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Friday, February 1, 2008

How to choose headshot photographer

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I saw this question posted on the Backstage Forum, and I posted an answer that I wanted to repost here:

I've never had headshots done before, and I'm not quite sure how it works. Basically, when I look at the examples from different photographers, I can't tell which I like better, or rather, which I think would be better for me. Also, the photographers that look good tend to be $300+. I can't afford that right now, but is it worth it to get headshots that cost under $200? They don't seem all that great to me. Should I go for the cheaper ones, or should I just start saving?

TAE responds:

When looking for a photographer, two things are very important:

1) Find someone in your price range. I'd say it is unnecessary to spend more than $500-$600, but there are certainly good photographers who charge less. And those who have added perks may be worth the extra money.

2) Find someone you feel completely comfortable with. Because the camera will pick up exactly how you are feeling when each photo is taken, meeting the photographer ahead of time is imperative. This is a step that many actors skip, which is silly because it costs nothing but your time.

What I always suggest is for the actor to select 10-12 photographers that you can afford and made sure they all had a few services you want. Some examples of good services:

1) They'll give you copies of all of the high-resolution images on a disk at the end of the shoot (or within a few days.) Some photographer only release 3-4 large format prints and keep the rest- I think that since you paid for the session you should be given all of the print in large format.

2) Retouching on one photo (or more) is be included. This can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

3) They would allow you to bring your own makeup person or do it yourself (mostly for women, though men sometimes need one too). Some photographer require you to use their own, which is not always the best choice for actors.

While you look through the photos on each website, see if you can find actors of your type. If you are a comedic actor, try to find a good amount of people on their site that look like comedic actors. This will give you a sense of what your photos would look like.

Once you go through your desired list of services, and you find the photographers that show examples of actors of your type, you'll probably have narrowed it down to 4-5 photographers. Then, contact each of them and set up an interview to be done in person. After you meet each one, you will have a good sense of who you get along with most and that will lead you to the correct choice.

I hope this helps- best of luck!

Note: I have compiled a list of affordable headshot photographers: click here to view. And if you are a current TAE student or a graduate, you can enjoy discounts on 5 headshot photographers: click here for info on the TAE Discount Program.


Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

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