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    

Exquisite 1931 George Hurrell Pre-code Large Format Photograph Marlene DietrichSpectacular Sharon Tate Glamour Photograph Mod Large Format John Engstead RareRare 1956 Plaza Hotel Prince And The Showgirl Marilyn Monroe Press PhotographHalloween Pin-up Cutie Donna Reed Large Format Vintage 1945 C.s. Bull Photograph1929 Vintage Large Leila Hyams Sophisticated Flapper Photograph Cloche Hat VampIconic Femme Fatale Rita Hayworth Vintage 1946 Robert Coburn Gilda PhotographWild Jazz Age Indian Maiden Raquel Torres Vintage C.s. Bull 20s Large PhotographLarge Vintage 1940s Sultry Glamour Femme Fatale Photograph Susan Hayward Wow!Premium Exhibition Sized Photograph 1920s Greta Garbo Vintage Fine Art GlamourLarge Vintage 1920s Marion Davies Ruth Harriet Louise Fine Art Deco PhotographSeductive Fine Art Deco Mary Sunde Vintage 30s Bloom Chicago Glamour PhotographMarilyn Monroe Uso Tour Korea 1954 Rare Candid Original Vintage PhotographFilm Noir Beauty Gene Tierney Vintage 1945 Photograph Leave Her To Heaven RareMarilyn Monroe Some Like It Hot 1958 Glamorous Original Vintage Dblwt PhotographMarilyn Monroe Sexy Swimsuit 1951 Vintage 4x5 Color Camera Transparency BurchmanRacy Pre-code Frances Dee Slinky Blonde Vampy Pin-up 1930s Art Deco PhotographMarilyn Monroe Circus 1955 Super Sexy Fishnets Vintage Original PhotographVintage 1950s Wallace Seawell Mid-century Exhibition Photograph Natalie WoodRare 1929 Ziegfeld Follies Girl Mary Nolan Fine Art Deco Silent Film PhotographVintage 1957 Marilyn Monroe Arthur Miller Honeymoon Jamaica Photograph Sam Shaw1929 Vintage Er Richee Jazz Age It Girl Clara Bow Dangerous Curves Photograph1935 Vintage Art Deco Femme Fatale Simone Simon Seductive Glamour PhotographJean Harlow 1931 Vintage Platinum Blonde Art Deco Stockings Pin-up PhotographMarilyn Monroe Sexy 1960s In Fur Lovely Candid Vintage Kodachrome Photograph1954 Jan Sterling Icy Blonde Film Noir Women's Prison Photograph Irving LippmanMarilyn Monroe Some Like It Hot 1958 Candid On Set Original Vintage Dblwt PhotoRisqué Flapper Señorita Anita Page Vintage 1920s Large George Hurrell Photograph1953 Vintage Abbott & Costello Go To Mars Anita Ekberg Beauty Pageant Photograph1920s Flapper Anita Page Large Vintage C.s. Bull Jazz Age Fashions Photograph NrSophisticated Flapper Dorothy Sebastian 1929 Large Vintage Art Deco Photograph1920s Norma Shearer Rare Vintage Winter Fashion Flappers Silent Film PhotographVintage 1954 Elizabeth Taylor Mid-century Modern Glamour Photograph Virgil Apger1963 Barbara Eden Mod Bathing Beauty Bombshell Cheesecake Pin-up PhotographVintage 1967 French New Wave Catherine Deneuve Photograph Buñuel Belle De JourGlamorous Zsa Zsa Gabor Vintage '53 Wallace Seawell Hollywood Regency Photograph1941 Ellen Drew Vintage Large Format A.l. Schafer Glamour Photograph Our WifeMarilyn Monroe Joe Dimaggio 1950s Candid Original Vintage PhotographVintage Original German Press Photo Sexy Pre Code Anna May Wong Art Deco Erotic Risqué Pre-code Art Deco Photograph Vintage Juliette Compton Otto DyarRare 1924 Rudolph Valentino A Sainted Devil Silent Film Costume PhotographRare Pin-up Betty Grable Vintage 1941 Film Noir Photograph I Wake Up ScreamingBobbed Hair Flapper Lois Wilson '20s Large Vintage Edwin Bower Hesser PhotographHedy Lamarr ~ Original 1942 Glamour Portrait... Great LightingSultry Bikini Clad Sex Bomb Raquel Welch Vintage 1968 Pin-up Goddess PhotographVintage 1933 Ray Jones Art Deco Flapper Merna Kennedy Large Format PhotographAutographed, Framed Portrait Of Vivien LeighVintage '30s Elmer Fryer Glamour Fashion Photograph Stylish Art Deco Lili DamitaOlivia De Havilland Maid Marian Robin Hood Costume Photograph Large Vintage 1938Vintage 1930s Film Star Risqué Juliette Compton Slinky Art Deco PhotographClarence Bull Vintage 1930s Sophisticated Art Deco Photograph Dorothy Jordan NrMyrna Loy ~ Original 1938 Portrait By Willinger... Double-weightEarly Gloria Swanson Vintage '20s James Abbe Silent Film Vamp Fashion Photograph1968 Faye Dunaway Thomas Crown Affair Photograph Richard Avedon Vintage FashionSeductive Blonde Pin-up Virginia Bruce Elegant 1930s Vintage Art Deco PhotographCute Country Girl Pin-up Jeanne Crain Gorgeous 1940s Frank Powolny Photograph NrMarilyn Monroe Arthur Miller Some Like It Hot 1958 Candid Original Vintage PhotoLaraine Day Easter Lilies Vintage C.s. Bull Large Format '40s Glamour PhotographPin-up Vixen Deanna Durbin Vintage '45 Large Format Ray Jones Glamour PhotographSilent Film Vamp Renée Adorée Large Vintage 1920s Flapper Jazz Age Photograph NrLarge Vintage 1930s French Art Deco Chorus Girl Marion Davies Glamour Photograph