Updated: Jul 11
WHO NEEDS A HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHER?
A good headshot photographer can really enhance your brand to your target audience.
You may be an actor who is looking to submit acting headshots to castings on casting websites or to agents and managers. Or you may be a fashion model who needs a good headshot to put on a comp card, or who is looking to get into acting on the side. Or you could be in any kind of professional field from a doctor, finance person, lawyer, in HR, or any job under the sun.
With sites out there like LinkedIn, it is imperative for nearly everyone to have good headshot photography and to have yours taken by an experienced and talented headshot photographer.
I, myself, am an nyc based actor and photographer (who travels to Los Angeles a lot) and you can see my actor headshots rates here.
WHY DO I NEED A GOOD HEADSHOT
Your headshot will often times be your first impression to people on the web, which ultimately means to people all around the world.
Whether an acting agent, a model scout, a potential client, or an HR person at a company you desire to work at, having a professional headshot will be the first way that people judge who you are and what type of person you are.
If you have a headshot that comes across as unprofessional, there is a chance that those looking at your headshot will question your level of professionalism.
Your headshot can define you
Your headshot can also define whether you are funny, charming, approachable, stern, serious, or any other adjective, which can all be expressed through a great headshot.
The reason for a having a good headshot, shot by a professional headshot photographer is so that the first time that people see who you are, you and a professional get to define what they will see when they see you.
WHERE DO I START LOOKING FOR A HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHER
USE THE WEB TO GUIDE YOU
If you are an actor, a model, or a professional looking for an image of yourself for your acting or modeling career, your LinkedIn, or other places online, the first thing you can do is literally google "headshot near me" or "headshot photographer" and scroll the first few pages of individual headshot photographers and check all of their work on their websites, along with the cost of their services.
Likely at the top of google search engines will be mass websites that pool a ton of photographers together. While using those types of websites does work for some, I'd recommend you scroll down and go directly to the website of individual headshot photographers and look at their websites to choose from there.
Check their websites out and see if they have shot other actor headshots, model headshots, or corporate headshots before, and see if they take good shots that you think are amazing, of high quality, and have a style type that you like.
Look for quality work you admire
If they don't have quality work on their website or shoot in a style that you like, then you should skip them altogether. You want a photographer who's headshot work you admire and who you think will give you a product that you will love.
ASK A FRIEND
You can also consider asking friends (other actors, models, or professionals) where they got their headshots done. If you see that they have a headshot that you really like, you can ask them for the contact of the person who shot theirs.
And be sure to tell the photographer who referred just so you can get cool points for your friend.
USING A LEADS WEBSITE
There are a ton of lead websites like www.upwork.com, www.bark.com, www.fiver.com, www.thumtack.com that you can find headshot photographers on.
While you can find success with them, I personally would not recommend using any of these sites for finding a headshot photographer because you just don't know what you will get.
Go directly to photographer's websites
Going directly to someone's website or using someone that a friend refers you to is a safer and more practical way to go at it in my opinion.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN SEARCHING FOR HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHERS
Check and see if they have access to a professional photo studio and what the cost of that will be.
Lighting is very important
Shooting your headshots at a good location with great light sources, whether in studio or outside is very key and a lot of professional headshot photographers will have access to a studio that they get shots of their actors, models, and professionals regularly.
If you know a bit about cameras, it can also be good to know what type of camera a photographer shoots on. Granted, great imagery can be shot on nearly ANY type of camera at ANY price range.
But the more expensive a photographers' camera equipment is can correlate with how serious the photographer takes the craft of photography and sometimes how knowledgeable they are about it.
This idea is not set in stone, as there are many photographers who spend tons of money on camera equipment but have no idea how to use it. But more often than not, the theory holds.
TIME SPENT AS A PHOTOGRAPHER
It's also good to know how many years a photographer has been shooting, and how long they have been a headshot photographer for hire. Finding out of they provide photography services as a business or if they just shoot actor and models for fun can tell you how much of a priority taking your headshots are.
A lot of times when a photographer does photography for fun, they have other things in their life that are a higher priority to them, and it can take weeks or months to get back your photos.
Typically photographers who take pictures for a living or do so as a business regularly schedule time out of their week to go through, choose, and edit pictures. This leads to them ultimately getting your great professional headshots back to you sooner than later.
The details on a person's motives for shooting are important so you can know how serious they take photography, which can determine how serious they will take your photography session.
The best headshot photographers are the ones who have been providing the services for a long time, who have worked with many actors, models and professionals, who know the use of light well, and who at least know all of the basic details of their camera.
Most professional headshot photographers in New York and Los Angeles will do some retouching on your imagesand give them the feel that they should have. Through that process they can remove pimples or unwanted scars, lighten or darken the image, bring certain colors up or down, make the image sharper, or all kinds of other editing tools.
A good photographer will know how to manage this and know the difference in the look between a corporate headshot, and actor headshot, and a model headshot. But ultimately they should all look natural to the subject and not to artistically edited.
HAIR, MAKEUP, AND STYLING
To be honest a really good headshot photographer won't really need any of these things. Yes, they are beneficial and can give your photos a bitt more pop. But you can very easily get away with taking an amazing headshot (whether acting, model, or professional) with light to almost no makeup at all, no hair stylist, and no one styling your clothing.
Your headshot is supposed to look natural.
So putting on a layer of makeup can be counterproductive to the execution of a good headshot. Sure, if you are someone who puts makeup on every single day and it is part of your regular look, then sure you can apply your basic every day look. But headshot are not meant to be glamours. They are meant to tell people who YOU are and what you look like on a regular basis.
So if your headshot photographer is connected to a team that does all of these things, that's cool, but not absolutely mandatory. A good headshot photographer will be able to edit your picture and take out any blemishes and enhance colors to give you the natural look that you need.
SHOOTING HEADSHOTS FOR FREE
In your search for a photographer you may be able to find headshot photographers near you who will shoot you for free. They'll offer to do a session for you, but may not have access to a professional camera or may not fully know how to use their camera.
They may be new to photography and looking to find ways to contact and shoot actors and models to get more shots. Or they may be a friend and like you and just want to help you out.
Don't waste your time
Free photography can be great and could pay off in the end, but could also be a waste of time.
Often times new photographers don't know the process of shooting and editing and could therefore take forever to give you back your images, taking up precious time that you could be submitting yourself to a casting website. modeling opportunities, or job queries.
So be weary of free photography and take your career (whether acting, modeling, or professional) seriously!
CAN YOU GET A VARIETY?
If you can find a headshot professional who can deliver you a headshot package that can provide you with versatility, it can be a game changer for you.
Sometimes casting directors struggle with choosing the right talent for a specific role. When they are bombarded with hundreds of faces to choose from, they often times are looking for faces and looks that mimic the character that is already in their heads.
So when you are submitting yourself (or when your agent is submitting you) it gives you a huge advantage to have a ton of looks and facial expressions that can resemble the essence of almost any character.
Take, for example, the nine images above. This actor got an unlimited looks package from me and here we captured at least five different looks and a range of facial expressions. Pensive, stoic, happy, thoughtful, powerful, laid back, excited, and straight forward are a few of the demeanors that we were going for and with this range he can submit different images for totally different characters. He can submit for a wealthy man, a school principal, a police chief, a politician, a gym teacher, a mechanic, a lawyer, a judge, an astronaut, and many more characters, all by presenting different images.
This increases his likelihood of being considered. Now, instead of submitting a smiling guy in a hoodie for the role of a US Senator, he can submit a guy with a suit on, looking stoic. When a casting director see's that image, he or she can think, "this is somewhat like what the character looks like in my head".
The actor below wanted to dance between actor and model so for his two hour unlimited package shoot we got a mix of vibes, styles, looks, and characters.
And being an actor myself, you can see from the pictures below that I spend a lot of time on shooting headshots of myself!
In 2022 alone I have been casted as a lead or supporting lead in at least 20 films and I attribute a lot of my success to the fact that when I submit myself on Backstage or Actors Access, I have a photo that gives the aura of nearly ANY character that is presented.
You want a lawyer? I got it. You need a basketball player? Here you go! You want a painter? This should do it! You need an african leader? Say no more. You need a thug? Say less!
Having a range of headshot images of yourself in as many different character roles as possible is something I highly recommend.
GET IT DONE AND GIVE YOURSELF THE ADVANTAGE
At the end of the day there really is no right or wrong answer to finding good headshot photographers near you. Google is your friend. Your friends are your friends. Your ambition is your biggest friend.
In many creative major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Atlanta, and many other places there are literally thousands of great headshot photographers in 2022 who will be right for you and can do the job right so you just need to put in the time to reaching out to the one that is right for you.
Take it seriously
If you want to get your acting career going you have to take it seriously. Very few make it in this business and it is usually the ones who really dedicate their time and effort to it that do. You have to put in the hours. You have to put in the work.
Acting and modeling can be hard and so can networking and finding a job or new clients. But you can give yourself a huge advantage by having great quality headshots shot by a professional headshot photographer. The best new clients and people that search for and book actors are much more likely to book you and take you seriously with headshots that capture a natural and likeable you. A great casting director will assume that you take acting seriously base on the headshot you show them. The same goes for people in the modeling work and people in the professional world.
Hire a headshot photographer who knows the acting business
In cities like New York and Los Angeles, where there are tons and tons of great professionals, actors, and models going out for and looking for the best opportunities film, fashion, television, banking, theater, politics, commercial work, and every other field, it is imperative to hire a headshot photographer who knows the business and know exactly what you need.