FOUR POINTS: Basics will improve pics of your magic gear instantly

January 31st, 2013 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

They say good things come in threes, and seven is a lucky number.

But magicians know that four is a truly magic number.

~ There’s four suits in a deck of playing cards.
~ Four seasons, four dimensions, four main directions.
~ We buy coins and sponge balls in sets of four.
~ Four personality quadrants (very handy to identify in spectators.)
~ Scientists have discovered that four is the magic number for the chunks we can hold in short term memory.
~ When we have issues with our diagonal palm shift, we usually utter four-letter words. (What, you don’t? We do. And you’re lying.)

Because four is a magic number, it’s perfect to use in a new feature on the Ellusionist blog: FOUR POINTS. It’s a pretty simple feature: We’ll give you four important points about a topic, from practice to pop culture and everything else related to magic. And we’ll kick this feature off with something near and dear to our fans’ hearts, judging from what they send us regularly:


Photography is important to us, because it’s also important to our fans. We make beautiful, eye-catching things such as the Infinity deck (pictured above), and we want to show them off right. Our fans are also proud of the gear they get from us, and love sending us pictures of what they get.

Not everyone has an awesome camera with top-end lenses, or the new iPhone 5, with its crazy awesome low-light abilities. Most of us have basic point-and-shoots that do pretty well. The pace of progress has given us some pretty powerful point-and-shoots, actually. But there are some basic things you can do to make your photos instantly better, no matter what you are shooting with:

LIGHT: Whether you use daylight or your camera’s flash, you need light for a good picture. Don’t be fooled by the monitor that shows what you’re shooting — a camera sees light differently than the human eye. Make sure your subject is lit well. If you don’t want to use a flash, find a lamp or two.

DOING IT RIGHT: Blackwater’s picture of a burning chunk of ice is a dark picture, but his use of light (and how he caught flames on ice) won him first place in one of our photo contests.

SUBJECT: Pick a clear point of attention. It’s one thing to slap a bunch of stuff down and cram it all in the frame. It’s quite another to focus on one thing and let it enhance all the others. Want to take a pic of all your decks? Pick one or two and place the rest in the background. Think about eye-catching ways you can ARRANGE all the items you want to picture. Then use the rule of thirds to decide how to compose your shot.

DOING IT RIGHT: Martin-zz won second place in that same contest. Notice the Ghost card: It’s off to the side, instead of being smack in the center of the frame, and his written message is tucked away in the corner. That’s good composition.

BACKGROUND: It’s said that photography is all about what’s NOT in the frame, as much as what’s in the frame. Make sure the background complements the point of attention you picked in the last step. And make sure your subject is clearly in focus. Everything else can be fuzzy.

DOING IT RIGHT: Onesickknave was a photo contest finalist with his shot of practicing. The ace in his hands is a clear center of attention, yet the mirror and computer screen enhance without distracting.

MOTION: Do everything you can to eliminate camera motion. In other words, don’t move. Lighting issues make indoor close shots hard to capture, and fluorescent lights confuse cameras, so find a way to make your camera as stationary as possible. Prop your camera against books or on a table. Maybe a cheap, small tripod is something you can cram in your budget.

DOING IT RIGHT: This photographer for Michael Baker (performing in the background) was in bright daylight, which makes taking pictures so much easier. (In a nutshell: Bright daylight means the shutter is open less, which means the camera can stop motion better.)

Your turn: Show us how you put these tips to use. Grab your favorite Ellusionist gear, snap some shots and send them to us on our Facebook or Twitter pages, or e-mail them to

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