Weekly I receive phone calls from actors looking for dirt cheap headshots. In most cases, dirt cheap headshots from amateur or novice photographers are exactly that… cheap and not usable to market yourself.
The truth, actors who spend the time and money to have acting coaches, active training, invest in continual growth and great headshots are the successful actors.
Here are some facts you need to know for great headshots:
1) Meet and Greet the Photographer
If a photographer is not willing to actually meet and talk with you, run away. This person generally does not care about you or your career. This photographer is more interested in lining his or her pockets by acquiring as many clients as possible. At the very least, a photographer should be willing to conduct a phone interview. There is no way a photographer is too busy to meet with a prospective client. Ask yourself – ‘How will they capture my personality if they have no idea who I am? There are THOUSANDS of actors in Los Angeles (NYC as well) and thousands more arriving every month. What separates you from these actors? A headshot of another pretty face? I don’t think so. Do casting directors hire an actor on a picture alone? No – why on earth would you?
Meeting with the photographer to confirm your compatibility is very important. This cannot be stressed enough. Take the time to meet the photographer. This allows you both to get a sense of one another.
Feeling good about your choice will go a long way in producing those headshots that will get you auditions. The rest will be up to you.
2) Does Experience Matter
This is a tough subject. There are many talented beginners out there. They usually charge a lot less than highly experienced photographers. But they lack experience, therefore they do not always deliver the best product. How can you tell if the photographer you’re looking at is as experienced and as talented as they claim? It’s simple. When you go to meet with the photographer, ask to see printed work. A quality headshot will not lie on paper. That you can be sure of. I recall a magazine I interviewed with asking for a printed portfolio. They loved my work online, but they knew that a print is 1000% truth of quality. Did I get the job, YES!
What an experienced professional can give you is consistency. Someone who takes great pictures every day. The truth is that anyone can take a few decent pictures to promote themselves. But you have to get it right time and time again to have agents, managers, and others in the film and TV community refer people to you consistently. A photographer who specializes in working with actors can help you relax and express yourself. This will translate in capturing an authentic look in your new photos.
“No. 1 headshot photographer in town”, run away from this claim. It’s just a gimmick designed to manipulate you. Plain and Simple.
3) The Headshot Factory
Headshot photography is a business and every photographer wants to make a good living. Quantity, Quantity, Quantity… Shooting as many people as a photographer can fit in a day does nobody any good. Shooting as many people as possible in a day is certainly very rewarding for the photographer. But what about you, the client? Shouldn’t the session be about you and giving you a great product? How can anyone provide a high quality product when they are rushing between clients? Simply put, they can’t. Most top photographers do not take more than two headshot appointments per day.
Ford has it right… “Quality is Job #1″. This should be the motto of every headshot photographer.
4) Post Production
The ability to instantly review pictures on the back of the camera makes it easier for anyone to shoot. But the care that goes into each step in photography has been lost by many photographers. In this world of digital technology, there is a perception that you take a picture and it’s done. But just as with film, digital files represent the original captured image with numerous steps to go.
Post production is not the same as retouching. With film, an experienced photo printer would go into the darkroom and make the best possible print from a negative. The printer would adjust the brightness, contrast, and sharpness of the image, to include dodging and burning areas of the picture. This is also necessary with digital “negatives”, this is referred to as image processing. Image processing is necessary to make adjustments to the overall picture. Retouching on the other hand, is eliminating stray hairs and blemishes on the skin. When a photographer starts with a great file up front, then post processing is used to fine-tune color, contrast and skin tone.
You should not work with a photographer who is not willing to post produce and retouch their work.
Amazing headshots start with a quality image from the get go, not quantity.
Searching for a great headshot photographer can be a lot of work and should be valued with the same importance you place on your career.
Amazing quality headshots will pay you back many times over.