Theatre Photographer

Get insights from Theatre Photographer Mark Brenner

“I’m working on the Michael Grandage Company season, documenting the process of creating these shows. So I’m there taking photographs – from designer Christopher Oram drawing in his sketchbook, through to the building of the set and finally to the technical and dress rehearsals themselves.”

Mark Brenner


A Theatre Photographer is responsible for creating images that fulfil two functions. First, during the rehearsal period, the Photographer must take shots that can be used for publicity purposes before the show opens. (These pre-production images are a valuable resource for the Producer in stimulating press and social media interest.) Second, during production week, the Photographer must faithfully record the show itself. These images will live beyond the production’s life so it’s important to capture images that give a sense of the mood, energy and character of the show. The photography should be true to the spirit of the production.


  • Attending a number of rehearsals and dress rehearsals in order to capture images
  • Working with the producers to ensure necessary shots are provided for press and marketing purposes
  • Delivering images, with a quick turnaround, in a range of resolutions for both print and online purposes
  • Undertaking any necessary post-production work on images
  • Overseeing image usage when necessary

Key Skills

  • Technical proficiency. You will often be taking shots in the most challenging of circumstances – for example, you’ll need to have a strong grasp of low-light photography
  • The ability to don ‘a cloak of invisibility’. You cannot draw attention to yourself in the rehearsal room. You have to conduct your work efficiently and with care. You can’t upset the mood of the room with unnecessary shutter noise or movement. You need to learn how to ‘read’ the room
  • Discretion. You will be dealing with actors who, rightfully, guard their image. You must keep your shots locked from public view and resist the temptation to ‘share’ your work on social media
  • The ability to think like a journalist. You need to be able to tell a story and create images that are clear and compelling
  • You need to be comfortable with the idea of turning work around at speed
  • Being organised. As a freelancer, you’ll also need to understand something about keeping records for tax purposes


There are many good training courses available for photographers, both full and part-time. All the major art colleges offer courses for photographers that not only equip you with the technical skills necessary, but also provide a grounding in storytelling and reportage – all of which are critical for the modern photographer.

Formal training isn’t the only way into the business, however. There is nothing to prevent you from building your own portfolio. Local amateur groups and fringe companies will be pleased to hear from you. Build your experience and create a website that showcases a body of work that you’re proud of. As with most things in theatre, if your work is good enough, one job leads to another.

Assisting can be a valuable route into the profession. Offer to assist an established photographer, but remember to build your own work at the same time. Don’t fall into the trap of being a professional assistant.


Other courses are available. Those above represent a sample from various drama schools and universities.

Further Reading

  • The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer, 2005 – A good dissection of what made some of the photographic greats truly great.
  • Nobby Clark’s Theatre – 25 Years of Photographs, 1994 – Nobby has been around for years and you’ll learn a lot from his work. It’s gritty, immediate and he’s been lucky enough to document some of theatre’s greatest productions.
  • It’s good to read the play you’re about to shoot. It shows that you’re interested and ensures you have a grasp on the mood of the play.
  • Visit exhibitions and learn from the work of the great photographers. Look at how they compose and frame and how they use light, shadow and colour. If you’re not interested in the heritage of photography, you shouldn’t pick up a camera.