new because I’ve already seen half of it months earlier on my news feed. It feels like a chore sitting through a string of scenes I’ve already looked at but this time with sound. Sometimes it can be fun though, like when I saw Suicide Squad and a majority of the set photos didn’t even make it into the movie. At least I got some enjoyment out of wondering what happened during the production.

So to try and surmise, my issue with set photos is that it encourages fans to prioritise the looks of a film over the story and characters. With set photos, we know what will happen in a movie but we’re paying to see it with flashier editing anyway. Style over substance.


Author: Alex

I review comics and books. I also take issue with a lot of things.

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