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Ron Reid
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Phoenix, Arizona
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I've decided to have some new pictures taken, and I'm not sure how to go about it. My last pictures were done about 15 years ago, and are black and white head-shots. Is black and white still the way to go? Also, are head-shots really the only type of pictures needed?

I live in Phoenix, which is a pretty big city of about 4 million, so finding a photographer shouldn't be a problem. If I remember right, I should be looking for a commercial photographer. Is that right?

Any help will be appreciated greatly as I know practically nothing about all this. BTW, I do mostly kid shows (90 percent).

Michael Messing
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Knoxville, TN
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Hello Ron,

You are correct that a commercial photographer is who you are looking for, preferably one that does work with entertainers. Portrait photographers do a nice job but a portrait is different than a publicity shot.

I recommend that you get both black & white photos and color photos. If you list an ad in a parent magazine, many of them do full color ads, so you'll want a color shot for that. But, for everyday publicity photos, black and white is considerably cheaper.

In addition to a headshot, you might want a 3/4 or full length "action shot." Still done in the studio, it shows you doing something. Preferably, something that shows magic they can understand. For instance, if you do a color changing silk routine, you can have a yellow silk going into the top of your fist, with a red silk coming out the bottom. Or you can take shot with a needle going through a balloon.

In both cases, people can tell you are doing magic.

Don't overlook getting photos taken during live performances. Those are often the best shots! They show people having fun!

Anne White has a book out on publicity photos, called "Camera Magic." You might want to get a copy of that for some good ideas on how to prepare for a photo session and what a good photo includes. Her e-mail address is: awhitepho@msn.com.
John Breeds
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Hi Ron

Personally, I would use a digital camera (at the very least 2.2Mega Pixel) with zoom lens and a remote control.

Place the camera on a tripod directly in front of a large mirror. Then if you face the mirror you will be able to see exactly what kind of expression or funny face to pull. Take at least a couple of dozen shots.

In software program, such as Corel Photo Paint, digitally enhance brightness/contrast the best shots. Then, and most importantly, produce a ‘floating object’ of your portrait (using the same software). This sounds complicated but it is dead easy; it just means that you remove the background (it’s actually transparent).

Once you have the ‘floating object’ of your portrait you can add it to any other background, eg plain, graduated, your own back drop, a photo of lots of laughing kids, make posters, be with your own twin Ron, etc. In fact, I once saw a publicity photo where the rabbit was pulling the magician out of the hat!

I use this ‘floating object’ method when I produce the Birthday Card for the birthday child. Just take a photo of the birthday child (slightly off centre). Back home I overlay my portrait to it so that the complete image looks like I am alongside the birthday child. Also embedded within the image is my telephone number. The child’s Mommy will never throw the picture away!

Once your photo image is digitised then you can do almost anything with it… even appear to be floating up and away while holding onto a bunch of balloons; or appear to be flying a helicopter! Also it’s a lot of fun (especially when trying to make yourself look handsome, remove facial pimples and blemishes, whiten your teeth, etc).

A few years ago I had reason to be in a top photographic studio during a professional photo shoot. One thing that I recall was that the photographer asked the model to stand at right angles to the camera. Then he asked the model to gradually turn to face the camera but keeping the feet fixed to the original position; just swivel at the hips. The results were amazing, as the head and shoulders appear to be at the correct angle for the camera. I thought this was brilliant tip from a real pro.

Hope this helps you Ron


John Breeds
The Paranormalist
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United Kingdom
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Hi Ron

I would recommend before you ever go to a photographer always have a idea in you mind how you want the photo to look, never rely on the photographer as you will more often than not end up disappointed. Make the photo say to whoever sees it ,this is a photo of someone who does magic. I have seen to many photos of someone with a pleasant smile and nothing else, sometimes holding a microphone, that could be a picture of anybody, a singer, a comedian, anybody.

Think about what magic props you want in the photo that will sell what type of magic you do.

Are you an illusionist, a mind reader, a close-up performer? Let the photo advertise this.

Yes certainly go for colour, these can always be turned into monochrome. Also if the photographer is using digital equipment all manner of tricks are possible, make use of it.

But first and foremost have an idea what you want, how you want it to look before you go.

Franklin - The Paranormalist
Rob Johnston
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I would suggest getting some pictures with you "in action." I don't like those pictures of just a head or just some guy standing there.

When I book a show I like to see a little bit of what I am going to get.
"Genius is another word for magic, and the whole point of magic is that it is inexplicable." - Margot Fonteyn
Donald Dunphy
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Victoria, BC, Canada
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Ron -

Here are 2 Magic Café threads you may like to read:

What makes a good promo shot?

8 X 10s

I think, besides Anne White, there is another well-known magician's photographer. This person had a booth at KidAbra, but I wasn't there. I just heard about them. Perhaps someone can give us his name or website.

- Donald.
Donald Dunphy is a Victoria Magician, British Columbia, Canada.
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wrote the theme to the TV show COPS!
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The photographer that was at Kidabra was Dave Secrist. of Secrist Photography. His web site is located at http://www.secristphotography.com

He did some shots for me at the Winter Carnival Of Magic and did a fantastic job!

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AS a former newspaper photographer and a bs in photo illustration, I have the advantage of a little background in photography.

First, I have always loved the work of Maurice Seymour. He would spend hours setting up 1 photo but that photo said volumes. I would look at a bunch of promo shots and say what you like and what you don't. You are going to have to tell the photographer what you are looking for unless he just happens to be an experienced theatrical photographer. Be prepared with a list or better yet some exsamples to show him.

I would ask to see his work. I would also shoot in Black and white and in color. But do not let them just change the film without changing the lights. The lighting ratio is color is 2:1. In B&W it is 4:1 or greater. If they do not change the lights, one or the other will look poorly.

Yes, you can shoot some test shots with digital but I would still go with film for the shot in most cases. It depends on how you are going to use it. For reproduction, anything over 300 dpi is a waste of memory space. I do all my stuff in 300 dpi. I also keep copies in 100 dpi to email out.

First and foremost decide what you want to sell, Many magicians make the mistake of selling the prop instead of the person. I used to do a promo shot on my business card with me and the three larger sizes of botanias I make. It was a good product shot to sell the botanias but not me. I now use closeup of me with flowers in the background.

In color shots, look for the contrasting color to make the prop standout or the background. In black in white, make sure a partially black prop (ie. magic wand) is not held in front of a black tux.

Digital shots are a great way for you to play and get ideas for shots. Try different poses and props. Vary the colors of things enough though you might not be using that exact color in the routine. Also digital manipulation of images is ok and can certainly be fun. But it is far easier to shoot it the correct way to begin with.

If you look at my catalog pdf, you will see a lot of example of product photography and some that can also be used for personal promo. I might note 99% of those where shot in my basement studio using very basic lighting.

I love working in the studio and wish I has more time to do it. Feel free to write if there are any other questions I can help with.

I might add I saw some stuff David Alexander had shot about 4 years ago in LA that rivaled M. Seymour. The photos were black and white but boy did they grab your attention.
Richard E. Hughes, Hughes Magic Inc., 352 N. Prospect St., Ravenna, OH 44266 (330)296-4023
Write direct as I will be turning off my PM's.
Ron Reid
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Phoenix, Arizona
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Thanks everyone for all the excellent advice. I see I've got some homework to do before contacting a photographer.

Can someone give me a rough estimate of what I may expect to pay for a photo session with a commercial photographer? Do they usually book sessions by the hour?

Thanks again.

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