Publicity Photos – How to look good on posters and billboards

I work in an industry where publicity photos are one of the main features of selling our product.

Yes, theatre is subject to ‘the book is judged by its cover’ syndrome. Many people look at the main publicity image and can immediately tell if they want to go to the show or not. Ask yourself how many times you have decided to go to the cinema and weren’t sure but as soon as you saw the publicity image of the explosions, car crash and whiteness of the lead actors teeth you book your seats.


Well at Spotlites we tend to enter this with the same vigor as working on the actual show itself. Today we are taking photos of our latest show, but have stopped coz of rain, so I thought I would share some of our tips.

(1) Get your actors to wear costumes, even if you don’t have the actual cozzies for the show yet.

(2) Take the photos outside, just better light. Photos taken indoors get slightly coloured with unnatural light and will look odd when placed in front of a background image you want to use.

(3) Edit the photo and cut out all the background then place it on top of your fab background

(4) Get a fab background, there are many websites that you can buy licenses for images  that have the theme you require. Don’t just grab them from google images as they are usually low res and your actors will look stuck on.

(5) Don’t use flash – set your camera up so it gets good light, place the sun behind you not the actors

(6) Set the camera to take images fast – iso 3200 is best but 1600 is ok.

(7) Use a tripod – makes the image stable and not blurry

(8) Get the actors in position then get the to relax and then on a countdown of 3 get them to go into the pose – makes it fresh and eyes are wide not dull

(9) Take loads of pictures – we take on average 1000 pictures before we get one that is fab

(10) after 10 mins stop, load the images onto a computer and check that your camera settings are good  – is the light too bright or dim, shadows are nice and allow the actors to look at the images – then guide them towards what you want

(11) Don’t rely on photoshop to fix things – get the photos right first

(12) Look at other peoples publicity, does your stand up to quality theatre producers work?

(13) Get your title of your piece on your image – then you can send this to press and online listings sites

(14) Don’t use your phone to take the images, get a nice camera that you can adjust the light balance and iso speeds – otherwise you are wasting everyone’s time – at Spotlites we use a very good Fuji camera

(15) Once you have the image print our your final artwork and place it about 10 metres away, does it look good or too fussy, would you go to see the show based on what you have made?

Whatever you do, make your image sell your show, not just be a picture of actors looking cool – does your publicity tell the intended audience what it is you are performing.

You may have to live with this publicity for a long time, it is your main selling point, so make sure it is what you want your work to be judged by. At Spotlites our shows can stay in the repertory for up to 2 years, oh the rain has stopped so back outside we go


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