Who Decides What the Style of an Actor’s Headshot Should Be?

What I mean by this question is ‘the general style’ of the headshot. Should the headshot be simply a head and shoulders, should it be cropped tightly, can we crop-off the top of the head, should we pull out to include more of the torso like headshots in the USA, should it have strong shadows so we can only see half of the face, should it be heavily retouched to give almost unrealistic skin tones as some photographers like?

As an actors headshot photographer in London I have to comply with the requests of my clients – the actors, I also have to understand the what the market wants – the agents, casting directors etc. and I also have to fulfill my own creativity within these boundaries.

Am I right to discourage a UK actor from wanting an American style headshot? Sometimes my clients arrive with ideas from websites or magazines and want a headshot similar to them because they like the feel of the shot and want to look like the actor in this shot. Equally so, some actors have seen shots that are badly cropped-in very close so that the face fills the frame and like this style. There has also been a growing trend to ‘crop-off’ the top of the head in recent times – I often wonder why?

I think my main duty is to my client and to give them what they want in a headshot. However saying this I photograph many actors who are new to the business and have very little knowledge of how the industry works, – I consider it incredibly important to advise these clients and offer my knowledge and experience on what is suitable, what works best for them and ultimately what is going to get them noticed by the right people. On a slightly different note; it amazes me how poorly prepared most actors are when graduating from schools, colleges and universities in this side of the business. They may well have good stage skills or be well versed in different acting methods but are often under prepared in the business side of acting.

Duty Or Creativity?

I consider it my duty or part of my service because I believe it’s an essential part of my job and also partly for purely business reasons. I can’t deny I want repeat bookings and hope my clients will recommend me to their friends and colleagues but I also believe passing on my knowledge in a good way is beneficial to my clients understanding of how the industry works.

Another option is to go wild with creative abandon but to what end? Is it to satisfy my own ego or to try and blaze a new style in headshots? I think this is the wrong attitude to have. If I have a need to be more creative than I am with headshots then I should shoot in a different style, perhaps fashion headshots or editorial style shots. This is not to say that – and this is important – shooting actors headshots is not creative or that it does not satisfy the creativity of headshot photographers – this is not what I’m saying at all.

There are plenty of general photographers who dabble in headshots as a way of making more money without fully understanding the niche, or the possible negative effects that a poor headshot can have on an actors career. My creative buzz comes from the absolute pleasure in getting a great headshot for an actor that I know is going to help them in their career. Especially those actors who are uncomfortable sitting in front of the stills camera. Drawing out of an actor something from deep within them to make their headshot sparkle, to give it the wow factor. For without the wow factor it’s just another headshot in the crowd.