As a working photographer it is always a joy when someone buys my work. Not the service, but the final product. It is so humbling. Selling and image that I shot 4 years ago is really cool. It truly is the one of the coolest feelings. Also, the shots get better with time. So, it makes sense that I shoot images today to sell 10 years from now. It is making the investment in the work and watching it age well. Kind of like a good wine.
I price my headshots in the top 1/3 of photographers in NYC and LA. I am not the most expensive, but I am not the cheapest either. I could probably charge upwards of $1000.00 for a session, but that seems tad extreme right now. I would rather work with my clients multiple times to help build a strong brand. Basically, I think of the amount of years I have put in, the knowledge, and the quality of the product. The amount of time it takes to shoot a session is irrelevant. I am being paid to get the best shots possible in the most efficient manner possible.
In my opinion I think the worst time to get headshots done is the first two weeks of June or the last two weeks of December. The business stop in June and agents are cleaning house. Wait and let that happen and then put together a headshot session. The weather is usually great on both coasts and chances are you’ve had some sun and some outdoor time if you are an actor living in NYC. Early December is OK, but the last two weeks forget it. Everyone is beat and you have probably been eating everything in sight since Thanksgiving. The rest of the year is wide open.
The most successful actors understand the nature of trends. I work with actors who will do a couple of looks at the very beginning of the year and then do a couple more just before the summer or just as the Fall starts. They refresh their online headshots and have specific shots for the shows that have been picked up. If they need gritty headshots then they shoot that. Whatever they need to be specific.
Yes. Period. You need at least one, if not two in print. Spend the $100 bucks. Yes, everything is online, but the most skilled Casting Directors and feature Directors want to see a print. A friend who is a very successful director has his casting directors scan and turn all shots black and white so he can lay his color palette on them. A great place to print is Argentum.
Yes and no. The no is for about 5% of the acting population. Generally, older character men. The other 95% of actors need retouching. Why? Because it makes it a better shot! I am a photographer who shoots headshots as my “job job”. OK. Every single photo I take that is NOT a headshot I retouch. Even if it is the grittiest portrait…I probably added more grit. Understand that there is way more going on in a headshot than just the face of the actor. Just as an example: I recently retouched a shot where I spent a few minutes cleaning up the skin and flyaway hairs…the rest of the time was spend finding the right balance of shadows so i could push the viewers eye where I wanted it. A great headshot is no different than a great landscape or a street photograph. You have to tell people where to look. Sometimes this happens more in post. Think of retouching as enhancing the overall shot, not just the face. There is way more going on.
If actors and agents ever get smart they will start using black and white again. Slowly. Trickle it out. Especially theatrically. Commercials are another beast and not much soul there so color can ride forever. Anyway, most of my clients want one setup that is black and white as they use it for imdb and other PR needs. My thinking is: it is all about contrast. Instead of layering in more color why not remove color at this point. Think of that page with hundreds of color headshots…now imagine three black and white shots on that page. Where will your eye go first? Who got noticed? The guy or girl with the teal sweater blending in with everyone or the actor with a contrast rich awesome black and white shot? Think on that and maybe you can be part of the change.
I have a tendency to find my light. I guess I have a “look” but it never seems to get in the way and feel too heavy handed. Sometimes, my clients cannot tell the difference between studio and natural light because I will try and shape both to feel the same if I am going for something specific. I feel like actors have an idea of what “studio” light looks like because they had shots once by a photographer that had no idea how to light and the shots fell flat. They will generally prefer “natural” light because the good shots they did get were out side where it is much easier to shoot…in theory. I can make indoors look like outdoors and outdoors look like indoors. It is about the look. Once you decide on the mood and tone of a shot then you communicate that with light. You need to know what you are cooking before you start adding ingredients. I’m a foodie.
Black and White. If it was up to me they would have come back yesterday. To me there is nothing more boring than a color headshot. I mean, I do my best to make them interesting…and I do because I can light and I have great subjects. Finding the depth and the mystery is really tough though. If you think about it: Is the industry really that interested in depth and mystery anyway when it comes to a headshot? Black and white went away when it became affordable to shoot digital color. Now everyone has a color headshot. Everything is explosive color. The more color the better! Stand out! More color please! Wear the obnoxious bright shirt that you would never be caught dead in! Awesome! Yes, it has become an industry of brightly colored shirts. I am holding on tight with all my dignity and trying to bring what once was so great in black and white to my color work.