Your headshot is one of the most important investments you’ll make in your career as an actor, and your relationship with the photographer who takes them is crucial. Here are ten British snappers who’ll help you make the best of this important photographic calling card.
The Breakdown: This photographer is steeped in the acting industry and with A-list clients that speak volumes about the quality of her work, yet has kept her prices realistic.
Shelia Burnett has an impressive list of past clients: Damian Lewis, Simon Pegg, Caroline Quentin, Imelda Staunton, Nick Frost, Helen Lederer, and many more. A quick browse of the testimonials on her website reveals she’s popular with clients, both famous and starting out.
Based 25 minutes from the West End and with over 20 years’ experience in the industry, Burnett’s portfolio is extensive. As well as headshots, she works for theatres doing behind-the-scenes photography, so has a great contact book and lots of industry experience.
As for her advice on the day, Burnett says: “I don’t like to rush a shoot. If several sessions are booked in on one day, plenty of time has been set aside between clients. The session ends when we are satisfied with the result.” She starts every session outside in the open air which is, she says, a “good place to warm up.” Her rates are an affordable £200–£300.
The Breakdown: A favourite of Backstage users, an expert in lighting, and recommended to us by some of the UK’s top child talent agents, too.
Recommended by many Backstage users is headshot photographer John Clark. On the more glamorous end of the headshot spectrum, Clark is a master of lighting and has lots of experience. He’s a snapper who knows his stuff and is willing to share his top tips for a great photographic calling card.
Working from his south London studio, Clark, unlike others on this list, specialises in headshots. He says: “Your headshot should be as unique as you are. My aim is to craft a headshot that reflects a blend of your visual and emotional integrity as the artist and markets you – the professional actor – in an honest way.”
It’s not just adults either. Clark also takes headshots for child actors and is recommended by two major children’s agents, Quirky Kidz and The Sylvia Young Agency.
When it comes to prices, an hour and a half with John Clark starts at £120. His advice? Come prepared, come to impress, and also come with a hairbrush. Top tips for life as well as a headshot shoot.
The Breakdown: Recommended by specialist agents, Enthoven is a top headshot snapper for child actors.
Unlike the other photographers on this list, Belinda Enthoven has a niche when it comes to headshots. She specialises in child actors and is endorsed by one of London’s leading agents for children, Jo Wellings, founder of PD Management. Wellings says she always recommends Enthoven because she’s a “lovely lady” who really knows how to create an easy atmosphere on set, which is crucial when attempting to get the perfect headshot.
The style of her portfolio is clean, crisp and modern and she clearly has the ability to bring out the best of child actors who may be nervous or not yet fully comfortable in front of the camera. And she does shoot older subjects too – just ask Robbie Williams and Lily Allen.
The Breakdown: A former actor who speaks your language, dedicates plenty of time to each session, and aims to get the best out of you.
Nick James might not be the cheapest out there but he has quite the rollcall of clients including top talent such as Sheridan Smith, Mark Rowley, and Suranne Jones. Also, his shots look great and don’t have that over-produced style some studio photographers might go for.
He’s a former actor, so knows the drill and is keen on making you comfortable, which starts (in his words) with a cuppa and a chat. Primarily working inside in his well-equipped studio, James uses natural light and flash and a variety of backdrops to get the best from his clients. His sessions usually last three and a half hours – much longer than many on this list but he insists having time with an actor is crucial: “The one thing that will help to get the best photos out of you is time, and lots of it – this will ensure you are completely relaxed and will photograph at your best.”
He offers a three-hour “standard session” for £420, or two hours for £320, based in east London.
The Breakdown: Backstage users give Ori’s fresh modern vibe and actor-focused practicality the thumbs up.
If we tell you that photographer Ori Jones has shot Vanessa Kirby (The Crown) and John Bradley (Game of Thrones), ie two of the most exciting and successful young actors out there, you’re probably getting interested, right? If we add that Backstage users voted Jones as one of their favourite headshot photographers, maybe it’s time to really sit up and take notice.
Based in north London, Jones is also recommended by some of London’s top agents like the Artists Partnership. She’s got the inside track on your experience as she’s an actor herself, bringing empathy and understanding to your shoot. She says: “My aim is to give you beautiful, natural and interesting headshots that capture your range and get you into the room” – which is all we ever really want.
You can choose between a shoot outside in natural light or a naturally-lit studio. Four edited headshots in US and UK styles start from £280 with a slightly reduced price for students. Jones offers a supportive environment, especially if this is your first time, saying: “You will be directed throughout the shoot and given advice on anything you are not sure about. The session is relaxed, as we get to know each other and work together creatively to get you the best shots possible.”
The Breakdown: A young, perfectionist photographer, highly rated by Backstage users.
Alishia Love has been voted highly among Backstage users and has well-established relationships with some top London talent agencies. She says that’s because “they trust that my headshots get their actors hired” – which is exactly what you need in a headshot.
Love has been in the headshot business for seven years and has a youthful, fresh outlook that really comes across in her photos. She says she understands that most actors hate having their photo taken, and she prides herself on her relaxed approach.
Love is based in the Cotswolds, so your headshot shoot will probably involve you getting on a train. On the plus side, her indoor workshop is “a gorgeous natural light studio, so you get all the perks of a natural light shoot, without the stress of wind or bad weather.”
If the idea of a train ride hasn’t put you off, Love promises to “capture a perfect set of headshots that you will be proud to show off,” adding: “I want to capture your personality, see your natural smile and have fun along the way.” She also offers the added bonus of meeting her two sausage dogs, Biggie Smalls and Tupac. What more could you want? Prices start at £150 for a basic package.
The Breakdown: A snapper with a modern eye, Price has one foot in London and another in LA, giving a transatlantic perspective on actors’ needs.
Price splits his time between LA and London, so he’s well aware of what both markets are looking for in a headshot. He’s also an actor, so he knows what you’re going through. Price says: “Most sessions are a mixture of my signature studio headshot style with some editorial images using a variety of daylight and studio lighting.” Interestingly, he’s keen to direct his subjects according to their casting type, revealing his awareness of the acting business.
Price’s London studio is in Hackney and he offers a range of packages – from five hours with hair and makeup for £600, to the £250 option where you’ll get shot outside but only have two hours to bag the perfect shot. Brilliantly for the actor in a hurry, your photos are edited and then ready for download within 48 hours, with retouched photos ready in seven days.
The Breakdown: This north London photographer has big names on his portfolio and reviews from agents and actors that testify to his talent.
When BAFTA-winning actor Ken Stott says his photos “combine the highest of technical standards with an actor’s intuition to reveal the spirit of his subject,” it’s time to pay attention. Vincenzo Squillino is a top London headshot photographer with a great portfolio of top names like Jessie Buckley and Hayley Atwell.
Working out of his north London studio, Squillino charges £240 for two hours which includes an indoor and outdoor photoshoot with “approximately 200 photos” taken during the session. There is also the promise of biscuits between shoots which cannot be ignored. Like a few other snappers on this list, he’s a jobbing actor (acting as Enzo Squillino Jr) so should be sympathetic to any actorly quirks you might like to reveal...
“Some of the most exceptional headshots are ones that keep it simple. An exact likeness that shows a real moment in time makes a great headshot – a moment of pure connection with your sitter.”
The Breakdown: A classy photographer with a great reputation but you’ll have to factor in train fare to work with her.
A well-established headshot photographer who also does editorial work, Claire Newman-Williams’ clients include Tom Hiddleston, Stephen Fry, and Penelope Wilton. She charges £350 per shoot but treats men and women differently: men get three hours, women four, but have to pay £130 on top for a makeup artist during the shoot. Newman-Williams is based in Chippenham – an hour by train from London, but many consider her reputation well worth the journey.
The Breakdown: Economic headshots for those on a budget.
If money is an issue – and let’s face it, when is it not? – then this might be one to consider. Based in Camden, north London, the studio’s been going for 15 years and they say they get 95% of their business from referrals. Studios4U’s real selling point, though, is their prices which are markedly cheaper than the competition. A one-hour session starts at just £25 and there are £50 deals if you want a makeup artist. As your mum probably once said while you weren’t listening, you get what you pay for – but on the other hand, with prices like this, it’s hard not to take Studios4U into consideration, especially if you’re just starting out.
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