What's it like on a professional theatre photo shoot?a behind the scenes peek at an advance press photo shoot for My Fair Lady
What’s it like on a professional theatre photo shoot?
A lot more goes into promoting a theatre show than you might guess. For My Fair Lady at PlayMakers in Chapel Hill NC, we often do photo shoots several weeks before the final dress rehearsal to have some great images to use in early press releases and on social media. At times the shoots will be themed, like our ‘rich playboy fashion’ shoot for Twelfth Night. For MFL, the idea was to show the range of Eliza’s character, and let everyone know this would be a grittier, deeper, less saccharine version than is sometimes staged.
Photo-wise, we work fast and light. Although we bring our full on-the-go studio light kit, this shoot only needed simple (huge) scrims to soften the light, and several of the areas were in a bit of soft shade… perfect!
Colin with our huge light scrim (isn’t that great light!) & Lydia helping me test a ton of Chapel Hill locations the week before the shoot.
Since we shoot live to iPad, director Tyne RafaelI was able to see how the shoot was progressing, as well as share images & feedback with the actor (Mia Pinero)
Finding the right look
We’re looking for areas that have a ‘London feel’ to the director, Tyne Rafaeli (a certified Brit!) and ones that have nice depth for soft backgrounds, interesting elements to include, character like the aged brick, and most of all loverly (ahem, excuse me… it IS My Fair Lady after all!) LIGHT.
Our PR contact approves a short list of spots for photos, and then after buy-in on them & ideas from the director, the ‘talent’ arrives. On this shoot, instead of Colin, our client Rosalie actually stood in for ‘Eliza’ so I could test the photos and get her feedback. One nice benefit is that my assistants and clients often end up with a number of fun photos of themselves from my test shots:
It takes a team
The actor is often supported by key staff like a costumer (not only to make sure it looks great… but to also make sure we don’t ruin these awesome works in progress.) Costumes on this show are by the amazing Andrea Hood. There are other props folks and a stage manager around as well.
I have my best assistant Colin there handling light movements (when we use lights), reflectors and scrims… and generally keeping an eye on the iPad and me to be sure I don’t do anything wrong or miss something key 🙂
In this photo, Colin is holding a huge 6′ light softening scrim just out of frame above Mia. You can see a bit of the real light glare to the right in the background.
For this shoot, we worked through about 5 situations in 20-30 minutes to give the client a ton of different ideas and looks for their early press and social media needs for the show.
I had time right after the shoot, so I was able to get PlayMakers some early favorites within a few hours (and they knew what was coming, since they saw many of the shots on iPad). Then I pared down 476 photos to the 85 best and that’s the pool of images showing up to promote the show on social, like their Instagram.
Now, on to the final dress rehearsal in two weeks!