Acting 101 – Headshots and Headshot Photographers

Headshots are the marketing lifeblood of an actor. They are on every casting site, website, social media page and with you at auditions. A good headshot can help and a bad headshot can kill. As important as they are, people don’t always take them seriously. For the actor just starting out the up front cost of everything can be a bit daunting: casting sites charge, classes charge, some showcases charge and then there’s gas and general living expenses… it makes sense to look for ways to cut costs.

Don’t skimp on your headshots, though!

I’m not saying to spend thousands of dollars – that’s excessive – but you should be prepared to spend between $150-$450 on a good photographer and between 2-4 different looks.

Let’s talk definitions:

Headshot Photographer – A headshot photographer is not:

    • Your cousin who has, “A really good camera.”
    • Your friend that took that really good picture of you once.
    • A portrait photographer.
When looking for a headshot photographer it’s important to know that they can shoot what is considered a “headshot.” A headshot is more than just a good picture of you, it is a marketing picture of you so it needs to show what you look like (what you really look like, not the idealized, super Photoshopped you), your personality and have that special “something” that will help it stand out among the thousands (yes THOUSANDS) of other submissions that are coming through the casting director’s inbox. There’s a reason why a good photographer costs and it’s because they have developed a way to get all of those elements into a picture. It’s not that any photographer can’t produce those results, but when you’re talking about your career, especially when starting out, do you really want to take your chances with someone who hasn’t developed this skill?
Looks – A look is an outfit or style of dress that you take a series of pictures in. In my last headshot session I did three looks: Casual Business (seen above),
Comedy Casual,
and Casual Commercial. 
There are plenty more you can do as well like Theatrical, Character shots (although those are less viable now a days), “Young Dad or Mom…” There are as many variations as you can think of. Know your type and plan ahead. If you have an agent then ask them if they have any looks they’d like you to shoot. They are trying to get you work, it’s a good idea to give them the materials they need.
So now you may be saying to yourself, “OK, I get it, I need good headshots. Fine, cool. Who do I go to?”
If you have an agent ask for their recommendations. They will usually have a list of people that they like. If you have friends who have killer headshots that you love ask who did them, then interview the photographer and make sure they can shoot what you need. If you live in California here are four photographers that I have used and recommend in no particular order:

Alan Mercer – He does a great job at capturing personality and making a promo photo look and “feel” like you. Lots of celebrity clients, but not celebrity prices:

Aaron Huniu – The nice thing about Aaron is that he will absolutely work with you to create what you need. He shoots documentary style, portrait style, artsy-fartsy, whatever you need:

Molly Hawkey – I just did my new headshots with her and she is an awesome shooter! Lots of fun, funny and, as you can see from the site, she likes to capture the natural “you.” :

The Schultz Bros. – 30-something years later and these guys are still kickin’. OC local and they can do everything. Fun Fact – The Schultz Brothers did my very first headshots over 28 years ago:

If you have questions don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.

See you next time!

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