Finding the right headshot photographer
The world of headshot photography can seem like a dark abyss to a lot of actors. There is a lot of photographers out there, so hopefully the checkpoints below will give you a few tips to think about when finding your photographer.
Remember, your headshots are a direct reflection of you and your casting, so you need to make sure they work for you and show you in your best light possible (no pun intended!)
1. Check their portfolio The first thing is a visual connection, normally the easiest thing to do because we all constantly judge with our eyes.
Does their work leap off the page and appeal to you? Bear in mind that a website may contain a photographers best work, but is it up to date and what about their everyday shoots? Do they post to social media like Facebook or twitter, or do they have a blog? Try and stalk them a bit and see some other shots that aren’t necessarily in their website portfolio. For example, EVERY client I shoot goes up on my Flickr for people to see...
Different actors require different things from Headshot sessions. Some require a number of different ‘looks’, some want outdoors and studio lighting etc, some prefer plainer backgrounds. See if your photographer offers a look or package to suit your individual needs, therefore you don’t walk away feeling unsatisfied with the result or the duration of the shoot.
2. Less isn’t necessarily more Just because a photographer is offering a photo shoot at a low cost, doesn’t necessarily mean they are good quality, but then It’s not always about uber expensive equipment and flashy studios, but if they are inexperienced or just tinker in their spare time, it may not produce the best results and may be a waste of everyones time.
You need to consider what you are paying for, a shoot may only last a couple of hours, but when you add up all the time a photographer spends emailing, uploading images and editing, the time per client soon racks up, with added overheads and years of experience, you end up paying slightly more sometimes. You have to ask yourself what that headshot is worth to you (and your business as an actor), if it is going to get you seen, and get you a tv role, commercial, big theatre job, it has soon paid for itself.
The impact that your headshot photo will have in most cases will mean the difference between being called up to audition for a job or not, and the competition is higher than ever. It’s your most important marketing tool you have, investing in this area is key.
3. Are their any hidden costs? Cost is sometimes a big turning point for a lot of potential clients. Don’t instantly go for the lowest cost, to find out later you have to pay separately for the images, or that you don’t get much time or that they are simply not usable images.
On the other hand, don’t go for the highest straight away either. Just because they are the most expensive or have years of experience doesn’t mean they are necessarily the best.
It’s always worth checking what your shoot includes, are there any retouches included? How many? How much are extra? Will they be print resolution? Is there VAT included? (not all photographers are VAT registered, ones that are means they are busy, but also means that 20% vat may be added to the costs, this is normally included in the prices shown).
4. Do they speak your language? With the web being such a vital search tool nowadays to find your photographer, you can normally get a good feel for a person in the way they write their website or speak on the phone, having a connection with your photographer is key when it comes to not only being relaxed, but capturing the best of you, so follow your gut instinct on this.
You need to feel comfortable with your photographer and be able to take direction from them with ease, if they don’t sit right, find someone that does, there is plenty of choice.
5. Have you been given a recommendation? The chances are that if you find a photographer that you like, someone you know will either have had photos with them or know about them, and this can be a vital tool to inform you about that person and the way they work. Recommendations are the best way to discover your photographer and their style, and potentially steer you away from any of the bad ones!
Client feedback and comments are a good way to gage a photographer, so look at testimonials and ratings (use online casting sites like Mandy (formally CastingCallPro) or if they have a Facebook business page this will show ratings and feedback, however be careful not to get sucked in by people blowing their own trumpet. You should take all things into account and not just what is written on their website. 6. Are they local and accessible? It is definitely worth travelling to get the photos that are right for you, but remember you want to be as relaxed as possible on the day of your shoot, there is no use travelling for hours and hours if that will stress you out, its not only tiring for you but you may feel rushed if there is transport issues. If you are going to travel a distance for your shoot, leave plenty of time, try and stay local the night before.
7. What is going to happen after your shoot? Taking your photos is only part of the process, you need to be able to access your photos after the shoot and look through them easily, selecting your favourites to help you narrow down the choices and then choose the final images for retouching. Then you will need to be able to receive or download them and get them out in the world.
Check with your photographer what their post-shoot process is, and how you will receive your final shots. It is also worth asking about how they archive and backup the photos from your shoot, if they lose your images, you will have to re-shoot the whole lot again, so do they keep a safe copy?
8. Do you need plenty of time? How much time will you need in the day? If you are nervous or unsure in front of the camera, or don’t like to feel rushed, you may need plenty of time to relax and take direction, however, if you are used to photo shoots, time may not be an issue, you may want to be in and out as quick as possible. So check how your chosen photographer works and how long their shoots are.
If you think you need extra time, ensure you choose a photographer that will be relaxed if things go wrong with timings, or if you should need to gather yourself, do makeup etc when you arrive, a lot of photographer run busy diaries and this needs to be something to factor in.
9. Is the time right for new headshots? Are you happy with the way you look now? Do you have a strong tan from holiday that may fade? Are you changing your hair soon? Are you planning on losing weight over the next few months?
All of these things are important to ensuring that you look your best and that your photos aren’t made redundant within a couple of months. Remember, people will make instant judgements of you based on your photo, and therefore your headshot needs to represent you honestly, or you risk annoying casting directors when you walk in the audition looking different, and wasting their time.
10. Are you prepared to use your new shots? As I said earlier, your headshots is your no.1 marketing tool, and they are not something you can afford to have done every month, so do you know what you want to do once you have your final photos back? Think about the various places that you will need to be updating them; C.V? spotlight? agents website? Casting websites? Do you need to organise for hard copies to be printed? Business cards? Personal website? All of these things can be thought about before your shoot so you are ready to get going and watch the jobs come rolling in!
Its not as daunting as people think… Really, the best way to choosing a good headshot photographer is a mix of recommendation and a gut instinct! You need to be happy with the photographer, why not message, email or call them if you are unsure and strike up a dialogue,?
Even if you have seen a friends or colleagues photos that look great, make sure you ask them what the whole ‘experience’ was like with their photographer, was it enjoyable and relaxing, this counts for a lot. Based on below, make a shopping list of your requirements, and use that to help your search, good luck!
What is your budget?
Where are they based?
Do you want studio lit or naturally lit (people call it outdoors most of the time)?
How much time you will need for the shoot?
How many ‘looks’ are you trying to achieve?
Are there any retouches included? How many? How much are extra retouches?
Is there time to do makeup etc when you arrive, or do you come ready?
Is there an online gallery/portal for viewing images after the shoot?
Are you 100% happy with your current image, and if not what do you need to sort?
The Association of Profession Headshot Photographers
I am proud to be a member of The APHP. If you are looking for a trusted, qualified photographer who is fair, reliable and responsible, possessing the experience, skill and knowledge to provide you with the highest quality headshots, look no further.
This non-profit group was created in 2016 which aims to benefit actors and agents by establishing and celebrating recognised standards of headshot professionalism, through the 'APHP Approved' quality kitemark.
Why use or recommend an APHP Photographer?
APHP members provide consistently superb casting headshots fit for the contemporary entertainment industry; they are 'APHP Approved'
Only APHP-qualified photographers display the 'Approved' logo, so if you work with, or recommend, one of our members, you can rely on the highest standards of professional skill and expertise:
All APHP members are Qualified and have:
Experience; a minimum of three years, but often decades, as a professional portraitist, shooting every kind of actor.
Skill: expert technical skills & superior equipment, plus keen understanding of light, composition and style
Knowledge: a wealth of up-to-date, industry-specific expertise.
Protection: up to date public liability & professional indemnity insurances.
A Duty of Care: sophisticated data back up & measures to secure your images, while protecting your personal information.
All APHP members abide by the Code of Conduct and are:
Fair: abide by fair terms & conditions clearly laid out online.
Reliable: honour bookings, stick to deadlines re image supply & guarantee prices as booked.
Responsible: strive to provide a consistently excellent service & find a resolution to any problem.
APHP photographers NEVER:
Operate cash-back arrangements with agents in exchange for recommendations.
Work as an Agent or Casting Director.
Break the conditions of our Code of Conduct
See www.theaphp.co.uk for more details of their members