I recently had a phone conversation with an actress who had just spent $150 on headshots but her agents were not happy with the shots. After seeing them, they suggested she get headshots taken by one of the photographers on their preferred list. She told me that her favorite photographer on their list was too expensive, and that her new budget was $200. She’d decided to do her own research and found me… but her budget was $200. I think you know where I’m going with this… she wasn’t going to pay for my services either because I’m also “too expensive”.
My advice to her was that she spend the big money with the photographer she liked that was on her agents’ preferred list. My reasoning was that while her budget is $200, she will now be spending a total of $350 because she has to reshoot, and yet she might still not have headshots that work! I’ll get to why in a minute. At that point, she will have either learned a lesson, you get what you pay for, and will have spent $350 for nothing. Having learned her lession, she’ll eventually spend the $500 on the expensive photographer, rocketing her total spend to $850. Of course, she may not learn that lesson and continue to spend $200 over and over again, putting her career on hold, and risk losing her agents.
Why might the $200 photographer not provide her with headshots that work? Because the $200 photographer is probably just starting out, putting together a portfolio, or is doing photography part time to supplement another income. While there is nothing wrong with that — all of us started somewhere — but his or her rookie-status probably means the $200 photographer hasn’t a clue about industry standards for headshots. The reason agents and managers have a preferred list is not because they simply feel like it or they want to make your life more expensive, thus miserable, but because the photographers on their list consistently provide them with the standards and quality casting directors look for in a headshot.
Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself how casting directors judge your headshots. Read this article and follow the link to the provided SAG panel.
Lynn Yang: Urban Hip / Young Mom
Frederick Koch: Creative European / Hipster / Villain
Marilyn Tokuda: Upscale Wife / Backyard BBQ Mom
Kathy DiStefano: Intern / Tomboy
Laura Avnaim: Back Yard BBQ Mom / Heroine
Jessica Larkin: Fashionista / Casual Mom
Cassidy Schiltz: Medical Professional / Bartender / Office Worker / Anti Heroine
Shannen Wilson: Nerdy Kid / Jonathan Wilson: Bully
Leo Cheung: Silicon Valley / Best Friend / Blue Collar
Poonam Basu: Hipster / Creative Professional
Allen Lucky Weaver: Flamboyant Gallery Owner / Beer Guy / Computer Tech / Guy Next Door