A Guide to Getting Great Headshots

by Anthony Smith

Woman photographer with camera

Casting directors and agents agree on one thing in particular, your headshot has to POP.


In my many conversations with casting directors and agents about actor headshots, they seem to agree on one thing in particular. That is that whenever a headshot comes across their desk, it has to 'pop'. In other words, they say that it has to have something special about it, a look, an expression, the eyes, something that will make them stop and look at it for at least a few seconds. The more interesting casting directors and agents find our actor headshots, the greater our chances are of getting called into their offices for an interview or an audition.

I've learned over the years that if you want good information, you have to go to the best. I had a recent conversation with Peter Hurley, hailed as one of New York's best headshot photographers. I asked him what, in his opinion, are the steps are to ensuring that we get the best actor headshots possible. This is what he told me:

Search out headshot photographers in your city or in the city in which you want to have them taken. Before you meet with the photographer in person, look at different photographer's websites and look over their pictures.

When looking at photographer's pictures, take note of the following:

1. Think about how much you want to spend. Know your budget, but remember that you often get what you pay for. So if you want to spend less, you just might get quality that is in line with that price. There are, however, photographers who have low prices, because they are at the beginning of their careers or they are trying to break into the market until they establish themselves.

2. It's not a good sign if a photographer doesn't have a website. It could mean that he/she is not reputable or the photos lack quality. Today, a website is the way to showcase yourself in this business. If a photographer doesn't have one, then that should raise a flag as to his/her credibility in this business. It doesn't mean they are not good, but let it be a first alarm that you park in your mind until you move on and see his/her work.

3. Once you have looked over some of the sites and narrowed down your choice, now it's time to contact each one of your favorites. My recommendation is to have at least four or five to choose from. Basically, when you contact each photographer, you will want to let them know you are considering them to take your actor headshots, ask for the possibility of a consultation (see point 4 below) and find out how much the headshot session will cost. You can save time by getting a price beforehand. If the price is way out of your budget, it's better to know that before you set up a meeting with the photographer.

4. You will want a personal interview/consultation with your photographer before you go in for the shoot. In Peter' opinion, a serious headshot photographer will grant you a free consultation and it should be free of charge. The photographer should be interested in meeting you beforehand to discuss your needs and concerns and build rapport with you. Remember that a successful actor headshot shooting session is much about the actor and the photographer creating rapport with one another. That is critical!

5. After all your research, you can now make an informed decision and choose the best photographer for you. Then you can then prepare yourself for the day of the shoot.

6. On the day of the shoot, arrive early so that you can lay out your clothes, relax a bit mentally, do your make up and hair. If you arrive late, those things might eat into your shoot time. Utilize the time you have to shoot to the fullest. The last thing you want is to arrive late, flustered and in a hurry. You want to be as relaxed as possible for the shoot!

So, to sum it all up, There are six steps to ensuring you get the best actor headshots possible:
  1. Research
  2. Narrow down your selection to 5
  3. Contact them.
  4. Set up consultations with at least 2 - 3 photographers.
  5. Make an informed decision
  6. Arrive at the shoot early and ready to shine!
Anthony Smith left a successful corporate career as a senior manager in Nike and Levi's after 15 years to follow his dream of becoming an entrepreneur, writer, motivational speaker and actor. While enjoying success in his "new" life, Anthony shares his business insight and acting experience with young actors. Aside from acting work, he has created www.actingcareerstartup.com and his first book, "Acting Career Start-Up: Four Key Factors For Success," is available now.

Copyright © Anthony Smith. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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