I Just Told Someone I’m Not The Photographer For Them

[Written By One of Top Headshot Photographers Vanie Poyey]

I recently had an interesting consultation with someone on the phone.

She LOVED my work and she was very much interested in shooting with me. As usual, I started to ask questions about “type” and any notes she may have from her reps to share with me.

Her response was that she had done headshots with “types” in the past and it didn’t work for her, so this time she wanted to shoot “general” headshots.

Sabrina Miller: From top left: Casual Business/Edgy Heroine/Creative Professional/Best Friend or Sidekick


That statement is a red flag for me on so many levels.

First and foremost, my entire brand is built on consulting you on defining your types and getting specific with your headshots. I’m not the “general” headshot photographer AT ALL.

I’m not going to be able to please someone looking for just general headshots.

So naturally, I had to dig deeper.

I asked for her website so that I can take a look at her past photos and see how she’s defining “types.”

Jamie Hill: Edgy Thug / Blue Collar / Military

Jerry Chu: Guys’ Night Out / Caroline Dingwall: Casual Business-Student

Leah Verrill: BBQ Mom / Casual Business-Secretary / Blue Collar

Turned out, all her photos had the same expression in different outfits. In fact, all her photos had a recurring theme, which was “sexy,” even when it wasn’t appropriate for that particular “type.”

For example, when trying to look like a Mom, she had a seductive face, and therefore was contradicting the message of the “type.”

That’s a sure way to ensure your headshot doesn’t work.

Of course I explained this to her, and as we continued to talk, she complimented my work again, and expressed how much she loves the personality in my shots.


Then she went on to say how much she loved the bright colors in my work. Blush.?

And then came the statements which reminded me my antennas sensed a red flag.

Dartagnan Woods: Hip Friend / Athletic / Guys’ Night Out

Christina Orloff: Casual Business – Office Girl / Best Friend

She showed me two sample photos (probably grabbed from the web) that she really liked and wanted to emulate.

Mind you, not only were these two sample photos lacking personality, they looked nothing like my work.

They were of beautiful women, looking extremely sultry, in dark and moody settings, with dark and moody backgrounds.

Lynn Carter: Casual Business-Office Girl / Gamer / Blue Collar


The first question in my mind was why wouldn’t she find a photographer with a portfolio resembling these images? After talking a bit more, I realized she is not going to be a convert.


I respectfully told her I’m not the photographer for her and referred her to another colleague I thought would best suit her needs.

HERE’S THE THING. She wanted something from me that is not in my wheelhouse, not my jam. I think she liked ME from what she gathered on my website, and she liked my work, but in fact, my work isn’t right for her.

Lestarea Williams: Detective / BBQ Dad / Edgy Criminal

Janéy Friend: BBQ Mom / Casual Business

Joaquin Ticonderoga: Creative Professional-Silicon Valley / Hipster

In fact, if she did work with me, I’d do my best to give her what she wants, but it wouldn’t come naturally to me, and I would surely disappoint her. She won’t get the results she wants,  and I won’t have a happy client.

UNFORTUNATELY, I can’t always sense in advance when I’m not the right photographer for someone.

A few people will sneak past my radar and end up wanting “beauty” shots the day of their session, like the client whose manager called me saying she didn’t get any upscale high fashion shots from our session.??‍♀️

Brittani Ebert: Casual Business-Teacher / BBQ Mom / Upscale Business-Lawyer

Jay Jee: Upscale Business-Detective / Edgy Anti-Hero

If you’re one of those people who only wants to look pretty in all your shots, know that while there is nothing wrong with that at all, first and foremost, make sure you’re on brand.

Shooting with a photographer who specializes in making everyone look like a super model may satisfy your immediate desires, but it won’t gain you traction in the business if you’re not *ACTUALLY* that type.

Second, always make sure that the images you want to end up with are in her portfolio!

Ever shot with the wrong person and realized afterward?


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  1. Micci Toliver

    As an experienced “Union” Actor, what I don’t know, definitely hurts me.
    That starts with my headshots, which is why I’m going to poyeyphotos in March.
    And I live in San Francisco.

  2. Silvia Mathis (Manning)

    This JUST happened to me! It’s only happened to me once before but this time…smh!

    I am not a newbie. I have been a professional working actress since I was a child. I am also a professional make-up artist with film, television, print, and runway credits. I have styled many shoots for myself and others – successfully. I understand MY brand as an actress, and I understand the progression of my brand and how it’s changed over the years. I just shot great headshots in 2017. I love them but they are very blonde and I have very long, jet black hair now.

    That said, I recently shot with a photographer whose website and insta I love. We emailed. I sent him recent headshots. We spoke, I booked the session packed multiple looks for each ‘type’ hoping to pull out at least three or four that day, brought my make-up kit along just in case, hair tools, even tear sheets of other actresses in my demo.

    I thought we had an accord – LOL! First, the make-up artist was late. Then, the photographer barely even looked at any of my clothes, accessories, tear sheets or anything. He kept assuring me that he had something in mind. During the shoot, I could feel that it wasn’t working but I’d spent the money, looked so forward to the day, driven several hours and to be honest was getting heat from my reps, so I carried on with the shoot.

    I laughed, smiled, let the passive-aggressive #metoo slights roll off and tried to ease the uneasiness. I did my best not to let myself get swept under the tide of, ‘Oh my God, I can’t wait for this to be over!’

    As soon as I got in the car I cried. Cried more when I got home and when the digital proofs showed up I was mortified. As I said, I am someone who loves to shoot, I love to make a connection with a great photographer that I can go to again and again.

    We did manage to pull out some sort of cool shots that really highlight my deep Cherokee and multi-ethnic heritage. Honestly, there are a couple that I could ‘make work’. But they are honestly so Native American Specific that they can’t be used for main auditions. They would be considered the ‘additional shot options’ that we are sometimes asked to put forward for very specific things. That said, HELP!!!

    I am in Los Angeles until the middle of September. I am out here doing multiple pitch meetings for the Producer side of me but what I need is GREAT headshots for the Actress Side of me to give to my reps, for my website, and all of the casting sites.

    My website is under construction because I have an entirely new team working on all of that, but I can send multiple headshots, my Insta, IMDb, etc.. So you can get an idea of me.

    Thank you so much. I know that was long. “-)


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