9 Tips for Choosing a Headshot Photographer

No matter the industry, choosing the right headshot photographer can be a make or break decision. Whether you are applying for jobs, interfacing with potential clients or auditioning for a new role, the first thing people will see is a headshot and it’s important to make a great first impression.

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The right headshot starts with the right photographer. A good photographer will be able to take high quality shots that look professional. They will also have some knowledge of the industry that will help you get the shots you need.

The process for finding a headshot photographer could include browsing different web sites and social media pages and getting recommendations from friends and agents. But to really determine the photographer that is right for you, it’s a good idea to speak with them and be inquisitive. Be sure to ask plenty of questions to get a better understanding of their processes and vision. This will also help you get comfortable with them so you will be more relaxed at your photo shoot.

When meeting with a photographer, there are certain things you should look out for that will help you determine if they are right for you. Here are some factors to consider.

Are They a Headshot Photographer?

Sure, everyone knows a photographer. Maybe your uncle takes pictures of scenery. Maybe your best friend is a product photographer.

While these people might have the right equipment and know how to frame a shot, you want to look for someone who is experienced with headshots specifically. A true headshot photographer will be familiar with industry standards and he or she will provide you with a shot that is most likely to get you work.

Do They Have Testimonials?

In this internet-based world, you want to find a photographer with plenty of client testimonials. However, it’s not just about high ratings, it’s about what past clients are saying about these photographers.

A photographer may have a lot of positive reviews, but they may not fit in with what you are looking for. For instance, a client may say that they enjoyed a photographer’s high energy, but this won’t work if are looking for a more relaxed vibe.

Pay attention to what reviews are saying about how the photographer acts and communicates, how attentive they are and what additional services they provide. This will help you find a match that’s right or you.

Take a Look at Their Portfolio

The proof is in the pudding and nothing will let you know if a photographer’s work is up to standards more so than looking at their portfolio.

When looking at a photographer’s portfolio you want to see if the subjects look relaxed. A skilled photographer will know how to work with their clients to get them into a relaxed state, so they won’t look stiff and uncomfortable.

You also want to make sure the photos aren’t overly processed. While a little bit of retouching is necessary every now and then, too many edits will give photos an unrealistic look that can do more harm than good.

Avoid Cookie Cutter Looks

For some photographers, taking headshots is formulaic. If you look over a photographer’s portfolio and you are seeing identical shots of all their clients, it means they are not taking the time to think of their subjects as individuals and they are not considering what works best for them.

Photographers should have the skill to pay attention to their clients’ needs and make sure their photos bring out their personalities. If every shot has the same composition, angle, lighting and background, it means the photographer is not doing all they can to provide you with shots that will make you stand out.

Consider Chemistry

Posing for pictures is not easy for everyone. Even actors who are used to being in front of a camera can freeze up during a photo shoot. That’s why it’s important to find a photographer you feel comfortable with.

Make sure the photographer you choose is someone who shares your vision and is easy to talk to. If they can tell you jokes to get you to flash a genuine smile, that’s an added bonus.

Not every photographer will work well with every individual. Talk to a few of your prospects to determine who is right for you.

Consider Styles

Every photographer has their own style, and this should be in line with what you are looking for as well as the modern trends of the industry.

Some photographers classify headshots into having either a West Coast or East Coast vibe. West Coast shots have an organic feel with blurry backgrounds, natural lighting and relaxed facial expressions. East Coast shots have simple backgrounds, and more dramatic lighting and facial expressions.In some cases, photographers can mix East Coast and West Coast styles for nice, clean images that can be used in a variety of settings.

The setting requirements for photos can change over time as well. Once 8x10” black on whites on glossy paper where standard for the industry. Today, color is required, digital submissions are popular and both vertical and horizontal images are acceptable.

Consider the look you are going for and the market you are submitting to when looking for a photographer with a style that works for you.

Think About Costs

A headshot can range wildly in price. There are photographers who focus on quality over quantity and will do headshots for $99 but you can also spend $1,500+.

Obviously, you can’t exceed your budget by too much, but going with the cheapest photographer may not be a good idea either. A low price could mean low quality and if your photos aren’t good enough, they won’t get you work resulting in a huge waste of time and money.

And while it’s not a good idea to go with the cheapest photographer you can find, the most expensive one might not mean you will be getting the highest quality shots. Therefore, it is best to go with a photographer you feel good about working with. Base your decision on chemistry rather than money.

Find Out What's Included in the Package

When working with a photographer, a client must find out what’s included in the fee. If the price the photographer is quoting only includes the taking of the pictures, you could be left with a lot of additional and unexpected expenses.

Here are some things that may or may not be included in the fee:

  • Additional Images and High Res JPGs: Find out how many images you will be getting and the quality of those images.
  • A Hair and Makeup Artist: Many actors cut costs by doing their own hair and makeup. However, this is not advisable as an unprofessional job can ruin the look of the pictures. Hiring someone to do makeup and hair can increase the price of your photo shoot considerably. Make sure to ask if this service is included in the price of the shoot in advance.
  • What if I’m Not Happy with the Results? If an individual is not happy with the outcome of their photo shoot, some photographers may be willing to reshoot at a discounted rate. Others will include touchups in the cost of the shoot which can help clients get the results they are looking for. Find out if your photographer offers these services in advance so you know what you can expect from your shoot.
  • Licensing: Ask the photographer if the shoot includes licensing that would allow you to publish or alter the photos after they have been taken. That way, you can make sure you don’t run into any hidden fees or legal issues in the future.

Quality of Service

Just like in any industry, customer service is very important in photography. Your photographer should return emails and phone calls promptly and be transparent about providing you with the information you need.

Scheduling also plays a big role in customer service in the photography industry. Find out how far out the photographer is scheduled, how soon he can fit you in and how soon he can get you your shots.

Some photographers will shoot several head shot sessions in one day. If this is the case, make sure they are able to get through all their shoots in a timely fashion so that you can get in at out within the time you are scheduled for.

Getting great headshots starts with finding the right photographer. Make sure the person you are working with has the skills to get you the most out of your photo shoot. This will make all the difference when it comes to finding the jobs that will move you forward in your career.


Check out a few images from some recent headshot and portrait shoots


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