Jesse Pinkman and Walter White (alias Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston) in a promotional still for Breaking Bad. Photo: Frank Ockenfels III

Commercial photographer Frank Ockenfels III has worked on several high-profile blockbusters like Harry Potter and Men in Black 3, as well as a number of TV shows, and his most recent work is currently being used to promote the season five finale of Breaking Bad on AMC. Ockenfels' moody portraits of the cast, shot using medium format digital equipment are very distinctive and PopPhoto has published an interview with him, in which he explains how he got started in the TV and movie business, the equipment he uses and why he bases his career around the concept of 'never having just one idea'. 

Jesse Pinkman and Walter White (alias Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston) in a promotional still for Breaking Bad. Photo: Frank Ockenfels III

Of particular interest to photographers are insights into what gear Ockenfels uses, and how. Shooting 'a lot on the Hasslblad and the Phase One backs', he explains, surprisingly, 'we had to step back a little on the Phase One backs because the higher resolution ones are so high-resolution that they almost have to retouch the sharpness out of them. I couldn’t tell you which one we’re using, but we’re not using the highest-end ones because people complained that they were too clear'. 

'Film was never this sharp. It’s sharper than real life. You shouldn’t be able to read a hair inside the tear duct of someone’s eye. On one of those high-end backs, though, you can almost read what someone is thinking. It’s kind of terrifying'.

What he really needs, says Ockenfels, is better low-light capabilities - 'being able to shoot with a medium format camera at ISO 2000 would be really nice. You have to know you can’t have too many dark areas'.

The main cast of AMC's Breaking Bad. Photo: Frank Ockenfels III

When it comes to lighting, Ockenfels likes to keep things very simple, saying 'I teach classes and I teach people not to overthink things. People get nuts and think they need all these lights. I’ll have people show up to my classes and they’ll tell me all these things they want to do, and I’ll tell them to go over to Home Depot and buy a light. They say, "That’s only 12 bucks!" Or, I’ll say use your cellphone. There are a million things you can do that doesn’t require a truckload of equipment'.

Ockenfels is also a keen Instagram user, saying 'you can [find people on Instagram] who aren’t professional photographers, but they do the most amazing work. If they can do it, how a professional doesn’t do it is beyond me. They’re seeing this way every day. It’s amazing'.

The full interview is well worth reading, and you can check out Frank Ockenfels III impressive portfolio at his website