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Advice For Photographing Corporate Magicians

I am not a photographer, but I perform at a lot of events where photographers document the occasion and photograph my performance. It’s often the case that when I leave an event I feel like it went really well, yet when the event’s photographer sends me their best shots of my performance, they’re all unusable. Whenever I’m working with a photographer at an event, I try to give some advice, but it’s tricky because I’m essentially approaching them while they’re working and saying, “Hey, I know you’re a professional photographer, and I am not, but let me tell you how to do your job.” I know I don’t love it when a guest says “Hey, I know a magic trick, let me show you….” So this blog may be the better place to give advice.

Most photographers at events are photographing the venue, the decor, and the guests, which means they’re not photographing actions, but rather objects. And the photographs look great. But when it comes to capturing a mentalist or magician for an event, the priorities of the photographer need to shift, and not all photographers recognize this. Almost all the photos I see of myself performing are taken of me directly (eg. front on), at the start of the effect. And I understand why: the photographer wants to capture the magician, they see me start to engage an audience member and they take a few snaps. But consider the arc of a magic performance: there’s an interaction between magician and spectator (on stage or close up), there’s some sort of procedure (pick a card, think of where you went on vacation last, etc.), perhaps some banter, and then the revelation (the card is found, the magician/mentalist guesses the vacation destination, etc.). The best moment in that whole arc is almost always the revelation at the end. That’s the exciting time when everyone is reacting, laughing, and smiling. So what do you want to capture, the moment the trick starts where everyone is focussing intently, studiously, or the end, when everyone’s laughing and smiling, hands up in the air, jaw dropped? And what’s a more engaging subject for a photograph, particularly from the client’s perspective? The magician, or their guests having a great time? It’s their guests. So I advise photographers to wait till the end of the trick (you can see how the magician or mentalist is interacting with the spectators to anticipate this moment, and I’ll often specifically cue the photographer), and take photos somewhat over my shoulder. That way they can see me, but more importantly, they can see the audience members’ reaction. If you look at the photos on my website, you can see what I mean.

And when taking photographs of a performance on stage, the value is in the portrayal of the performer within the space, not the performer on his/her own. So I encourage photographers to position themselves to see the performer, but also frame the rest of the venue or audience. This way the content portrayed is specific to the event and client.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any questions or further thoughts on the topic.