Let’s face it: as soon as you’re told it’s time to update your headshots, anxiety and fear strike. Basically, you’ve just been burdened with the task of finding a complete stranger with whom you need to successfully create and present an image of yourself to the entire world. Not only does this image need to look like you, it needs to be able to tell a story, and also stand out from the crowd. No pressure, right?
7 tips for choosing a perfect headshot photographer
1. DON’T CUT CORNERS, MAKE AN INVESTMENT
As an actor or entrepreneur, your headshot is just as much an investment as your degree or your acting classes. If you want to be taken seriously, you must project professionalism. So must your headshot. It’s the single most important factor for securing an audition. So, now is not the time to get thrifty and save money by having your best friend, your neighbor or someone from Craigslist take your photos. This doesn’t mean you have to choose the most expensive headshot photographer either. It just means that your headshots are worth making a meaningful investment.
2. EXPERTISE IS THE KEY
With many known popular styles of photography, make sure you only consider professionals who specialize in headshot photography. Shooting headshots requires particular expertise and intimate knowledge of industry standards. Hiring a wedding, a fashion, or a beauty photographer for headshots would be like asking a dentist to perform heart surgery.
3. EMBARK ON A QUEST
How do you compile the list, you ask? Start paying attention everywhere you go for business. Advert boards at acting and casting studios may have photographers’ business and postcards. Look through them and pick up a couple that looks promising. At every performance you attend, take a few minutes to study the theater wall display and playbill. See if someone’s headshot stands out to you enough to try and identify the photographer who took them. Ask your classmates about their last headshot session experience. If someone’s headshot in the holding room next to you draws your eyes, compliment them on it and ask the photographer’s name. See if your agent or manager has recommendations for you. Chances are, they will happily produce a few names whose work gets their clients into the audition room.
4. Research, compare, repeat
Create a detailed list, or better yet, a spreadsheet that includes all photographers under your consideration. As you go along, check out websites and photo galleries. Read up and take notes. When comparing portfolios, remember to look for qualities that are crucial to a professional headshot. How well do they use the space? Are the images well-composed and nicely cropped? Is the face well lit with minimum shadows? Are the background and the outfit complementing and non-distracting? Are the facial features sharp and in focus? Are the eyes the focal point of the headshot? Does the headshot in front of you project energy? Confidence? Approachability? Do these headshots make you want to meet the people in them? If your answer to all of the questions is ‘yes’, you have found a potentially good match! However, if some of the boxes do not check out, go ahead, move to the next name on your list.
5. Start with a phone call
While clicking that ‘contact’ link and sending a request message through a photographer’s website sounds like the simplest option, making a phone call instead is actually in your own best interests. Yes, it does require an additional effort on your part, but we are talking about a financial investment pertinent to your career here, eh?! Spending 5-10 minutes on the phone with a photographer will give you a much better understanding of who they are personally – and professionally. If the way they talk, handle conversation or answer your questions makes you feel uncomfortable, you certainly won’t be comfortable working with them. If a website form or email is the only way of communicating with a photographer, you will be left guessing and gambling on something you don’t want to leave to chance.
Better yet, if the photographer offers a face-to-face consultation, go for it. Look at it as a job interview where you are in a decision-making position. Use this opportunity to discuss your needs, the options available to you, and the details.
Why is it so important to meet your potential photographer in person before you confirm your booking? Because it’s essential you’re photographed by someone who makes you feel good about yourself and comfortable in front of the camera. If you are satisfied with the outcome of your meeting, making a final choice will become a lot easier.
6. Ask about the fine print
The devil, as they say, is in the detail. Don’t assume that all headshot photographers work the same way. You need to find out what is included in your package. How many different looks will you be shooting? How are the proofs delivered, and how soon? How many will you receive? Is retouching included? What about the makeup and hair? Are there any additional fees that you’re likely to incur? Make sure you go through your contract and Ts & Cs with a fine-tooth comb to avoid unpleasant surprises.
The research is done, the decision is made, and you have booked your headshot session. Congratulations! Most likely, in the days leading to your photoshoot, you will receive a list of very specific recommendations from your photographer. Understand that everything on the list comes from their years of experience shooting clients just like you. Make sure you read it carefully and follow your photographer’s recommendations so that you can have a fun, easy, and productive shoot resulting in a great selection of headshots. Remember: if you don’t look your best, we (as the photographer) don’t look good. Now, relax and place your trust in your selected photographer to know their craft and do it well.
I hope that my advice will be helpful to you in search of your perfect headshot photographer. Send me a message if you’d like to learn more, or if you want to book a consultation.