The Best Headshots? Best Headshot Photographer. / by Christian Webb

Christian Webb Photo Headshots NYC

As an actor,  you need a headshot.   So you have to find a photographer.  Naturally, you'll tell yourself that you need to get the "best headshot" you can get. (hopefully you're saying that!)  So with so many photographers out there shooting headshots, how do you actually find "the best?"  What is the the best?  Who is the "best?"  I've had this discussion a few times with a fellow photographers/friends where we talked about the very subject of "best headshot photographer!"  What does that mean exactly and how do you know who the "best" is?  Well, I think I've figured it out and the answer is....

Well, it's not that simple really.  But let's see what we can come up with.

Here's how I see it - There's no such thing as "the best headshot photographer" or the "best headshots!"  There are headshot photographers that shoot headshots and then there's "the BEST headshot photographer for YOU!"   What that means simply is that out of the many choices of photographers an actor can choose, some of them may not be right for any number of reasons.  Pricing may be one factor.  A young actor studying theater and waiting tables at night, barely making rent and bills may not have the budget for "the most expensive" headshots.  For them, the best headshots will be headshots they can afford.   However,  this doesn't mean going out to specifically find a bargain basement headshot photographer.  The first consideration should always be QUALITY and professional level work!  Without out a doubt,  you should treat your headshots as a necessary investment.   A truly professional, dedicated actor knows the importance of a great headshot and how it will serve their career.  They are not looking for the best price, they're looking for the best headshot.  So what to do? 

Shot of actor Jeff Morgan.  This is my normal go to style.  Regardless of style,  the quality of photography is what to look for. 

Shot of actor Jeff Morgan.  This is my normal go to style.  Regardless of style,  the quality of photography is what to look for. 

Start by finding the go to professional photographers in the business and work your way from there.  You'll soon find that even with the variety of styles offered by the top headshot photographers,  there are a few things that are consistent when it comes to their work.  For example,  they'll shoot PROFESSIONAL level images.....meaning - clean, clear, well focused, well composed, sharp images.  The retouching will always be PROFESSIONAL level and look clean and natural.  ALL of these things matter!  Let me repeat: ALL OF THESE THINGS MATTER!  I can't stress this enough to you!  If you spend $1,000 on a headshot or spend $99 for the "all inclusive bargain" headshot...the photography has got to be ON POINT!  Out of focus images - NO GOOD! The eyes aren't sharp, clear, in focus - NO GOOD!  The retouching has you look like your face is melting and is way over smoothed - NO GOOD!!!  You will simply have to get new shots all over again!  

Let's discuss pricing more.   For the most part, you'll find that there is a pretty general price range when you get to the top industry leaders.  The price fluctuations won't be that extreme so you should expect to pay what the "average" standard amount is in your particular region.  Most markets will range somewhere between $300-$800 depending on the packages and such.   Truth told,  if you find a bargain headshot photographer offering "value meal" plans....and they're $200 cheaper than a truly professional, solid photographer with a real reputation in the business, you're better off just taking your time to save up the extra $200!  You should NOT be thinking of your headshot as some random thing you need to just get out of the way and do.  You shouldn't be thinking that any decent shot will be okay.  You shouldn't be lured by cheap pricing gimmicks.  The reason why you're probably going to get better work, better quality at the higher price ranges is simple:  Those photographers have experience and you're paying for that experience. They have the technical skills to deliver solid, high end shots and they know what they're doing.  They're not just talking a good game.  They've been in the game for some time and have proven track records.  Even more,  they are consistent and their work speaks for itself!   Often times, a photographer who is just starting out and looking to build their business and compete will come in the game and offer the "super special" all inclusive deal simply because they haven't reached professional level status yet.  They don't have the technical skills or experience and they are just learning.  That's fine. Everyone has to start somewhere.  But that's NOT who you want to shoot with.  That's like hiring a dentist or doctor still in med school.  Maybe they know a little something something but is that the risk you want to take?  Even if they're decent or okay at what they do,  their overall level of professional work won't measure up upon examination. 

And this is Jeff shot in natural light, portrait orientation.  A completely different look than my normal look.  But....still, clean, clear, focused and a natural retouch. 

And this is Jeff shot in natural light, portrait orientation.  A completely different look than my normal look.  But....still, clean, clear, focused and a natural retouch. 

Now let's talk style.  While there are some basic similarities to a headshot,  there are many photographers with different styles of lighting and set ups.  Some shoot exclusively in studio while many shoot exclusively on location.  Some do both.  Some use natural light only while others may use strobes/speedlights or a combination of both.  The BEST headshot is going to be the headshot that fits the style that YOU like and want.  Or, perhaps your agent/manager recommends a particular style for you.  It's also true that certain markets can have or favor different styles.  Regardless,  a great headshot is a great headshot whether it favors the particular trend of one region/market.  (L.A., NY, ATL) or not.  Something you absolutely MUST understand and keep in mind is this:  There's a difference between a good headshot and a GREAT headshot!!! You have to know the difference and you have to be committed to enough to your career to know that it does matter! 

Another consideration and perhaps an overlooked one,  is making sure that the photographer is actually BEST for you regarding comfortability.  When searching for someone to shoot your headshots, it's important to get a sense of the photographer's personality and their way of working.  Checking referrals, reading their info on their website,  asking around from others who have shot with them before can help in making the decision as to whether a particular photographer is BEST for YOU to work with.  It's not uncommon to find a photographer who has decent work yet, they don't work well or "play nice" with people.  Or perhaps they're personality is too zany, over the top  or just the opposite, too drab and boring.  Making sure you find someone you're comfortable working with is a critical part of getting the BEST headshot that will serve you well. 

My shots, my style...the way I light, compose my subjects and all may not in fact be right for you if you prefer a different style.   But as far as photography goes, all of the elements you should be looking for are present in my work - clean, sharp, well lit,  professionally retouched, contrasty images that "pop" and stand out. 

My shots, my style...the way I light, compose my subjects and all may not in fact be right for you if you prefer a different style.   But as far as photography goes, all of the elements you should be looking for are present in my work - clean, sharp, well lit,  professionally retouched, contrasty images that "pop" and stand out. 

Above all in conclusion, the quality of photography should really be of highest consideration.  A headshot photographer's work should most certainly live up to industry standard as far as lighting, composition and overall professional look. Take a look at their website.  Look through all the portfolios.  Are ALL of the images great or just a few here or there?  Often times, that's a sign of an amateur just starting out and building.  They knock a few shots out of the park every so often but their level of consistency just isn't there.  Look at their retouch and their final images.  Are they professional level or sloppily retouched?  Do the faces look too smooth?  Again, is EVERY image professionally done or just maybe a few?  Just keep in mind that spending the most, doesn't guarantee the BEST either,  but spending very little more than likely won't be good.  Most times there's a reason why you'll pay a premium for a particular person's work and most likely, that photographer's work is probably solid.   And yes, often times, you get what you pay for. 

Bottom line is...please....for the sake of your career....DO NOT RUSH the process!  Take your time! Do not just jump at some random cheap deal to save money.  At the same time, don't think spending a ton of money is going to get you the shots that you want.  Inspect the work of ANY photographer, get feedback, examine everything, ask around and then start to narrow down your options to make a choice.  In the business of headshot photography, with so many photographers to choose from,  a bit of research, shopping around and really taking your time will turn up plenty of options and plenty of great photographers.  Any of which may in fact just be....the BEST for YOU! 

Let me know your thoughts, experiences and feel free to LIKE or SHARE if you found this post helpful!