In fact, photographers are not hard to find. Even fairly good ones are not rare. However, finding the right headshot photographer for you may take a little effort. Since you may be spending $200.00 to $400.00 for the session, and your shots will represent you to agents and casting directors, you should do your homework before you make your choice.
After getting some recommendations, or finding some possibilities within your price range, make sure you look at their portfolios. Seeing examples of the kind of work they do will not only give you an idea of their technical expertise, you will also be able to see how well each photographer captures his subjects. Even if the shots look good, does he or she work with the kind of actor you are? Photographers who shoot mostly leading men and women may not be as good at capturing the nuances of a character actor.
Note: In the larger cities you may find some photographers who charge as much as $2,000.00 for a shooting session. Unless you are a high fashion model, or are already famous, there is no reason to spend that much for shots that are to be submitted for auditions. Even among regular headshot photographers, the most expensive photographer is not necessarily the best one for you.
While it is important to have a photographer who knows what he's doing technically, you should also find one who will make you feel relaxed and open. So while you are checking out a photographer’s portfolio, talk to him about what you want: how you want to come across, what type of work your shots are going to be submitted for, etc. If he doesn't take the time to talk to you, he may not take the time to do the best job for you, either.
Of course, you need to have a good idea of what you want the shots for. Are you a character actor looking mostly for commercial work, or a young ingénue hoping to be cast in romantic comedies? It is often a lack of self-awareness and/or communication, and not technical problems, that cause an actor to be disappointed with his shots.
If you don't have an agent, I would only get a couple of headshots. Many agents will want you to get new, or different, shots when they take you on. This is because they may have specific ideas about the type of roles they will be submitting you for. Getting just a couple of shots, will also save you some money, as most photographers charge by the number of “looks” (wardrobe changes, different locations and expressions).
Finally, you should ask the photographer in which final format you will receive the headshots. If he uses digital photography, will you receive a DVD containing all the shots? If shooting with film (most headshot photographers use digital), will he give you the negatives? (Personally, I wouldn't use a photographer who didn't give me the negatives.) Do you get any 8x10s included in the price? How about touch-ups and re-shoots if you don't like the shots?
Remember, the photographer is working for you, so politely interview him or her as you would any perspective employee.
More information about what you can do, as an actor, to make your headshots look great will be discussed in a future post.