Readers' comments tended to focus on the consistent quality of Argentum's work. Its customer service was profusely and universally praised. Back Stage sat down with Argentum owner Ajay Jhaveri to get his thoughts on what makes his business stand out.
Back Stage: So, what makes your business stand out?
Ajay Jhaveri: It really comes down to customer service. We have a real friendly staff, a real young staff. We're a little overstaffed, so people don't have to wait too long when they come in. If the actor phones, we return calls right away. We also deal really strongly with the headshot photographers, and they recommend us. And then we have to hold up our end of the deal so they'll keep recommending us.
Back Stage: Having probably seen more headshots than any agent's or CD's assistant in Hollywood, can you spot a success based on headshot alone?
Jhaveri: When a perfect headshot comes across, anyone can tell that "Wow, there's something interesting about this person; there's something intriguing about this person." And the reverse is true too. We see a lot of headshots that are just garbage. Part of it is this digital age where everyone has a camera, and there's no cost to shooting. And ironically, that's helped my business, because we have so many people shooting pictures and headshots, and they don't do them well, and we get stuck trying to make them look good.
Back Stage: How do you deal with the bad headshots?
Jhaveri: One of the things I think that makes us successful is we're brutally honest. If the actors pick out their own pictures, a lot of times it's a mistake, because they have an opinion about themselves and an image of themselves that might not be what everyone else is seeing. If they come in with an agent or manager's recommendation, we don't say much. But if they ask us for an opinion, we'll give them an honest opinion. Sometimes they don't like it, but we try and make it constructive. Every now and then I'm sure somebody's feelings get hurt and they go, "Oh, that asshole, he doesn't know what he's talking about." But I've been doing this for 30 years. The ones who are here, who want to be actors, they're used to criticism, man. They'll do 100 auditions in a month and book maybe two. They're getting rejected every day. If it's done constructively—as long as you give a "why"—people are fine with it. They actually appreciate it.
Argentum Photo Lab, 6550 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028; (323) 461-2775; www.argentum.com
Argentum was the Readers' Choice winner for this category in 2010.
Reproductions, (888) 797-7795, www.reproductions.com
Isgo Lepejian Photo Lab, (323) 856-5280, www.aandi.com
Pixels Digital Imaging, (323) 954-1582, www.pixelsla.com