A few thoughts on Promo photos….
One of the most important tools that a performer has to sell his show is his promotional photo. The truth of the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words’” is never more valid than it is when you are hoping for a stranger to sign a contract and give you cash for performing for them. There are other vital elements to getting that booking but let’s look at the humble photo in this post.
Obviously the quality of your video demo is a pretty darn vital factor in getting that booking too, however, sometimes it takes a decent first impression to make that potential client even watch your video. I have been a full time professional magician for over 40 years and I can honestly say that I never remember a time when competition for paying gigs has been tougher. Everyone with website can pose as a pro and dilute the market.
The successful performer needs to have an 8×10 that makes a potential buyer feel that he is looking at someone who is worth investing his or her time and money in. If you are a magician then it is nice if he gets a feel of magic from the photo. However it is much more important the client registers the personality of the performer than feels like he is merely looking at a bunch of props. Clients buy performers, not props unless they are desperately unsophisticated.
There are a lot of magicians out there competing for every gig. You need to have every little bit of edge possible to get the signed contract for that show. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to be naïve enough to think that it is the best magicians who get the best gigs. It is the performer who has the best promotional package to represent them to a cold customer that usually gets the gig.
Obviously the game changes dramatically when the client knows you personally, has received a recommendation or has seen you perform. This is the ideal situation and can radically affect the way you can lock onto that floating gig. However let’s look at the all too common case of someone who wants to hire a magician and is digitally reviewing his options.
The first line of attack in booking a gig is in having a nice website with some good video on it. In this day and age this is how bookings are made. Even if you are having your work represented by an agent the chances are he will either have your video streaming on his site or at the very least a photo and brief resume. A potential booker might have a dozen different magicians to check out and if he doesn’t like the photo on your website/brochure/video then he might just go right on to the next one.
So what makes a strong promotional photo? It really needs to highlight the personality of the performer and reassure you that spending some time in his company is going to be an enjoyable experience. The best way to achieve this is to find a really great photographer and be willing to spend what it takes to get a high quality session. I have seen magicians who have spent small fortunes on their props but skimp on the photographer they use. No, a friend with a camera and a tripod probably won’t be able to get the job done right.
Plan out exactly the photo you want before you go into the studio. Look on it as a show and rehearse and plot what you want to walk away with. If you don’t have a clear-cut idea of the photo you want then chances are the photographer won’t either. If you have all your ducks in a row then a good photographer will probably be able to take your idea to the next level.
One further piece of advice that I consider useful but will probably lose me some friends, make sure your photos are recent, nobody wants to hire a magician and then think his father arrived to do the gig! Don’t even think about using a black and white photo unless there is a damn good artistic reason. Chose a photo that highlights YOU! Finally and most importantly use a little creativity in choosing the pose for your photo.
Let’s back up on that last sentence. A quick glance at your magical Facebook friends will give you an idea of poses that are done to death and scream, “I am just like everyone else.” Remember what I said about clients looking at a bunch of photos in a row. Current key photographic offenders are— just to name the top three.
1 Standing behind a picture frame. IE a picture within a picture, it is boring, overused and such a stock photographic stand by that it should be avoided at all costs.
2 Making a “Shhhhh…” gesture with your hand to your mouth utilizing a hand that is palming a card!
3` Standing behind a fire wallet with a shocked/surprised look on your face.