July 15, 2018In Documentation, Arts, Blog, Theater

Sometimes I’m shocked when I talk to performance artists and I suggest that we have a photo call to capture their documentation images and they look at my like my head just exploded.  I’m relatively new to the theater community, but I’ve known about this as a process for documentation since my first theater shoot a few years ago.

Photo Call – the basics:

  • Designers, directors, and others collaborate on a list of scenes they want photographed
  • Production manager (typically) writes up a schedule to run through specified scenes in whatever order makes the most sense and shares this with the production team
  • Actors, production team, and entire crew are called for a specific time and the scenes specified in the schedule are run through, allowing the photographer to capture them.
  • Typically the photographer has the ability to ask the actors and crew to re-run scenes, or pose specific tableaus as needed to capture specific images.
  • Photographer communicates what is and isn’t working, and can adjust on the fly.

Why a photo call instead of straight production photos?

  • Photo call allows the photographer to communicate with the crew and actors
  • Allows the actors to just run through the scenes needed for images
  • Photographer can get on stage, or much closer to the action than they would shooting a full run through
  • Pausing action or at least slowing it down, especially in dark settings, leads to much cleaner photographs
  • Photographer can move around without fear of disturbing your patrons
  • More dynamic images can be produced

Why not just run the whole show for photographs?

  • Time is money and the less time you need to have a photographer on site, or processing images the better you’ll be on budget
  • Simply shooting through a whole show without guidance from designers, directors, and others can generate a ton of images, but they will be a waste of space without some specificity as to what the team needs
  • The temptation to run the whole show for photos easily slips into simply shooting when their is an audience, which goes back to problems that are noted above

Shout out to Brian Hashimoto who was instrumental in the creation of this text and for teaching me what a good photo call looks like.