It’s arguable that for an actor there is no more important marketing tool for their career than their headshot. So, it’s also important to work with a good headshot photographer. But, in Los Angeles alone, there are more than 1,200 to choose from. If you’ve finally created a short-list of those you want to work with, there are at least five questions to ask to properly vet a headshot photographer.
1. “Do You Have a Commercial Studio?”
It’s important to know if a photographer has a studio to use and whether it’s a commercial location or at their residence. It’s not necessarily bad if a photographer only has a residential studio. But, going to someone’s house instead of a commercial location can be uncomfortable for some people, especially if it wasn’t known up-front. So, ask if their studio is in a commercial building or not.
If they don’t have a studio at all you’ll need to ask more questions. Where does that photographer then shoot headshots? Do they rent a studio? Do they use some outdoors location and is it permissible? It’s also very likely that a photographer without a studio will be far more limited in what gear they can use for a headshot session. More on gear later.
2. “May I See Your Headshots Portfolio?”
Reviewing a headshot photographer’s portfolio is essential but, how you do it is likely more important. Do not review a portfolio on your smartphone or tablet. It’s easy for photos to look decent on a small screen like that of a phone.
It’s likely that when business decisions are being made about your headshot, they are being done on a large desktop monitor or laptop. This can include a casting director considering your headshot for a role. So, don’t make the mistake of not doing the same. In a nutshell, to properly evaluate the quality of a photographer’s photo, it can only accurately be done on a large desktop or laptop monitor. Here, you can more easily uncover quality factors like sharpness, color accuracy and more.
3. “What Is Included with Your Packages or Sessions?”
What photographers offer in their packages and sessions can vary quite dramatically. Some headshot photographers may not do retouching at all. Some include retouching while others might do so as an added cost. Retouching is important for actors because they need to look their best without altering their look. So, can the photographer edit out that bit of acne that popped up the day before? Can they get rid of that fly-away hair you didn’t catch? And, is this going to cost you extra?
Some might have a set amount of time per session while others might have a set number of photos per session. These details are important to ask about before you set an appointment. When taken and considered alongside their rates and quality of their portfolio, you can better determine which headshot photographers are providing better value.
4. “Can You Do Commercial and Theatrical Looks?”
Most actors want commercial and theatrical looks and it can be convenient if you find a photographer that can do both. But, the difference between a commercial and theatrical headshot should not only be whether an actor is smiling or not.
How an actor is lit plays a big role in creating high-quality commercial and theatrical headshots. If you work with a photographer that understands studio lighting, the dramatic differences between these two types of looks can help an actor stand out. It’s also not just about how different the actor is illuminated, how the background is illuminated also factors into the overall look of a commercial versus theatrical shot.
5. “What Gear Do You Shoot With and Why?”
If you know a little bit about camera and lighting gear, asking your photographer what gear they use and why can be telling. Starting with the camera, ask them what model they use and why they selected it? Ask them what lenses they prefer for headshots and why? As for lighting, ask them what model they use and why they chose it.
If you don’t know about such gear, tell the photographer up front. “I’m not too familiar with cameras but, what model do you use and why?” It’s likely a photographer that understands camera gear will be able to decipher their answer for you and this can be telling.
Also, while you might not know about gear, asking them about their camera, lenses and lights gives you the opportunity to see if they stumble about their answers. This too can be telling because while you might not know about gear, it’s more obvious to tell if someone is having trouble answering a few questions they should be professional about.
Do Your Homework on a Headshot Photographer
Short of obvious questions, like what are your rates and what city are you located in, these five questions can help your short list of 10 or so photographers become that one you want to work with. It’s important to be sure of your photographer since the headshot is of upmost importance to an actor’s career. Furthermore, some headshot photographers can be expensive.
It can also be expensive to your career to have bad headshots because you believed you were working with a good headshot photographer. But, with a little homework done, an actor can feel more confident about their chosen headshot photographer.
Rafael Larin is headshot photographer and was recently named as a top one-percent best portrait photographers in Los Angeles from among more than 1,200 researched by Expertise.com. He operates the Headshots by The Light Committee studio in downtown Los Angeles working with actors on a variety of commercial, theatrical and lifestyle headshot sessions. More information can be found at https://headshots.thelightcommittee.com/