Directing Production

How to Take Great Production Photos

Taking great production photos
Written by Lindsay Price

We all know a picture is worth a thousand words – so make sure it’s saying the right things about your productions. Your actors’ performances aren’t afterthoughts. Capturing their moments in the spotlight shouldn’t be either.

We asked drama teachers: What are your best tips on taking great production photos?

Let’s hear from teachers on the front lines.


Leave it to the professionals

Katie O. says “Get a professional! I’ve been fortunate the past several years to have students with dads who are pros (or at least very accomplished amateurs). I haven’t taken a production photo in years but we still have some beautiful shots!”

Randi G. says “My tip is to get a parent who is a photographer to come in and take the pictures! That is what we did this year (he is a pro) and we got amazing shots, including some super backstage photos. If there isn’t a parent, find someone who is trying to build their portfolio who can come take some shots of one of the final rehearsals.”

Jane M. says “My tip is to hire a pro who can capture the whole picture…close ups, full shots, sets, backstage, etc.”

Look around you

Claire B. says “If your school has a photography course, as a teacher for a star student.”

Cassandra G. says “Get alumni photographers.”

Heather G. saysWe have digital photography programs on campus with phenomenal instructors that take our shots.”

Debb A. says “I’ve always had a former student or a colleague that is a great photographer take mine. The photographer comes to final dress to snap pics, and after the rehearsal we’ll hit various scenes to be sure there are good stills with great lighting.”

Know the Equipment

Jason P. says Find someone with a good camera who knows how to use it. And make sure they shoot an entire rehearsal after they have seen an entire rehearsal.”

Kelly D. shared the challenge of “finding cameras (and especially camcorders) that handle the unique lighting situations of live theatre.”

Kerry H. says “Taking action shots in a variety of different lighting is definitely different than shooting portraits or weddings. Make sure you hire someone with experience in this area.”

Final Tips

Anne D. says “Take them during dress rehearsals when you get amongst the action. Also, focus on individual members of the chorus – future stars are found in those photos.”

Rory M. says “Keep moving. And unlike making a video recording spend most of your time dead close to the actors.” (Obviously this is only possible at a dress rehearsal.)

Kerry H. says “Taking action shots in a variety of different lighting is definitely different than shooting portraits or weddings. Make sure you hire someone with experience in this area.”

And don’t forget….

Ron D. says “Ask yourself what you intend to do with the results. Be clear on your intent before you do anything! And tell the parents, so they are not blindsided. Second, be sure that you have permission to take pictures or video of every person. Third, if you use a professional, be clear about who owns the photos. Get it in writing. Lastly, if you intend to video, be double sure that you have the rights from the rights holder to do so. If you don’t, you could open your company, your school and yourself to litigation. Doing your due diligence is part of your job!”

Click here for a Blank Photo Chart (for a full length and a one act).

Identify the most active moments, the tricky lighting moments, the most colourful moments and so on. That way when you have a conversation with a photographer you’re ahead of the game.


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About the author

Lindsay Price