There are two major categories of movie photos: film stills and art photos. Most of these vintage images originated on movie sets and were used as publicity pictures, often displayed in theater lobbies or printed in programs. Though there is a good deal of variation, photos of actors or behind-the-scenes shots were typically printed on glossy eight-by-10 or nine-by-seven-inch paper.

Film stills, as their name suggests, are photographs from scenes in a movie. There are actually two different types of stills. The first and more collectible is the posed film still. In this type of photo, the actor is seen in costume, but the shot has been set up to accentuate specific details of a movie. These photos were typically used as advertising in periodicals and as lobby cards. Studios tended to take posed stills as full-body shots, so close-ups are rare and, consequently, more coveted by many collectors.

The other type of film still is a frame enlargement, which is simply a blown-up copy of one frame of film. Though authentic, these were often unable to convey the same level of emotion of, say, a posed Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at Dooley Wilson’s piano in “Casablanca.”

Older movie stills of Greta Garbo in the 1920s or Jean Harlow in the 1930s, for example, are particularly collectible. Stills from memorable and legendary films are also highly sought—for example, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in “Gone with the Wind” or Errol Flynn in “Robin Hood.”

Some collectors of movie stills like to focus on an individual actor or actress; Judy Garland is a particularly popular catch. Others go for the sex appeal of such stars as Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe, and then there are those who try to accumulate photos of power couples, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy foremost among them. Finally, there are those who collect by genre, be it horror flicks, Westerns, or film noir.

While film stills are popular, their cousins, art photos, are also fun to collect. Unlike stills, whose subjects are confined to specific movies, art photos are rarefied portraits of movie stars. The most famous vintage Hollywood portrait photographer was George Hurrell. He photographed just about all of the big stars of the 1930s and 1940s, from Garbo to Joan Crawford to John Barrymore.

Whether it is a film still, a portrait, or even just a candid snapshot, movie photos are usually more desirable if they are autographed. The problem, of course, is that signature...

The two most collectible star autographs are those of Garbo and James Dean. Garbo’s autograph is rare because she signed virtually nothing, except the contracts and legal documents that required the Swedish beauty’s signature. Dean’s signature, on the other hand, is collectible because his time in the spotlight was brief—he died at the age of 24, with only three credited films to his name.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

If you're a Steve McQueen fan, this site can't be beat. Roger Harris has put together a definitive collection of Mc… [read review or visit site]

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

If you're the type who likes watching the titles and credits at the beginning of movies, you'll love this site. Ste… [read review or visit site]

Cinema Treasures

Cinema Treasures

This user-contributed database of classic movie theaters currently lists over 17,000 theaters worldwide. Browse by … [read review or visit site]

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Dave Mackey's filmography and title card gallery for 35 years of Warner Bros. cartoons. Browsable by year or alphab… [read review or visit site]

Steves Disney Collection

Steves Disney Collection

Steve Lee’s large collection of original Disney art: pencil drawings from animated features produced during W… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Marilyn Monroe May 1957 Richard Avedon Sitting Sensual Vintage Photograph RareFine Swingin' 60s Sexy Candid Natalie Wood Photograph Vintage Phil Stern 1969Gorgeous 1946 Film Noir Femme Fatale Rita Hayworth Gilda Glamour Photograph RareExquisite Large 1930 Greta Garbo Art Deco Photograph Blind Stamp C.s. Bull ~nr~1955 Bert Six Vintage Hollywood Portrait Lana Turner Photograph Pin-up QueenRita Hayworth Lady From Shanghai 1947 Original Vintage Photograph By CoburnAllison Hayes Seductive Pin-up 1955 Femme Fatale Film Noir Moody Sexy PhotographSophia Loren Unique Glass Plate Camera Negative Provocative Rare Photo Shoot '58Marilyn Monroe Some Like It Hot Premiere 1958 Candid Original Vintage PhotographVintage 20s Berlin Atelier Binder Lili Damita Smoking Risqué Art Deco PhotographSusan Hayward Original Color Camera Transparency 8x10 John Florea Photo Shoot Nr1948 Lizabeth Scott Vintage Smoking Photograph Iconic Film Noir I Walk AloneLarge 10x13 Vintage 1935 Art Deco ‘barbara Stanwyck Fay’ Inscribed Portrait ~nr~Vintage '60 Marilyn Monroe Photograph Iconic Blonde Bombshell In Let's Make LoveTab Hunter Lifting Weights In Tight Shorts ~ Orig Beefcake Photo... Mid 1950sErotic Hollywood Rare Pin-up Chorines Silhouette Art Deco 1935 Large PhotographMarilyn Monroe Laurence Olivier Prince & Showgirl 1957 Vintage Original Photo1952 Film Noir Robert Mitchum Rugged Beefcake Unusual Macao Vintage PhotographBetty Grable Shows Off Her Legs ~ Original 1935 Portrait... For CollegiateMarilyn Monroe Original Film-noir Portrait Photo 1953 NiagaraJames Dean Gets Some Body Make-up ~ Original Mid-50s Location CandidEvelyn Nesbit Gorgeous Rare Early Vintage Portrait Photo Melbourne Spurr Vintage 1930 Soft Focus Art Deco Alice White Glamour Photograph1920s Tragic Silent Film Star Mary Nolan Haunting Portrait Photo Charles Sheldon1933 Adorable Iconic Child Star W/ Dog Shirley Temple Merrily Yours PhotographClara Bow Gorgeous Original Vintage Dblwt Photograph By Eugene Robert RicheeLili Damita Bridge San Luis Rey 1929 Beautiful Pre Code Original Vintage Photo1931 Glamorous Equestrian Elissa Landi & Horse Vintage Art Deco Photograph FineMarilyn Monroe Joe Dimaggio 1952 Beautiful Candid Original Vintage PhotographArt Deco Hollywood Goddess Carole Lombard Vintage High Glamour Photograph 19331962 Large Hand Signed Peter Basch Photograph Diane Baker Glamour View In GreeceErotic Jazz Age Flapper Greta Nissen Risqué Vintage Mid 1920s Rare Photograph'30s Vintage Glamorous Actress Brigitte Helm Photograph Rare Metropolis Icon UfaVintage 1953 Jane Wyman Bad Girl Cigarette Holder Smoking Risqué Photograph Glamorous Hollywood Temptress Marjorie Reynolds Vintage Hand Signed PhotographClara Bow ~ Original Portrait... Circa 1923... So Young And PrettyVintage Science Fiction Rare First Flash Gordon Film Rocket Ship Photograph 1936Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein Original Photo Lon Chaney, Glenn StrangeJudy Garland Original Mgm Photo Summer Stock W/ Gene KellyMamie Van Doren Pin-up Wild Sexy Bombshell Vintage Teacher's Pet Photograph 19571934 Vintage Hat & Lace Art Deco Glamour Photograph Of Captivating Sheila TerryDouglas Fairbanks, Jr ~ Original 1932 Portrait... Scarlet Dawn1930s Cheesecake Western Cowgirl Pin-up Jean Arthur Vintage Photograph LargeGypsy Rose Lee Burlesque Dancer Autographed PhotoBette Davis Vintage Photo Dbw By Elmer Fryer Stamped Early Sexy Glamour PortraitIngrid Pitt - Signed Portrait (c 251) CertifiedBoris Karloff One-of-a-kind Photograph Owned By Boris Karloff 1953 With LoaVintage 1954 Sexy Yvonne De Carlo Pin-up Vixen Photograph Femme Fatale Beauty NrMarilyn Monroe Don Murray Bus Stop 1956 Beautiful Original Vintage PhotographActress Jeanette Macdonald Eary Photograph 1912 The Six Sunny Song BirdsVintage Art Deco Hollywood 1930 Flapper Mask Dorothy Sebastian Pin-up PhotographDavid Manners, The Black Cat, 1934 ~ Original Scene Still... Eerie!Joan Crawford Robert Montgomery 1929 "untamed" Rare Vintage Original StillPre Code Rare Dutch Girls Pin-up Dancers Vintage 1929 Dance Of Life PhotographEarly Ingenue Redhead Shirley Maclaine 1959 Vintage Portrait Photograph CareerMarilyn Monroe Clark Gable Misfits 1961 Beautiful Original Vintage Photograph1930s 40s Vintage 29 Original Movie Photos Bette Davis Lamour Grant Cagney +Judy Garland Original Photograph Nyc Marines/uso 1943Joan Bennett Gorgeous Vintage Portrait Photo Jane Fonda, Walk On The Wild Side, 1961 ~ Original Scene Portrait