A lot of us are not making bank with our comedy careers. That does not mean, however, that you shouldn’t seek out quality when you are getting promotional materials made. Technology has made it that we can do a lot of stuff ourselves. We can design posters, shoot head shots and film and edit videos for submission. Well, I am here to tell you that going cheap will make you look cheap in the eyes of those that are booking you.
Lets talk about posters first. It may seem like all you need is Photoshop and pictures of who is going to be on the show, and BAM! Poster. Designing posters is an art form in itself! Do you know the techniques it takes to make an appealing poster? Are you just making a wall of text with a couple of tiny, blurred photos? These are things to take into account! I like to make my own posters, but not because I am cheap, but because I like to do stuff like that. The problem is that I am not that good at designing something appealing to people that are jaded with advertising as it is. So, if it is an important show, I like to make sure someone that is well versed in creating posters creates mine so it looks as good as possible.
Comedians just starting out don’t realize how important head shots are. They are the first thing bookers, promoters, and your potential audience will see of your face. What people fail to understand is that there is a difference between a head shot and other types of photos of your head and neck. If you are on stage performing when the photo was taken then that is considered more of a candid photo. You may not want to lead with that for many reasons. The light may not have been the best so you look like you have a triple chin. One of your eyes were slightly closed when the photo was taken so you look like a knock off Pop-eye. You should be getting your head shot as soon as you think you want to make money doing comedy. It doesn’t have to be in a studio, but you do want it to be a structured environment so the photographer can get the best version of you on the sensor that they can. You also want to get them redone every couple of years or when you change something significant about your face (beard, no beard nose ring, face tattoo). I take head shots so whenever I talk about this I have to make sure that I say I don’t care who you go to for your head shots. I care that you take good head shots because bookers get tons of emails with a ton of promotional material and the last thing you want is for them to ignore you because you had your friend take a photo of your head with their iphone.
A lot of comedians just starting out also tend to forget another important part of your promotional materials and that is the video. I have a couple of articles that you can read about why video is important. I have seen comedians ask if anyone has a camera to film their set. If you are using it to send to bookers (as opposed to just uploading it to YouTube), then you should be asking more questions. Do they have a decent camera? You want something that can take good video in low light. Do they have a lens that can record you cleanly on stage? If they are in the back of the room with a 35mm lens or an iphone, you will look tiny and promoters don’t want to see a bunch of silhouettes and your tiny ass up on stage. You want someone that can get you from roughly the waist up. Do they have the ability to get good sound? Do they have a way to either get the sound from the soundboard or are they using just the camera’s mic? If they are just using the mic on the camera, then you are gonna get everything AND your set. That is distracting! Are they gonna color correct the video or just give you what came off the card? This is where it pays to pay someone some money to film you! If you look like a smurf because the white balance was off that tells the booker that you most likely just sat a camera in the back of the room and hit record, so you aren’t really trying that hard to get work.
Here is the thing. I learned all these lessons the hard way. My first head shots were taken by my girlfriend at the time. She didn’t know anything about photography. We just took them around Eastern Washington University and sent them to bookers. I would set my camcorder up in the back of the room and send that video to comedy clubs. It would be all dark and I was so far away that you could tell I just sat it and forgot it. I didn’t get a lot of work because I was trying to go as cheap as possible. Now, it is worth it to me to pay someone to design a poster or my t-shirt. I charge comedians to record their sets and take their head shots. The thing is, I did not go to school for this stuff, so I encourage them to seek out someone else if they are not happy with the results I provide. If you want to make a go at comedy, give it a good go, and don’t go cheap!