Readers’ Choice: Headshot Photographer Peter Hurley on What’s at Stake for the Actor

Photo Source: Havar Snapa

For several years, Peter Hurley has found himself among the Readers’ Choice nominees for best NYC headshot. How does he feel to have finally won? “I’m psyched!” the photographer says with a laugh. “I started my headshot business in 2002, and it was all built on Backstage advertising. Without the support of Backstage I don’t think [it] would have escalated to where it’s gone.”

The award is well-deserved. Hurley, who also has a studio in Los Angeles, has worked with everyone from the cast of “Lost” to Levi’s and Johnnie Walker. A bartender-turned-photographer with a modeling and acting résumé of his own, Hurley was shooting a model who asked him to take his actor headshot when it occurred to him to put all his eggs in that basket. “I kept it really simple; made it all about the actor and all about expression, so I put everybody on a really clean background,” he says of his signature style. “And that’s how it all started.”

Today, the demand for a skilled headshot photographer is greater than ever. “Every single person on the planet needs a headshot now,” says Hurley. “We all have a digital identity—if you Google yourself, what comes up? People are really concerned with that in this day and age.” But for actors, he says, there’s a distinct uneasiness. “Unfortunately, when people get in front of the camera, they change; they get a little freaked out or tense or whatever. With actors, a lot’s at stake. A ton is at stake.”

It’s not easy to capture an actor’s talent and charm in a single photograph, and finding a headshot photographer who communicates well and understands how to self-promote is crucial. As Hurley points out, headshots are “the No. 1 marketing tool. You could have all the talent in the world but if you’re not marketed properly, you’re not going to get in front of the right people. Having a headshot that represents you and captures the attention of casting directors in general is hugely important. The actor should not take that lightly.”

A big part of his job is eliminating the anxiety that comes with such pressure. “There’s usually this tension you can see from a mile away. The photographer’s job is to pull the best out of the person in front of the camera.”

How does Hurley do it? Set up an appointment and find out!

Check out interviews with all of the 2014 Readers’ Choice winners, coming to you throughout the week!