Here at GeniiOnline I work with promotional photographs of magicians every day, and can say with absolute authority that huge swathes of them are absolutely terrible (as are the websites I find them on). YouTube magician Chris Ramsay has also noticed this, and lists several of the most obvious issues with sub par promo shots in the video above. In a perfect world, it'd be mandatory viewing for every magician with an internet connection.
Money isn't the issue. Photography studios can cost a pretty penny, yes, but professional photographers are like rats: You're never more than six feet away from one and they mostly eat garbage. You can definitely find a photographer who can put out professional grade work on a budget if you look hard enough. Note: A tight budget isn't an excuse to try and squeeze free, or insultingly cheap, work out of professional (or student) photographers. Please do not be that guy.
"If you're going to do a professional photo shoot, put the time in, put the money in, put the effort in," Ramsay says in the beginning of the video, "because that's your image and it's staying online as long as you choose."
He's actually slightly off there. The image isn't staying online, "as long as you choose." It's staying online forever. Long after you've departed this mortal coil and your bones have turned to dust, that horrible photo of you with frosted-tips and sunglasses clutching a cle will still be lurking inside some ancient Google server, ready to slither out into the sunlight whenever someone searches for your name. Any promotional material you put online is nigh-permanently attached to you and your brand, so think before you upload.
While we're on the subject, here's a few tips and tricks for promotional photos straight from your friends at Genii Online:
- You need at least two good closeups or medium shots that feature minimal branding. One of these shots should be landscape (wide) and the other should be portrait (long).
- That shot of you shaking hands with Penn & Teller does not count as your landscape shot. Every time I have to crop Penn Jillette out of a photograph I will spell your name wrong in the article out of spite.
- Just say no to special effects. Unless you can actually shoot lasers out of your eyes during your act, don't put it in your promo shot. Also, Photoshop's smoke filter looks really bad, don't use it.
- Make sure your photos are a decent resolution. We're talking at least 1080 pixels wide. Making a large image smaller makes it look sharper. Making a small image larger makes it look like it's Onion-Appreciation Day on Planet Teargas. Blurry, in other words.
- For extra credit, keep extra-high-resolution (4000 pixel wide plus) photographs around for higher-end monitors and most phones. Journalists will love you for this.
- No rabbits. No linked rings. You might have the best rabbit out of a hat trick in the world, but obvious "prop" shots always look cheap.
If you do end up with bad promo shots, it's not the end of your career. Get famous enough and even the worst photographs end up being kind of endearing.