One of my favorite Tumblr blogs is Show Nuff. It teasingly but lovingly highlights the many subpar attempts to create imagery for theaters. Most of the pictures are from smaller, community theaters so we can cut them a lot of slack. I'll never seriously critique the work of volunteers that already invest so many hours in order to forward the performing arts .... but some of them are less-than-ideal images with which to promote a show.
In the modern media world, theaters don't just have to compete with other small theaters for patronage or sponsorship. There are also movies, other performing arts events and, most recently, online streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. Think of it. For just a few dollars a month, a viewer can get access to the latest films and TV shows ... and never leave their couches. The conversation about how to maintain or increase patronage is a long-standing topic among theater administrators but the rise of the popularity of Social Media use and the decreasing efficacy of posters and print ads mean one thing: theater photography is more important than ever!
I love theater ... every aspect of it and I show that affection by giving my best effort in order to capture the faces, the stories, the colors and the themes of the performances.
Rehearsal images are a great way to build excitement for an upcoming show. The sets are usually unfinished and there are plenty of tweaks remaining in the props, costumes and blocking but capturing the making of a show is a great "tease" for your patrons, potential patrons AND makes the show sponsors happy. I rarely show the images in full color and they're normally "grittier" than any of the other images. As lights usually aren't up yet either, the sets are quite dark anyways. That adds an extra challenge to the shooting ... but we have artistic and technical ways around that.
Film companies make them for their upcoming films, because, when done well, Character Portraits let the patronage get a eyeful of the lead cast members and will impart the mood or theme of a show. The same can be and HAS been done with theater productions. danscape has been on the forefront of creating this kind of portraiture for shows from a variety of theaters in the Pacific Northwest and, Texas, and Utah. I'm very pleased with the response to them and how they project the image of the show way before its release.
Dress Run/Archive Imagery
There was a time when theaters would bring in a photographer towards the end of a run in order to capture the show solely for the sake of posterity. That day has passed. In today's faster world, those images can be shot early enough in the run of a show that they can be used for promotional use. Properly edited, exported, posted and shared, these images can be a great boon to the marketing of a show. Plus ... c'mon. they're really cool to have in your archives