4 (More) Keys to Finding the Right Photographer

Photo Source: Twenty20

Picking the right headshot photographer can be a daunting task. With so many photographers out there, how do you know which is right for you? I’ve previously discussed four keys for picking a headshot photographer, and in order to make sure you get the most out of your next headshot session, here are four more ways to find the right one.

Your next headshot photographer should...

1. ...understand the business and current trends.
It surprises me that many photographers aren’t aware of how the industry actually works or aren’t up on the current standards and trends. Good photographers get out there and talk with casting directors and agents.

Because CDs are getting thousands of submissions per role and they’re looking at the submissions as thumbnails, it's important the actor be the main focus. You might think that's a given but looking at headshots every day, I’m amazed that some photographers are still shooting in front of brick walls, bushes and trees, or using incredibly busy backgrounds.

Right now, most casting directors and agents are looking for clean, crisp backgrounds (white/gray/monochromatic) allowing the actor to be the focus while highlighting their specific type and branding. Industry trends and standards are constantly changing—make sure that you, your headshots, and your photographer change with them.

2. ...be open to hearing your thoughts and opinions.
Good photographers know the mechanics of taking a great headshot but they don't know you. You've probably only spoken to them briefly over the phone or during your initial meeting.

Sure, they can see your type and (hopefully) know the roles you should be targeting. But they don't know what makes you special and unique within your type/category. Many photographers feel they “know better” or how to bring out your individuality, but end up saying the exact same things to every actor. This is why so many headshots look exactly the same, with exactly the same expressions.

The right photographer is open to hearing your thoughts and opinions, and will happily work with you to bring out the things that separate you from the other actors in your category.

READ: Headshots: U.K. vs. L.A.

3. ...make you feel comfortable.
The gender of the photographer doesn’t make them a good or bad photographer, but it can make for good or bad pictures. What I’m trying to say is that it’s a personal preference. Some women, especially those in the 28-32 age group, might be better served shooting with women as female photographers tend to allow actresses more room to explore their strengths and power outside of the narrow category of “sexy.” Certain “guys guy” actors may not be able to tap into their masculine energy unless they shoot with a male photographer.

What’s most important is that the actor feels comfortable, relaxed, and open enough to expose certain aspects of their personality and branding in front of a photographer. Whether it’s a male or female photographer is up to you.

4. ...come highly recommended.
Just because one photographer worked well for someone you know doesn’t mean they’ll be great for you. Referrals are the best place to start, whether from fellow actors/teachers/image consultants/headshot coaches, etc., but you have to ask the right questions: Did you like working with this photographer? Would you shoot with them again? Are the pictures getting you called in, or more importantly, getting you booked? How does the photographer work with actors? Are they up on all industry needs and trends? Is the photographer willing to meet and talk beforehand? Are they open to the actor’s input?

Agents and managers are also a great reference since they all have a referral list. Besides asking these questions, you also need to ask them when they last updated their list and why they’re referring these particular photographers.

Headshots are an actor's number one marketing tool—don’t jump in blindly. Get out there and do the work, ask questions, and use my eight keys to finding a great photographer to makes sure the end results are headshots that work.

Tom Burke is an image consultant, creator of the Castable Actor, and a Backstage Expert. For more info, check out Burke’s full bio! Nailed those three little words? Check out Backstage’s short film audition listings! The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Headshots in order? Check out Backstage’s short film audition listings!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Tom Burke
Tom Burke is an image consultant, headshot coach, and acting teacher. After transitioning from a successful print model to an accomplished on-camera actor to a proficient on-set acting coach, Burke focused his wealth of knowledge and keen eye to become one of L.A.’s premier image consultants and headshot coaches, and creator of the Castable Actor, a series of workshops, seminars, and advice designed to help actors open doors to a successful career.