How to Choose a Great Headshot Photographer

by Anthony Smith

Male Photographer with Camera

Here are a few things to consider when looking for a headshot photographer.

As as actor or model, you'll need headshots, and great headshots at that. So just how do you get those great, amazing headshots? Obviously, you'll need to find an amazing headshot photographer.

Finding a photographer is the easy part. But you're not just looking for a run of the mill photographer. You want a great photographer, one that's worked with many actors and actresses in the past and knows the style and look of headshots that work. Search for 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 a few different photographer's websites and critique their pictures.

When looking at photographer's pictures, take note of the following:
  1. Lighting
  2. Quality of the printing (if you see hard copies)
  3. Expressions on the faces of the actors
  4. Do you like the photographer's style?
  5. Does the photographer have everyone pose in the same way or do you see individualism expressed with each actor?
  6. Are the women photographed all in a certain way?
  7. Are the men photographed all in a certain way?
  8. Are the poses of the actors appropriate?
Then, ask yourself this question, "If I were a casting director looking at these photos, would I call these people in for an audition?"

Another question to ask yourself, especially if you see some photos that just aren't of very good quality and/or with poor lighting and poor expressions: "Why does this photographer have these photos on his website? Are they the best actor headshots that he/she has to show off to prospective clients?"

It's not a good sign if a photographer doesn't have a website. It could mean that he/she is not experienced 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.

Once you've found a photographer you'd like to work with, there are several questions you should ask them before your shoot.

  1. How many pictures will you take of me?
  2. How long will the session last?
  3. How many different looks are included in the price?
  4. How do you direct the actor during your sessions? In other words, do you help the actor to come up with different expressions or is the actor responsible for doing that on her own?
  5. What colors should I not wear? What color would be best to include in my wardrobe?
  6. What happens once the session is complete? How do I get my pictures?
  7. How will I view them?
  8. What will you give me? A cd with the photos? Will you upload them to a website for me to view?
  9. How will/can I make copies? How much will they cost?
  10. What about retouching? Do you offer that service as well? Is there someone you can recommend?
  11. What about hair and make up during the shoot? Do you provide that service? If so, is it included in the price? Do you have any recommendations with regard to hair and make up? (This is also a moment to express any concerns you have about blemishes you would like not to be visible in your photos, etc.
Headshots are vital to an actor's career. They are as important or even more so than your resume and work history. Your headshot is your business card and it's how you'll get noticed and end up getting called in to auditions, interviews and then eventually cast.

As you can see, there are several things to consider when looking for that all-important headshot photographer. By doing a little research and prep work before your shoot, you'll end up with much better headshots as a result.
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 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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Reader Comments

Great tips, As a portrait photographer I try to educate clients about taking proper head shots. I will refer them to this site.

Posted by Leo Gozbekian (2012-04-28) 5831

I couldn't agree more! Amen! Hallelujah! Thank you. I can't tell you how unptteisg and disheartening it is to hear actors say they are looking for headshots for under $100.00. It seams like the thing someone should spend money on is the one thing that the casting directors keep, and review when making their decisions on a role.But yet actors get discouraged when they go in for an audition and totally nail it and then don't get the job. Maybe its because the headshot doesn't match up to the performance. If they loose the wow factor right after the audition, your chances of loosing the job go up. You really want to do everything you can to make that wow factor linger. . .

Posted by Chiqiitah (2012-03-13) 5648

Hi. I live in SFL and wonder if you could recommend a great photographer for headshots? I had great photos taken by Jim Maxwell before but after reading your column I think I should get something less glamorous. What about retouching the headshots?


Posted by Erika Kraft (2009-06-03) 1527

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