Five Things to Look for in a Headshot Photographer

1. I have always been a firm believer that testimonials are the clearest indicators of professionalism in the headshot industry (or any industry for that matter). One of the first things you should look for when deciding on your photographer is not only the rating, but the content of the rating: Do the reviewers mention getting their photos in a timely manner? Do people seem to be very passionate about suggesting this photographer or seem just satisfied enough? You can learn a lot about what experience to expect before ever walking through the door, so start your search here.

2. I rank this number two, but I’m sure the first thing you are really going to look at is the portfolio. There are a lot of factors here and just because they are titled “headshot photographer” doesn’t mean their styles match your needs. There is an abundance of locations who can give very standard, close-crop and flatly lit headshots, but perhaps you are an actor who needs one personable commercial shot and a secondary dramatically lit pose: this is where the photographer’s ability to really utilize light and verbal guidance comes in. Take a thorough look at their portfolio and ask yourself if it has a wow factor and if YOUR application could use THIS style.

3. The quality of a website is also a very clear indicator of a photographer’s professionalism: an updated website shows an individual who keeps up with modern technology while the organization and overall presentation says everything about how they will likely be with their delivery of photography goods. Does the website seem a bit messy and hard to navigate? Chances are, that’s how everything from the invoicing to their editing may be. Is everything clean and streamlined? This photographer has taken the time to care for their presentation and it’s almost guaranteed that it will translate into the way they operate with their clients.

4. Get on the phone or shoot an email to this headshot photographer. How quickly did they get back to you if they weren’t able to answer initially? Did they respond to that email with proper grammar and punctuation? How did you feel while you talked to them? Conversing with your photographer will be insight into how comfortable you will be getting your headshots done by them and how easy they will be to get in contact with. If you have an important deadline to meet, this will be key!

5. Finally, pricing should be part of your deciding process (but lower on the priority list). There’s a great saying, “Good photography aint cheap and cheap photography aint good.” Headshot photography pricing can certainly range from $100-1k (depending on the project), but so long as the price is feasible, you have to then consider how beneficial the headshot will be: How many applications are you submitting this headshot on? Is this going to be the face of your professional LinkedIN profile? How important is it to have wowing headshot in a stack of other applicants? How long will you be using this headshot? Chances are, you’ll get anywhere from 6 months to a year of use (though I know many who push it longer). When you consider this and the work you may land by utilizing a great headshot, does the price still seem unreasonable?

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What makes a Great Headshot

A great headshot is something that communicates to the person reviewing your application who you are and what you are about while staying true to who and what you actually are. Sounds complex, but here’s the thing: you want to target your look to what you are applying for, but if you walk through the door and don’t match the photos, you just might burn some bridges.


Let’s take an example of a middle aged actress updating her headshots for a role in one of Atlanta’s numerous filmings. The proofs come back and everything looks great, but she thinks, “Maybe I’ll have a better chance if the editor brightens my teeth, slims my waist and removes the smile lines that have begun appearing?” If she acts on that impulse to idealize her appearance, as soon as she walks through the door for casting, her credibility will be shot. If she doesn’t, the casting director will have no initial negative reaction regarding false advertisement and will be able to feel confident throughout the process of what roles they can actually see her in.

 

Of course, when I discuss the need to keep the natural you intact, I don’t mean skipping on a hair and makeup artist and coming in with neutral expression and attire. It is still highly advisable to dress the part and implement subtle cues so that the person viewing your headshot can gather a sense of the type of roles you come in targeting.
If you want those comedic roles, present a fun personality to the camera. If you want roles on crime investigation shows, come in dressed professionally and with an air of seriousness. This process is about targeting your audience, communicating who you are all while being honest about who you actually are.

 

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Top 6 Ways to Have A Stress Free Headshot Session

Stressed about your upcoming headshot session? Here are a few ways to combat that feeling:

  1. Practice! Just like everything else in life, the best way to feel at ease when performing or presenting anything is by practicing. Chances are, you are already familiar with what your best face angles are – test out different looks prior to your headshot session so you know that you have some solid go-to poses.
  2. Research. Not sure what to do in front of the camera other than smile and tilt your head a few directions? Stop right now and start Googling! Researching what others in your industry are doing for their headshots will give you a wealth of ideas for posing and what is standard practice. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to go through your proofs and only see 1-2 deer in headlight expressions.
  3. Hire professionals. More than half of my clients call in and ask what they should do with their hair and makeup and let me tell you, how you do your makeup for the office will not necessary translate under studio lights. Inquire about professional hair and makeup artists to ensure your look is covered. These artists should help give you a look you are comfortable with while ensuring those details appear on film.
  4. Ask questions. Your photographer is there to not only take photos the day of, but help you prepare you for your session. No photographer should bat an eye at a client asking for posing or outfit suggestions.
  5. Have a backup plan. Sometimes you choose your favorite outfit only to see it on film not translating the way you thought it might. I always suggest bringing at least one change of outfit and variations such as a correlating blazer, scarf or jewelry. Not only does adding or removing these accessories really give you variety in your look, it ensures that you have a backup if your first choice doesn’t work out.
  6. Prepare a toiletry bag. At Lola Land Photography, we have a hair/makeup station that is fully stocked with blotting papers for an oily face, floss, shaving razors, hair spray, lint rollers and more, but not all studios will have these things on hand. Prepare for details they may have slipped your mind or for events that you might not expect (bad weather smudging makeup, etc). By packing a bag of hair brushes, makeup for touchups, lotion, floss, tooth brush and similar items, you can ensure unforeseen smudges and 5 o’clock shadow won’t hinder your session.

 

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