Selecting a Bay Area Headshot Photographer

Selecting the right Bay Area headshot photographer can be a daunting task, however YCN is here to help! Headshots are an actor’s No. 1 marketing tool. Don’t jump into it blindly. Get out there and do the work, ask questions, and use our tips to finding the right Bay Area headshot photographer to make sure that the end results are professional headshots that get you cast.

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Understanding the business and current trends
It surprises me that many photographers are not aware of how the industry actually works or are not up on the current standards and trends. Good photographers get out there and talk with casting directors and agents.

Because Casting Directors are getting thousands of submissions per role and looking at the submissions as thumbnails, it’s important that the actor be the main focus. You might think that’s a given, but looking at headshots every day, I’m amazed that some photographers are still shooting in front of brick walls, bushes and trees, or using incredibly busy backgrounds. Right now, most casting directors and agents are looking for clean crisp backgrounds (white/gray/monochromatic) allowing the actor to be the focus while highlighting their specific type and branding. Industry trends and standards are constantly changing—make sure that you, your headshots, and your photographer change with them.

Photographers know lighting and angles, but they don’t know you
You’ve probably only spoken to your photographer briefly over the phone or during your initial meeting. Sure, they can see your type and (hopefully) know the roles that you should be targeting, but they don’t know what makes you special within your type/category. Many photographers feel they “know better” or that they know how to bring out your individuality, but end up saying the exact same things to every actor. This is why so many headshots look exactly the same, with exactly the same expressions. The right photographer is open to hearing your thoughts and your opinions, and will happily work with you to bring out those aspects that separate you from the other actors in your category.

Does gender matter?
The gender of the photographer does not make them a good or bad photographer, but it can make for good or bad pictures. It’s basically a personal preference. When I was younger, part of my branding and marketability had to do with having a sexual vibe. I felt more comfortable shooting those shots with a female photographer. What’s most important is that the actor feel comfortable, relaxed, and open enough to expose certain aspects of their personality and branding in front of a photographer. Whether that is a male or female photographer is up to you.

Verify referrals
Just because one photographer worked well for someone in your class or at work does not mean that he will be great for you. Referrals are the best place to start, but you have to ask the right questions: Did you like working with this photographer? Would you shoot with them again? Are the pictures getting you called in, or, more importantly, getting you booked? How does the photographer work with actors? Are they up on all industry needs and trends? Is the photographer willing to meet and talk beforehand? Are they open to the actor’s input?  Agents and managers are also a great reference since they all have a referral lists. Besides asking the previous questions, you also need to ask them when they last updated their list, and why they are referring these particular photographers.

Ask Questions
Here are some questions to ask a prospective photographer:

  • How many shots do you take?
  • How many images will I get for the price of the shoot?
  • Do you shoot with studio or natural lighting?
  • What clothing should I bring?
  • Do you provide a hair and makeup person? Is this included in the fee?
  • Do you do the retouching?
  • If I am not happy with the results will you reshoot?

Recommended Bay Area Headshot Photographers:

Kirsten Lara Getchell Photography (Berkeley)

DC Composition (Oakland)

Lisa Keating Photography (San Francisco)

Kurty Photography (San Francisco)

Heidi Alletzhauser (San Francisco)

Headshot Photography by Karaminder (San Francisco)

Eddie Hernandez Photography (San Francisco)

San Francisco Headshots (San Francisco)

Slava Blazer Photography (San Francisco)

SRK Headshot Day (Bay Area)

Molly Kate Photography (Bay Area)

Ben Krantz (Oakland)

Across the Sea Photography (Concord)

Jenni Chapman Photography (San Jose)