I’m one of the many East coast actors who made the leap over to the West coast this year. I moved to Los Angeles from New York about 6 months ago and there were a couple words I was dreading hearing upon my arrival. What they were may surprise you… “New Headshots” were actually the two words that I was fearing the most.
Of course, pretty much immediately, the West coast office of my agency told me to get “New Headshots” from a Los Angeles photographer. I feared those words coming, and dreaded hearing them, because I knew how much money it would cost. And I knew that most of my previous headshot shoots had been a bust. So I vowed to make this headshot experience different. I promised myself I’d have fun shooting and finally get pictures that represented the real me! But how?
Well, first I had to figure out what a good LA headshot even was. My agents said LA headshots tend to be more character specific than New York ones. There are so many actors here vying for roles, that your headshots need to be specific for each role you submit for. Your shot needs to jump out as the character to casting directors who spend only about 2 seconds looking at each photo. I thought a lot about that and started brainstorming as to what type of roles I go in for the most.
The part I play the most is the quirky, peppy lead. Think the girl (could be the lead or best friend) in a romantic comedy or whimsical indie. And I’m hoping to be on a comedic sitcom someday soon, so that is all a similar vibe. Think a blonde Zooey Deschanel. Digging deeper, I am also starting to go in for the young professional type. Both for commercials and TV. Similar in a sense to Mamie Gummer in “The Good Wife” or Alison Pill in “The Newsroom.” Most recently I started getting auditions for young wife roles. More specifically juicier young wife roles with a bit of a secret. Think Betty Draper on “Mad Men” season 1. Then I even started pulling photos of these actresses off the internet that I really loved to show my soon-to-be new photographer the vibe I was going for.
My next step was figuring out how to assure I had fun for once during my shoot. My most vivid memory of my last photo shoot in New York was of the prissy photographer complaining about how bushy my eyebrows were and how I kept touching my hair. Awkward. So much for feeling like a celebrity for the day. I paid that photographer to make me feel like an ugly duckling! So I started researching potential photographers as well as their reviews online. Then I sent an email out to my actor friends asking for referrals of photogs they worked with in the past and loved.
After hours online, my top three choices became: Theo & Juliet, Michael Roud, and Dana Patrick. Theo & Juliet’s pictures are bright and captivating. I can imagine most headshots getting lost on a Casting Directors desk, but their pictures popping out amidst a sea of duller photos. The only catch is that they were out of my price range. Michael Roud’s photos are the most powerful and cinematic looking to me. I could immediately picture all of those actors on screen and playing specific roles. Dana Patrick’s pics are super charming. My eye immediately went to all the blondes that were similar to me in type. I like that you could see their personalities. Her photos were not just “pretty,” they had true personality. My only hesitation was that I also wanted a more moody, theatrical shot to vary it up as well. After seeing the video of Michael Roud shooting, I took a deep breath, and decided to go with my gut and book a shoot with him.
The shoot was amazing! I truly had a blast. We played my iPod over the speakers in his spacious North Hollywood studio, his dog Miko kept me company between shots, and his hair/makeup stylist made me feel like a million bucks. Michael was so easy to talk to and really understands the ins & outs of the business. We talked a lot about “type” and he helped me sort through my clothing choices to pick the outfits that would read best for my looks on camera. I got an online gallery of all my shots to show off to my agents. These are the low resolution versions of my photos that are easy to browse. Then I also purchased a disc of high rez versions of my pics to use to print 8x10s as well as use on my website. My agents loved my new headshots and they’re helping me land bigger and better auditions than my old shots ever could have!
I liked Michael so much that when I heard he was looking for a new assistant, I jumped at the chance. Now I help other actors set up sessions with him so their careers can skyrocket to the next level too. I even help him with his blog, a fabulous free resource full of tips for up & coming talent. If you are anything like I was, the thought of getting new headshots can seem crazy intimidating. After all, it’s a financial investment and we place very high expectations on the outcome. Hopefully hearing about my journey to scoring the perfect headshot will make yours a little less daunting. I ended up with killer new pictures, some new friends, and a new job to boot!