There is a definite art to capturing "magic" in a single still photograph. Over the last 42 years I have had some success with professional art photographers like Tashkah
and Jonathon Pearlman
and some... slightly less successful images trying to do it on my own
Some of the professional images have been so effective they've ended up in magazines.
But I always like to think that you can learn something from the less successful attempts as well.
So today I'd like to offer you ten tips so we can all learn and not make the same mistakes over and over again...
1 - EYE CONTACT
They say the eyes are the windows of the soul. Try to keep yours open during the moment the photo is actually taken. The chap here has used so much lighting that not is he blinded by the flash but his doves have almost completely disappeared!
2 - TELL A STORY
Try to use all of the elements in your photograph to communicate who you are and what you do. This photo, for example, suggests that the magician is possibly a child at heart based on his choice of head-wear, though his vest appears to have liquor bottles on it and he's puckering up either to whistle or to blow a kiss. Meanwhile, he's either taking out or putting a hamster into what appears to be a Church offering collection bag. Maybe he's an alcoholic prankster who never grew up?
3 - PLAYING CARDS
Try to limit the number of playing cards in your shot. Just because you can grip one extra card with the loose skin of your neck doesn't mean you have to. In fact, this magician has another 26 cards clenched between his butt cheeks as well.
4 - FASHION
Believe it or not, some styles of clothing do actually go out of fashion. A good stylist will help you to avoid costumes that make you look like the love child of Willy Wonka and Prince. They'll also explain to you what the phrase "choking the chicken" means and why your photo shouldn't plant a visual image of that metaphor in the minds of your audience.
5 - SERIAL KILLER
Though this chap has avoided the "choking the chicken" metaphor simply by holding his chicken upside down, his facial expression in combination with his body language and costuming does make him appear a tad like a serial killer... just a normal, happy guy who lived next door... but one day just cracked...
6 - CHOICE OF TRICK
If you manage to find a really glittery shirt AND pull an appropriately astonished face to communicate that your magic is so mind-blowing it even amazes you... then you probably shouldn't pose with a trick that 99% or more of your audience already knows how to do,
Again. here we see the "Even I have no idea how I'm doing this one!" face and the trick is marginally more deceptive than the clinging wand... but a magician who levitates Ken dolls instead of people? Is there really a market for that?
7 - BRING EVERYTHING TO THE SHOOT
Here we have a man who seems to have it all together. He looks suitably astonished, his ball is dangling mysteriously from a white handkerchief in a manner that has us not only asking "how?" but "why?"... Note the clever red-hering of the power cord plugged into a socket in the lower right hand corner to suggest the ball is somehow electrically powered. Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten his jacket. Either that or he has borrowed a Chippendales costume and put it on the body of a computer programmer.
It's not only the male magicians who forget to bring their costumes to photo shoots. If you've only brought your tie and your belt it's probably better to reschedule than improvise.
8 - ANIMALS
Nothing says magic more than a beautiful white dove. Unless, of course, that dove appears to be dead.
If a gravity defying dove doesn't do the trick, you can always try a poodle of a flying carpet. Not exactly the traditional image everyone thinks of when imagining a classic magic trick... but it will definitely get people talking about you
Of course, you can always go for the traditional 'rabbit in the hat' image. This PR photo from Dave J Castle teaches us several important things:
- People can tell if you don't use a real rabbit
- Don't hand write your name on the hat. If you're worried you might lose it you can always order name labels to put on the inside of all your clothing just like Mum used to.
- Don't use a photo where it looks like you are about to back hand the rabbit across the face or you'll look like a dick.
- Don't be Dave J Castle.
9 - FOCUS
Try not to create weird mutant tricks. For example, it the effect below a beautiful waterfall of the cards, or a frozen waterfall levitating in front of his hand.
In this shot, is the magician vomiting cards from his mouth, or is he so short of gigs he's had to resort to eating his own deck?
10 - DELETE
Your camera has a delete button. Sometimes you really should use it.