Promo Photos and What Will Make Bookers Book Your Act…

When you enter into the world of performing on professional stages and start applying for shows (actually, this applies for any show, whether a newcomer slot or high-profile billing), you will be asked to send pics of the act so producers can see the type of style you perform. We here at Bluestocking Lounge, often receive an ‘interesting’ selection of photographs that performers have attached so we thought we’d share our thoughts (and not the photos!) to help…

1. What is a promo pic? 

Let’s start with the basics, shall we? A promo pic is an image that clearly shows you, your act and your style. There is a difference between promo pics that show your act and pics from a photo shoot that show you, for instance, while doing photo shoots dressed in general clothes (or less!) are great for promoting other work (such as modelling, showing you can be versatile) most promoters would like to see shoots of the actual act they might be booking. They also might use the images you send them to promote you on their bill.

2. Recent pics

As with any photo, it is always best to send the most recent promo shot you have, We all change sizes, change ages, etc and to lessen the risk of bookers getting a surprise when the more recent you turns up, always send the most recent one that totally describes in one image how you/your act now looks.

3. Live shots

Some performers send live shots of their acts, which helps producers get a feel of how the act would look on stage, and how the performer interacts with the audience. Generally, if the act is shot on a professional stage, there will be great lights that complement the performer and act.

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If you do send live shots, make sure it’s a clear and good quality shot of your act, not pic done by a friend on a mobile phone (see pics 1, 2 and 3) which can often be blurry images, badly lit and just generally not professional enough.

A professional image, sharp without distractions in the background (such as audience, a rubbish pub wall or distracting posters and signs) is much better like pic 4 below, taken by Jonathan MaCawley at Leicester’s Peacock Lounge.

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4. Using any old pic

Really consider the image you are trying to portray. No, as above, a pic done by a friend on your mobile phone will not do. Also consider the background if you are sending a pic as a promo… for instance this early pic of Lilly cropped from a Bay Belles shoot in 2009 is the type of image we often see as promo pics (believe it or not!) does this sell your act? No.

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What is wrong with this pic? Well, everything! Firstly, it isn’t a picture of just the performer, it’s been cropped from a group. The “costume” doesn’t really sum anything up (it’s rather generic – you want yours to stand out, so step away from the tempting ‘vintage’ or ‘frills = burlesque’ tag), it’s been taken on a friend’s camera and the background could be in someone’s living room. Great for the family album but not great if you are trying to portray a professional image of yourself. This image doesn’t look professional at all, in fact, producers who see images like this accompanying applications will just pass them into the trash – it says the performer’s attitude is not professional or serious about how their brand is portrayed.

5. The pic should show your costume

If you are sending an image for a specific casting, say a ‘historical’ slot, it’s no good just sending a head and shoulders shot. Send a clear image of your costume. Producers love pics with fantastic costumes, and pics that show details of costumes, especially when accompanying a video link, where moving images don’t show off detail.

6. Making sure the image tells the story of your act

If you are having a photo shoot, ensure that the photographer and you are on the same page. Ideally, send the photographer images of the kind of thing you want to get across in the pics, and live pics or a video link of the act so they can think how to re-create the essence of that in a still. If your act is cheeky, comedy, serious glamour shoots – while nice – will not capture this act. Similarly, if your act is a serious glamour, high end and opulent act, the attitude of the photos should reflect that.

7. Capturing the booker’s imagination 

A great image that spells out your act (without giving any punchlines) in a great setting will capture a booker’s imagination. You want an image that sells your act to a producer.

8. Hi res or lo res?

This refers to the resolution of a digital image. A hi-res pic will have more detail, a lo-res pic will be of lower resolution and of lesser quality. The size of a picture is also important when sending promo images – generally, if a producer/promoter has asked for an image of 1mb or above, they are probably going to use it for printed media, such as local newspapers, flyers, magazines. Images of smaller size (ending in kb) are generally better for web-based promo as they don’t take up so much space on websites/social media and are not required to be so detailed.

9. Crediting the photographer. 

In UK law, the photographer owns all copyright on any images they have taken (unless they have been taken as part of a company they work for – ie a photographer working for a magazine – the magazine has commissioned the shoot and owns the pictures and has paid the photographer a wage/fee to take photos on their behalf) and also if the photographer has agreed that the copyright is also held by another person (this could be the performer, band or subject of the photos). In every other case, including where the photographer is working for a wedding, a private event or where no agreement has been made with the subject of the images, it is the photographer who owns the copyright. You must credit images where ever they are used, where possible (we know that sometimes local newspapers can be funny about crediting photographers).

10. Photo Shoots – what do I do? what shall I wear? How shall I do my make-up? 

We love photo shoots! It really is your chance to capture the moment, and show yourself and your act off to the best light. If you’ve never done a shoot before, be prepared to wait around a bit. The photographer will probably be doing test shots to check the lights, and while taking actual shots might ask you to hold a pose for a long time while they check other things (like adjusting lights, props and checking your costume is hanging right). Remember a photo is taken in a split second so in that moment you must be at your most alive, with any pose or expressions at their most active. You don’t want to waste your time by going into it half-hearted. Give it your all. What you wear is up to you – but again, we would say, if you are shooting for a specific character, make sure your costume reflects that.

Make-up wise, less is not more. To borrow King Buzzo (from The MElvins’ phrase) more is more! Lights and flash can bleach make up out so make sure you put it on stronger than you would normally. If there is an opportunity, aks the photographer to take a test shot of your make up so you can see if you need more. And keep some translucent powder at hand to blot any shine not just on your face but anywhere on your body.

11. Creatively using photo shoots

Imagine this…You always wanted your act to feature a massive Georges Melies-type set but in reality your 4 min act will take 1 hour to set up so it’s not possible… Well, do it in the photo studio! A photo can create a fantasy setting for your act (as long as it makes sense for your act). It can make your act ‘work’ and can put your character into a situation.

…One that Lilly will be chuffed we shared; the latest shoot of her ‘Victoria’s Secret’ act by Neil Kendall Photography

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