Here’s Link to my instagram page:
There are some distinct advantages to being in this business for 40 years. One is simply experience. The other is an awareness of evolutionary changes in marketing. In other words – the way head shots have changed over the years and what is current.
One simple fact is that very few actors really understand their chosen art form is a business. Very few actors are able to look in the mirror and OBJECTIVELY figure out how to market their product because their product is themselves. For all of us, seeing ourselves objectively is difficult at best.
Also, this marketing has evolved over the years.
The internet has hugely influenced the way head shots are done nowadays. Since your image will be relatively small and on a page full of other head shots, it is important to make you photo stand out.
Remember: This is the size of your pic Casting Directors would see when they are looking at submissions:
This is Cute – but it would get “lost” in the pile:
One way to do that is wear very colorful clothing and have colorful backgrounds in your image.
Another way is to be as high profile as possible and have a Twitter account, Facebook, a personal web site, and any other social media.
My friend, Jim Beaver, is great example.
Another GREAT example is a great stage actor Bill Oberst Jr. (Google him!) His Website is VERY ENTERTAINING.
The internet is a wonderful thing but it also requires actors to put time into their careers more than ever.
Look at lots of other head shots. Make sure what you are about to shoot isn’t dated but is current.
Your photographer should also know what is current, how to shoot your head shot so it looks professional and marketable, and give you at least 3 “looks” to work with.
Be aware… all things evolve… even head shots!
I suppose it’s a good thing that after 37 years of shooting head shots for actors, that I still enjoy it. I attribute this to the fact that I find people endlessly fascinating and what better place to be a head shot photographer than in Los Angeles! I get all sorts of fascinating characters through my photo studio and I sometimes think it should be a sit com.
In the past, an actor would get a recommendation from his Agent or manager for what head shot photographer to go visit. Usually an actor would meet with four or five photographers, look at their portfolios, check out the studio, and choose who they felt would be the best for the images they needed. This decision making process was good for everyone, actor and photographer alike although it required the photographer to sit through hours of seemingly endless and unnecessary recitations of resumes.
While I understand the concept that an actor wants the photographer to capture a certain essence, it has little bearing on whether or not that actor will actually book a job. The reason for this is that very very few actors see their casting. Every actor has an idea of the roles they want to play in film, commercials, or on stage but very few actors understand that it is a business and they will be cast according to how they look to a casting office.
An example of this would be a girl who came to my studio for head shots and she handed me photos of fashion models and proclaimed,”I want photos like these!”. What amused me was that MY idea of her casting was that she would be prefect in a role as a midwest farmers wife…perhaps pulling a plow. Suffice it to say she was NOT in shape for Victoria’s Secret.
Agents in Los Angeles have lists of head shot photographers that they recommend and I am fortunate to be on almost all of those lists. So, it presented me with a challenge, because, knowing her agent, if I shot images the agent liked, she would be unhappy but if I shot images she liked, the agent would be displeased.
I suggested to her that she show her agent what wonderful versatility she had as an actress. I told her she should shoot some rather plain images, then we could add more makeup and fluff her hair for more sexy images. She reluctantly agreed.
A week went by and I got a call from her and I winced as I asked her how she liked her photos. This was in the days of film so it would take a few days to process. She told me she was really happy with “some of them but some of the others she liked less”. I asked her if she had shown them to her agent and she frustratingly replied,”YES…and you won’t believe what he said to me. He said he liked the plain ones and could use those but the pretty shots he didn’t like. He said to me, these are pretty but I can’t use them because you aren’t pretty!”
“Yikes!” I responded,”What did you do!?”
“Well, I’m looking for another agent!” she growled.
I have had actors in my studio who did their best to imitate Robert DeNiro, sexy women who wanted to play “smart” roles, nerdy looking guys who wanted to be James Bond, and the aforementioned chubette who wanted to be Cindy Crawford.
When an actor walks through my doors, I know in the first minute how I am going to light him. I already know what roles he will get. I already know, after years doing head shots in Los Angeles, how an actor will be marketed. But it is not my job to make those decisions but rather to provide and actor with what type of photos HE/SHE wants. I make suggestions, I talk it over with all my clients, I can tell them what wardrobe I think will work, and I can let each individual know what the trends in head shots are current, but ultimately every actor needs to do their homework and see this as a business and realize they are a product and how best to market that product.
The idea is to have a head shot that gets you called in to a casting that, when you arrive and look around the casting office, you see actors who are in the same category. You don’t want to look around and see people who are 40 years older.
If an actor looks at TV, film, and commercials and identifies characters that “look like” him, he will know how to dress for a photo shoot. Basically an actor needs a smiling head shot for commercials and a more serious shot for theatrical purposes. Nothing more.
Casting offices generally know what type they are going to choose for any given role, so if you got a call, you have a shot!
The rest is up to you!
For one day only – Sign Up today – CLICK HERE
For LA Actors-
Actors Headshot special!
How many actors can you name in this photo?
Studio Lighting workshop –
- For Portrait
- For Fashion
- For Hollywood Actors head shot
Sunday, November 25th –
3 PM – 8 PM
$500 per session
Feel free to contact me with any questions –
I’ve been hearing and reading about an interesting new phenomenon in the head shot world. It seems there is a new trend toward shooting video for head shots also known as Moving Head Shots. The idea is to then go back and sift through the images for a still shot that is the “ultimate moment” captured to print or use on line.
What I am amazed to hear is how many people think Moving Head Shots is not only a good idea, but that it will somehow revolutionize the world of head shots. Some think Moving Headshots will redefine the way a portrait is captured and that it will improve our art.
Part of this thinking (Moving Headshots) has been set up by the digital revolution. Back in the day, a photographer was limited to 36 exposures on a roll of 35mm film. That meant he had to be aware of moments that were fleeting and he had to be specific about what he chose to shoot and the timing of when to push the button.
These days, photographers have huge memory cards that hold hundreds of photos. Where a photographer used to shoot 3 rolls of 36 exposure film (108 frames), now it is not unusual to shoot 200-400 images in a session. This is not necessarily a good thing because more is not always better.
In so many areas we have replaced quality with quantity. I even see photographer’s web sites where they boast “unlimited” number of images.
The photographers who have attempted to shoot video (super high resolution video) and then sift through the images for the “perfect frame”, have found this task daunting to say the least. If you think of shooting 24 frames a second over a period of time, it takes VERY LITTLE time to amass HUGE numbers of frames. For instance, if a photographer shoots video at 24 frames a second and he shoots for 10 minutes, he will have 144,000 frames to go through for a head shot. If his client is wanting to shoot 3 or 4 “looks”, then he can conceivably end up with over half a million frames. I’m wondering how many agents will be willing to look through half a million frames to find the “perfect” head shot?? How many clients have the time to go through that number of frames?
Basically – it’s not practical – and is counterintuitive to what a good photographer is about. One of the gifts of a talented photographer is knowing WHEN to push the button. Not only when, but having the ability to set up a situation where this magic moment CAN happen.
If an actor comes to me wanting 4 different types of head shots, I will shoot anywhere from 15 to 50 frames on average. I listen to what my clients needs are and provide the shots they want. Perhaps 35 years in the business gives me some insight into how to set up a shot and make it happen. Perhaps enjoying the company of the people I shoot makes for a relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps it is because I ask people to be specific about their ideas for the images they want.
For whatever reason, I seem to shoot fewer frames and have a higher percentage of “winning” photos than beginner photographers who hope quantity can overcome lack of quality.
All the great photographers have been able to set up a shot, be clear what their objective was, and know when to push the button.
It is this “magic” that separates the mediocre from the marvelous. I have had instances where I shot less than 10 frames with a client because I KNOW we got the shot. Half a million frames would not have changed that fact.
Video is good for video but for head shots, it’s not a good idea.
Thank you for reading my article about why Moving Headshot is not practical for working actors.
One of the things I hear the most from actors who come to me for a head shot is,”I just need a photo that really captures ME and who I REALLY AM!”
As harsh and cruel as it sounds, I really want to say,”Why? What casting director cares who you REALY ARE??”
If I go to the beach, I dress very casually. If I go out to dinner, I dress up a bit. And if I attend a formal event, I wear a tux. It’s still “me” at each event but I dress differently and perhaps even behave differently, and hopefully appropriately, for each occasion.
To have one head shot that captures who and what we “are” is impossible because we so many different people depending on the situation. For actors, it is imperative they identify their “casting”. It is vital they know how they are seen by casting agents, not how they see themselves or are seen by their friends, loved ones, or relatives.
A tall lanky model type girl walked into my studio one day for head shots. She was really beautiful and had a sort of “Playboy” look with blonde hair, blue eyes, slightly oversized breast implants, and rather obvious lip injections. She said,”I’m so sick and tied of getting sexy roles and always being asked to take my clothes off. I’m a GOOD actress and I want to do more serious roles!”
All I could think of to say was,”WHY?”
While not an understanding or compassionate answer, it was painfully obvious she had invested in her physical looks, her body, and her skimpy wardrobe.
She told me she could play a “lawyer” and “here’s my suit jacket” for the shot. Indeed she did have a suit jacket but it was a plunging neckline and she chose not to wear anything under it. When I suggested she wear a blouse under her jacket to “look a little more official”, she said she didn’t want to because it “didn’t feel sexy”.
Oddly, the very next day I had a sweet and charming young lady come to the studio who was sort of the opposite. She was rather plain looking and I thought about all the wonderful roles she could get as a farmers wife, pioneer woman, or dust bowl maiden. She said,”I want some photos like these” and handed me magazine photos of Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and other top models.
Acting requires one thinks of themselves in third person and remove ego from the equation. It requires an actor to look at themselves objectively as possible and ask what roles are right for them.
Who looks like you? What roles are they playing? You don’t have to BE a mom to play mom roles. You can be a full time mom and play roles as a judge, a sexy hooker, or a fighter pilot. It just depends on how you are perceived by casting agents.
While there are many classes available for figuring out what “type” you are, it really is a matter of basic homework and being honest with yourself.
Acting is a job and like any other job, it means you work at it. Figure out how to best market yourself because YOU are your product.
I’ve been a photographer in Los Angeles for over 35 years. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the styles of photography and the fads that effect head shots over the years.
When I first started shooting, all head shots were done in a studio, were black and white, and were cropped mostly at bust level. At that time, an actor only needed two shots – one smiling (for commercial use) and one more serious (for theatrical use).
Nowadays, all headshots are in color, some people shoot 3/4 length images (although that is going out of style other than for commercial modeling), and now there are the ever present internet submissions. Everything is submitted on line these days and the thumbnails that casting directors scan are small, so it has become vital that your photo be eye-catching. When your photo is on a computer screen along with dozens more, it needs to stand out and draw attention instead of blending in with all the others. One way to do that is by wearing more colorful clothing. Another way is for photographers to use more colorful backgrounds and more contrasting elements in the photo.
First and foremost, one must recognize a headshot as a business tool. One big mistake I have seen repeated over the years is actors who say to me, “I just want a photo that captures ME and who I really am!” While this might seem like a good approach, the harsh truth is, when it comes to casting, no one is concerned with who an actor “really is”. An actor friend of mine is one of the most charming, lovable, and sweet people I know but he always gets cast as criminals, homeless, or a derelict of some kind. Who he “really is” couldn’t be further from his casting.
One does not have to BE a mother in real life to play a mother on TV, in film, or on stage.
The old saying that “show business is 90 percent business and 10 percent show” is very true and not often understood. One of the major tools of the trade is a good head shot so this requires an actor to look at film, TV, and theatre in order to learn what types of roles might be possible. It is at this point one has to be open, honest, and perhaps even somewhat disconnected from their own ego. Every actor would love to play a lead, a love interest, or some larger than life character, but the truth is character actors work more and there are more roles available to them.
Ask yourself, “Who looks like me? How are they cast? What types of roles are they getting?”
NOT, “what do I want to do?”
While “type casting” is an issue we all wish would go away, it is alive and well and drives the entertainment industry. A beautiful blue eyed blonde bombshell model will not likely book a role as a brain surgeon. That truth may be irritating, aggravating, and frustrating for that model but it doesn’t change the reality that the entertainment business is driven by money, not art, and therefore does what it needs to do to appeal to the consumer.
With all this in mind, it is imperative an actor find a good professional photographer to shoot their headshot. If an actor is serious about his/her career, then they will invest in it and get the best headshot they can.
Headshots are another acting job, so be prepared on the day of your shoot. Make sure you bring clothing that is appropriate to the types of characters you will play. Whether you are a business man or not, if that is your casting, bring a suit. Your “favorite Hawaiian shirt” might look great on you but if it doesn’t get you called in for the types of roles you will book, then it is a useless photo.
One smiling headshot for Commercial purposes and one more serious, but still friendly, headshot for Theatrical purposes is generally all an actor needs.
You would never see Brad Pitt do a head shot dressed as a fireman, a policeman, or a doctor (with a stethoscope hanging around his neck). You’d never see Kate Hudson dressed as a nurse (same stethoscope around her neck), a waitress, or a police officer. These types of “character images” scream “day player” and make you appear new and unprofessional. These images might work if all an actor is interested in is background work but certainly not for an actor who wants more.
Talk with your Agent, Manager, or Acting coach regarding casting questions. Be sure what you want to shoot before you schedule a session with a photographer. The photographer can help in selecting from the choices you bring to the shoot. These days, with digital media, an actor can shoot, look at the images on a monitor, and select his head shots all during the same session.
.. until next time!