Theatre Photography – great photos can sell your show!

Tom Flathers —  April 22, 2013 — 1 Comment

Introduction: This week we have a Guest Blogger. Tom Flathers is a fantastic photographer with an essential skill for your theatre production – he takes great photographs! We all know how important it is to have photographs that ‘capture the moment’ on stage. Not only good for publicity, but a wonderful addition to your archives and memories. Barbara

Afrovibes performing 'Thirst' at the Drum Theatre

Afrovibes performing ‘Thirst’ at the Drum Theatre

I have been photographing theatre since September 2012 and have now worked on a number of productions. My favorite without a shadow of a doubt is the 5 months I spent documenting the rehearsals of Beauty and the Beast which was performed at the Conquest Theatre in February. I have also worked on numerous productions for the Drum Theatre in Birmingham.

Theatre has always been really prevalent in my life as I regularly go and see plays. However, my photographic career began in sports rather than theatre. I worked as a sports photographer from the age of 17 and photographed some amazing events such as the Barclays Premier League and Wimbledon.

I used to shoot sport 5 times a week and I was mentored by some incredible photographers. This strong background in photography is the reason I have moved across to theatre photography very smoothly. I have learnt to be very disciplined as a sports photographer and it’s this approach that I bring to theatre and it seems to be serving me well.

The striking image from the final dress rehearsal: Harriet Stack as Beauty and Josh Herriott as The Beast

The striking image from the final dress rehearsal: Harriet Stack as Beauty and Josh Herriott as The Beast

Theatre photography is similar to sports photography – both are forms of performance and both require the photographer to capture great or key moments. Capturing key moments within an actors performance is thrilling. A slight turn of the head, an eye flicking upwards or even just a smile – all these tiny movements make a huge difference to a photo and capturing them well is what I strive to do.

The biggest change from shooting sport has been shooting indoors and working in extreme light but its something that I love. Theatre lights provide such incredible effects and can highlight the actors so beautifully. I love utilizing them within my photos to make my images more striking.

Theatre photography requires the same level of focus as sport when trying to achieve top level images. In my case, when I am shooting at my absolute best I can go for well over an hour without thinking about anything else than the next photo I will take.

Beauty and the Beast was my first theatre gig and I attended the rehearsals every week. I learnt a huge amount and was able to work with an incredible cast of photogenic actors. My initial aim when documenting the production was to produce a foundation set of images of each actor. Once this was complete I began to focus on trying to capture the nature of a certain scene in a single image. This was most certainly a key development in the way in which I think about theatre photography. On the final dress rehearsal I managed to take an image which conveyed the nature of the whole play and this was very pleasing.

The final poster for Beauty and the Beast

The final poster for Beauty and the Beast

About 10 weeks into the process I did the shoot for the poster. I think Sam Collins (The Prince) is secretly a model as his photo was perfect in literally 1 minute. The photos of Josh Herriot (The Beast) and Harriet Stack (Beauty) took longer to get exactly right. The initial idea for the poster took some inspiration from the dvd cover of ‘The House of Flying Daggers’. I still have my appalling drawing composed of 3 stick men on which the poster is based! However, the final poster came out really well!

The final dress rehearsal was my last shoot and it was absolutely critical. As much as I was delighted with the photo diary, I could never use any of the images in my folio because the cast were in normal clothes. So it was all on this final dress rehearsal and I feel like I really pulled it off that evening. The shot of Beauty crying in the foreground with the Beast behind is one of the best images I have ever taken.

I have really enjoyed theatre photography over the past 6 months. It’s presented challenges and has been a steep learning curve but also hugely enjoyable. You get out of it what you put in and I feel like my dedication has been rewarded with a strong portfolio. There’s something about photographing people acting which is incredibly exciting and I look forward to continuing to do it.

See more on Tom’s site Tom Flathers Photography

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Tom Flathers

Tom Flathers

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Award winning photographer specialising in theatre, entertainment and sports. Tom's love of photographing any form of entertainment has grown out of the thrill of capturing performance.

One response to Theatre Photography – great photos can sell your show!

  1. Barbara

    I can’t tell you how crucial and rewarding it is to have a great set of photographs for your production! You probably already know that, but in my experience it’s one of those aspects of the production process that can so easily be overlooked (at your peril!)

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