Actor’s headshot Q and A

Should I get B&W or color Headshots?

This goes in cycles. Years ago, after color prints became widely available, the theory was that black and white was timeless, and gave you legitimacy. Then color took over. A couple years ago, a few agents and managers started favoring B&W again, because it makes your headshot stand out from the rest. But that was yesterday. Today, virtually everyone recommends color only. And generally speaking, you should go with natural color. Avoid heavily tinted, manipulated or filtered color – most often, it just ends up making your headshot quickly look passé or dated. Very rarely, a specific look WILL look great when the color is treated, but most often, it suggests that the photographer is just trying to show off their skills,and now the headshot is more about them than you and that’s never good!

Should I get a commercial or theatrical headshot done?

You should get both, and any competent headshot photographer can give you both from a single photo session. A commercial headshot is what you use when going for a print job or some other activity where you will be repping a brand or selling a product or service. Most often, a commercial headshot will show you smiling, preferably showing your teeth. A theatrical headshot is used for casting for motion picture, TV, or the theatre, and is more about you as a character. It may be dramatic, comic, or neutral, with a smile or without, depending on who you are and the type of roles you are seeking.

Horizontal or vertical?

Headshots are traditionally vertical. A few photographers favor horizontal images, arguing that they are more interesting visually, and will make your headshot stand out from all the vertical ones. But be careful! When placed in a set of thumbnails such as on a casting site, that horizontal image may end up not showing your face. So we still recommend vertical for theatrical headshots, with a little more leeway for commercial.

All the advice online says a good headshot should cost $300 to $500. If you guys are so good, why do you charge so much less?

Because most good headshot photographers are located in big cities like NYC and LA. Almost everything in those cities, from studio space to transportation costs four times what it does here in the Capital Region. We have a nice 2000 square foot studio loft with both natural window light and studio flash, just like the best Manhattan headshot studios – but we don’t pay ridiculous Manhattan rents, so we pass the savings along to you. Honestly, anything else would just be greedy.

Which is better, natural or studio light?

There’s no easy answer to this one. It depends on a huge list of variables, including your skin tone, features, hair type, the photographer’s skill (or lack thereof!). . .you name it. So we almost always shoot in both types of light, and you can decide later which works best for you. If weather permits, we also shoot a look or two outdoors.

I’m a guy — do I need to have makeup done for my actor’s headshot?

If you routinely wear makeup, or if your roles or activities in front of the camera require you to wear makeup (on-camera news staff, for example) than yes, you should have makeup done for your headshot session. For the rest of you, we say no.