It’s an understatement to say that there are a lot of photographs around from Star Trek: The Original Series. Indeed, and to use an appropriate analogy, it seems like there are as many different pictures out there as there are stars in the sky. There are photos of the cast on the bridge. There are photos of aliens and guest stars on various planets. There are photos of the sets. There are photos of the ships. There are…. well, you get the idea, there are a plethora of pictures available of TOS

Don’t mistake this for complaining, though. As far as we’re concerned, it’s terrific that there are so many pictures around. After all, most of us fans never get tired of gazing at snippets of our favorite science fiction show.

But where did all of these photos come from?

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer to that question is that there are really only two major sources of TOS photos: they’ve either come from “grabs” of film frames from the various episodes or they’ve come from hired, professional photographers who took publicity photos while the series was in production. (Occasionally, pictures do surface from other sources, such as from folks at the studio who had their Instamatics on them while the series was filming or from prints made from unused Lincoln Enterprises film frames. These kinds of photos, however, are the exceptions rather than the rules, relatively speaking.)

The photos from the episodes – called episodic shots, not surprisingly – are easy to spot because, well, they exactly match what you see in the episodes. They were created by the studios and network (and by the fans in later years) typically after the episodes were completed. In the “before time” – that is, before digital technology spoiled us– these pictures were produced, more or less, by transferring the image from a single frame of the motion picture film onto a piece of photographic paper in a darkroom. Today, in contrast, these photos are more easily generated by popping a DVD, Blu-ray disc or other digital version of the episode into a computer, capturing an image from it using software and then printing it. 

But what about the publicity photos? What’s their story? 

Snapshots of the Seasons

Before delving into the history of the publicity photos, we need to say upfront that, unfortunately, there’s just not enough space here to discuss it in its entirety. So, for this article, we’ll just focus on a few of the highlights.

The publicity photos for the series – sometimes referred to as press photos, portrait photos or glamour photos – were mainly, but not exclusively, used for advertising. Accordingly, they started taking these types of pictures as soon as the motion picture cameras started rolling on the first pilot, “The Menagerie” (later retitled “The Cage”). By our estimate, hundreds of them were snapped for this maiden voyage. Most of the pictures of the first pilot were of its stars – Jeffrey Hunter and Susan Oliver – but many photos were also taken of the other actors as well as the sets, props, and assorted behind-the-scenes activities. These latter kinds of photos, incidentally, were somewhat unique to the first pilots.
Once the photographers started taking pictures, they basically didn’t stop until the end of the series. In fact, over Star Trek’s run from first pilot to “Turnabout Intruder,” a couple thousand photos were taken. Some of them were redundant – i.e., variations on a pose – and many were not needed. Thus, only a fraction of them were actually released to the public.

Based on the ca. 1500 unique photos, negatives, and transparencies (slides) that we’ve examined over the years, we estimate that half of the publicly-released ones were from the first season while the remaining half were evenly divided between seasons two and three. We believe the reason for the disproportionately higher number from the first season, which includes the pilots, is because Desilu and the NBC network pushed hard to get their new series in front of audiences. Keep in mind, though, that the second and third seasons didn’t get slighted by any means because there were at least several hundred photos put into circulation by Desilu, Paramount and NBC for each of these two seasons.

We should point out that not every episode had publicity photographs taken of them, while, conversely, some episodes – the unique ones – had a large number. Examples of the latter include:
  • Amok Time” – Spock’s supposed “marriage” was advertised heavily in order to pique the viewer’s interest in the second season.
  • Friday’s Child” – Julie Newmar, who played Eleen in the episode, was a popular actress.
  • The Tholian Web” – The spacesuits were new to the series and someone, apparently, deemed them interesting.

Before moving on to our next topic, we want to mention that the photographers evidently were kept pretty busy at their jobs. They not only took pictures of the actors on the sets – in between takes, of course— but they also followed them off the sets.

The Photographers and Their Media

Many different Hollywood photographers – some of the very best – covered the series. They were often under the employment of the NBC television network and/or the studios, and photographers that we’ve verified who captured images of TOS include Herb Ball, Frank Carroll, Gary Null, Bruce McBroom, Phil Roach, Joe Shere, Gerald Smith, Gene Trindl and Ken Whitmore. These folks knew how to use their cameras and also had good rapports with the celebrities.

With regards to their cameras, a variety of different ones were used. The predominant ones at the time were medium and large formats that were loaded with 4 x 5-in and 2-1/4 x 2-1/4-in (120) film, respectively. These formats yielded superior, fine grain images when large prints were made, e.g., for the covers of 8x10-in magazines. However, some photographers also used the smaller 35mm format. (In the examples below, note that the film is not shown precisely to scale.)
Both black and white (B&W) and color photos were taken during the series run, though B&W pictures were more widely distributed because much of the hard copy media at the time was printed in B&W. Also, for the same reason, color negatives were sometimes copied onto B&W film stock or enlarged to make B&W prints.

Speaking of the paper prints, they were usually done on 7x9-in or 8x10 - in glossy photo stock, and, when used for advertising, they were accompanied by a paper tag (called a snipe) that described what the photo showed. We’ll be talking more about publicity snipes, and press kits in general, in a future article.

Our Photo Finish

As we mentioned, one of the major uses of the publicity photos was to advertise TOS and/or its upcoming episodes in magazines and newspapers. However, these pictures were also used in many other places such as in books (e.g., The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry), as pictures for the cast to autograph and distribute to fans, in the episodes themselves (e.g., the playing cards that showed pictures of Janice Rand in “Charlie X” and the view screen photo of Khan in “Space Seed”), and as adornments for the fronts of the original, infamous 1967 Leaf trading cards.

Oops, we just glanced at our frame counter and it looks like we’re at the end of our roll. So we’ll just conclude this article, say goodbye for now and leave you with one more example of a publicity photo in action. Until next time!

Biographical Information

David Tilotta is a professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC and works in the areas of chemistry and sustainable materials technology. You can email David at Curt McAloney is an accomplished graphic artist with extensive experience in multimedia, Internet and print design. He resides in a suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and can be contacted at Together, Curt and David work on Their Star Trek work has appeared in the Star Trek Magazine and Star Trek: The Original Series 365 by Paula M. Block with Terry J. Erdmann.
Gene Roddenberry
Star Trek
Curt McAloney
David Tilotta
The Tholian Web
Jeffrey Hunter