Sonya is an aerospace engineer who recently contacted me about getting her first headshots.  We wanted to feature her tattoos prominently as they are definitely a selling point for her, type-wise.  We went with a more playful background because, while she’s definitely a badass, there’s a really whimsical, fun side to her personality as well.  Had a blast on the shoot and am pretty thrilled with how the shots turned out!

Coming to New York City, June 17-21!

Once or twice a year I make a trip to New York City to shoot headshots at a discounted rate for my east coast friends.  This year I’m offering a special rate of $150 dollars for an hour and a half session.  Last time I did this it sold out very quickly so reserve your slot ASAP!  Email me at if you’re in NYC.  If you’re interested in a more involved shoot let me know and we can definitely work something out!

What to wear for a headshot session (and what not to)

What do I wear for my headshots?

What should you wear for your headshots?

The question I get asked most is, without a doubt, “What should I wear for my headshot session?” or “How do I pick an outfit for my headshot?”  There are two answers to this question– a general answer and a specific answer.  The general answer is that you should wear an outfit to your headshot shoot that you would wear to an audition– you want to look like a person, not an “actor.”  That means no black turtlenecks, and you don’t need to dress up in a business suit unless you plan on playing a businessman (or businesswoman!).  The actress pictured to the right is frequently ‘typed’ as a cop or lawyer and wanted a headshot that showed that without hitting the nail on the head, so we chose a fitted leather jacket.  Before you start pulling outfits from your closet it’s best to first identify your type .  Check out my blog post on how to figure out your actor type.

Now on to the specifics:

  • Once you’ve identified your “type” bring an outfit that best represents it.  Look at how your “type” is represented in different mediums.  What does your competition wear in commercials, on procedurals, in movies?  There are slight variations for every type. Bring a casual option and a more formal option.
  • Don’t bring clothes with loud patterns or designs.  Avoid writing and logos.  That isn’t to say you should be boring– colors and designs are okay, especially for commercial shots, just make sure that what you’re wearing doesn’t distract from you.  The viewer’s eye should be drawn to your face, not your t-shirt.
  • Bring at least one option that matches your eye color.  This can make your eyes pop.
  • Focus on bringing a variety of necklines– this is all that will show in the majority of your shots.  Girls, avoid spaghetti straps as this can look like you’re in a victoria’s secret ad– unless that’s what you’re going for.
  • Avoid bulky or rumpled clothes.  No christmas sweaters and no wrinkled dress shirts.
  • Don’t worry so much about your pants!  Odds are slim we’ll ever see them.  Girls make sure you wear something comfortable and durable if you’re shooting with me because we’ll be moving around a lot.
  • If there’s one theme here it’s bring a bunch of options!  Even if you don’t end up shooting half of them it’s good to have them with you.
Picking an outfit for headshots

How do I pick an outfit for my headshots?

Those are some ground rules, now feel free to break them.  There are exceptions to every rule– what works for one actor may not work at all for another.  Some actors should absolutely wear solid colors and solid colors alone, but others really can work with patterns.  Even if it’s not something that ends up working for your primary headshot it could be perfect to round out your promotional shots on your webpage and imdb.  The same actress wanted to make sure she got a friendly, approachable shot so she brought her most comfortable plaid shirt as an option.  We didn’t spend a lot of time shooting it but in the shot to the left I think it ended up working out for her.

Lastly, if you have any more questions about what outfit to wear for headshots ask your photographer for advice!  I always have my clients send me a couple of pictures (preferably their old headshots that aren’t working for them) and give them personalized suggestions in our phone consultation.

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Top Ten Ways to Tell if a Talent Agency is a Scam

How do I know if my talent agency is a scam?

You’ve been approached by a talent or modeling agent who wants you to sign with them.  This could be the start of a dream come true or it could be the start of a nightmare.  There are a disturbing number of “agents” and “managers” out there who are just trying to take your money.  Before you enter into any kind of agreement with an agency you need to adequately vet them to make sure they are legit.  Here are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a scam agency.

Top Ten Ways to Spot a Scam Agency

  1. They ask for money up front.  FOR ANYTHING. This cannot be repeated enough.  No matter what reason they give you, DON’T. Even if it sounds legit, DON’T.  If they won’t represent you, count your lucky stars you didn’t sign anything and walk out the door.  Agents make their money by taking a commission WHEN YOU BOOK A JOB.  If you don’t make money, THEY don’t make money.
  2. They require you to take pictures with their in house photographer. Actors are expected to pay for their own headshots (it works a little differently in the modeling world) but you should never feel pressured into working with “their” photographer or makeup artist or web designer.  Most agencies have numerous photographers they recommend but the decision is up to the actor.  Your agent should certainly never be the one behind the camera.  Run.
  3. They demand money to be listed on their website or in their “book.” This just isn’t how the industry works.  Real agents and managers submit your headshot and resume through breakdown services.  If they have a website or “book” it’s a supplement to that and shouldn’t cost you a penny to be in.
  4. They charge you to attend a class, seminar or workshop. Your agent is not your acting coach and they can recommend classes but you shouldn’t be paying them for their advice.  If they offer it for free, great, but they shouldn’t be taking your money.
  5. They advertise themselves in internet ads or the newspaper classified section. Legit agents and managers rarely need to go out looking for new talent– the talent finds them.  They are regularly inundated with headshots and resumes as well as professional recommendations.  If they are spending money to advertise to actors they may be looking to make money off of them, rather than with them.
  6. They claim to represent famous actors or models that they do not. Cross reference their claims against the internet movie database for PROFESSIONALS ( Pro members can not only look up the contact information for most every reputable agency in New York and LA, they can also see their CLIENT LIST!  If an agent claims to represent someone that they do not then they are not someone you want to associate with professionally.  This is also a great resource when deciding between prospective legit agencies.
  7. They guarantee you work. There are no guarantees in this business and not even the top agents or managers can promise you work.
  8. They do not work out of their own office space. If the agency can’t afford to rent a space they probably aren’t making much money from their client’s work.  This is not a hard and fast rule but if you are meeting someone at a studio rented for the day you should have your guard up.  Of course, if they are a very successful scam agency they may have their own offices as well.
  9. There have been complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau. Call your local office and see if there is any information about them.
  10. They are not franchised with Actors Equity or SAG. In Los Angeles or New York City, if an agent is not representing union actors, chances are good they aren’t making their money by securing their clients work.

It can be difficult to spot a scam, even if you are familiar with the warning signs.  These people are pros and can adjust their con job to whoever they are talking to.  They can impersonate a real agent perfectly for weeks, maybe even get you an appointment or two (real or fake), and then go in for your cash.  It isn’t always cut and dry– they could be representing you AND taking advantage of you.  I don’t think it pays to be paranoid but if something feels off– it usually is.


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How do I tell what my type is?

How to figure out your actor type:

People talk a lot about “type” in this industry but the concept of type is inherently flawed.  Of course you’re more complex than a single type!  You’re a small town girl from Ohio but you trained at RADA and you love nothing more than rocking out to 80s hair metal!  You’re worldly and wise, down to earth AND a scatterbrained dreamer with your head in the clouds.  Once you’re established as an actor you’ll have the chance to portray characters as multi-faceted as you are, but in the meantime you need to be able to market yourself in a way that is targeted, specific and immediately accessible to agents, managers and casting directors.  You have to know how to speak their language.

So what’s an actor’s “type,” exactly?

Kit Pictures, Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

The Boy Next Door

Your “type” is less about who you are, intrinsically, as a person or an actor, and more about who people perceive you to be.   It’s your first impression, plain and simple, and your default casting.  Knowing and understanding your type is a key component to marketing yourself to agents and managers.  What type of actor are you?  If you have a wholesome, girl-next door look you shouldn’t send out a headshot that exudes exotic sensuality, for example.  Don’t send mixed messages.  If you want to play the exotic beauty then you need to look like the exotic beauty inside of you at default.  Your headshot needs to reflect what people see when you walk into a room.  That is your “actor type.”

How do you tell what your type is?

Kit Pictures, Los Angeles Headshot Photography

The Quirky, Smart Girl

Lesly Kahn does a fantastic exercise on the first day of her comedy intensive where she holds up your headshot and asks the class (a group of total strangers) to call out adjectives that describe the person in the picture.  She then has you stand up and take notes on the type of roles they think you could play.  If your two lists are different it might be time to think about getting new headshots.

I also know an agency that holds “typing sessions” for new clients, where all the agents and assistants fill out a questionnaire based on a short meeting.

The key similarity between both of these exercises is that you are gathering the opinions of strangers. Your close friends and family might have a difficult time being objective about your type because they know just how complex and wonderful you really are– they’re never going to tell you that you’re the quirky computer expert after they’ve seen you play Hamlet!

I’m not saying you won’t get to play meaty dramatic roles in your career– you may get the chance right away!  There is no single established path to success in this business.  But knowing your type is a useful tool that can help you understand and exploit the assumptions people make about you at a glance and this knowledge can help you get the most out of your headshot session.


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Should I get my headshots retouched?

Another question I get all the time is “Should I have my headshots retouched?” or, alternately “How much should I have my headshots retouched?”

The short answer is yes.  It is now an industry standard for actor headshots to be retouched.  Your headshot will be compared to and judged against headshots that have digitally whitened teeth, smoothed over skin and brightened eyes.  That being said, casting directors have trained their eyes to notice excessive retouching by looking at thousands of pictures every day and have little to no patience for people who have turned their headshots into cartoon caricatures.

I chose this example because the original picture was problematic– the light wasn’t quite right and the subject’s hair was a mess. In the rest of the shoot the hair behaved but in this shot– which ended up being his commercial agent’s favorite– it had a mind of his own. The skin was also smoothed out slightly and the eyes brightened, but by and large the finished project looks like the subject in real life. And in case you were wondering, yes this is a self portrait!

A good rule of thumb is to make sure your headshot lines up with your own reflection.  Is that a photograph of you on your best day or a photograph of a stranger?  Don’t be afraid to ask your friends opinion.  The question to ask is not “Do I look good?” but “Does this picture look like me?

The follow up question, of course, is “Where should I get my headshots retouched?”  The answer to this question is often the same as the answer to “Where should I get my headshots printed?”  I generally refer my clients to Reproductions in New York City and Argentum Photo Lab in Los Angeles for both printing and retouching.  It’s very helpful to be able to look at a test print to see how the retouched photo looks on paper.

That being said, retouching at these photo labs can be on the pricey side and you can save money by going through an independent retoucher.  How much does retouching cost? That depends on the retoucher, but I’ve never heard of a legit retoucher charging more than $35 an image. Many photographers do their own retouching or work with a professional.  I have recently started working with Roman Faiman from 4-8 Designs. He did the all the retouching examples you see in this blog.

Above all don’t be afraid to voice your opinion to your retoucher. If they are making you look ten years younger– stop them! Explain that you want a natural picture that shows how you really look. You can’t go wrong if your headshot accurately represents what you look like when you walk into the casting office.


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How much should I pay for headshots?

How much do headshots cost? How much SHOULD headshots cost? How much is too much for headshots and how much is not enough for headshots? Every actor has an opinion on the subject and odds are good their opinion is that you should pay however much they paid for theirs!

The real answer depends on where you live and what you’re looking for. Top photographers in New York can charge upwards of $1,100, more with hair and makeup included. Concurrently, you can walk into a photo studio in the mall and pay $50. With the former you will receive hundreds of professional pictures that look pulled from the pages of a fashion magazine. With the latter you will most likely walk away with one or two usable pictures that look pulled from the pages of a high school year book. I’m not saying that you can’t get by with a $50 headshot– if you shine through in the photograph then you shine through in the photograph. I’m also not saying you need to spend $1,100 on your headshot– a slick, expensive looking shot might not suit your type. It all boils down to what type of image you want to present.

Are you just dipping your toe in the water, looking to do background work and maybe submit on small parts on or Then a basic picture that shows what you look like with a plain background might serve you until you decide you want to take the plunge and make pursuing acting a major priority.

Do you look like Angelina Jolie? Have you just shot a great part in a studio feature and need a picture that says “I’m the next big thing?” Then expensive headshots might be a good investment for you.

Now what if neither of these scenarios apply to you? Then odds are goods that you are like the majority of serious actors. Both starting out and established, working actors need headshots and they need them once a year, on average. Every time your look changes dramatically you need new headshots. Oftentimes when you acquire or change representation you need new headshots. If you aren’t getting the results you want from mailings to agents and managers or submitting yourself for parts on actors access or backstage– you guessed it– you need new headshots.

Financially it just doesn’t make sense to spend that much money on your headshots every year– it’s not a good investment. That’s why many photographers, especially in Los Angeles, fall in between the two extremes. I currently charge $400 for a longer shoot and $200 for a shorter shoot, if you just need a few looks. Before I started my photography business, I went to photographers of every budget level and I can honestly say that I was most satisfied by mid-price photographers. It’s just my opinion, but I’ve found that good photographers start at around $150. I personally don’t believe in spending more than $600 on headshots. Anything past that and you’re not paying for the picture– you’re paying for the security of going with an established “name” photographer. That’s certainly worth something but I’m not personally willing to spend hundreds of dollars when I can secure the same piece of mind through properly researching and vetting a photographer before booking a session with them. I wouldn’t pay that much money as an actor and I wouldn’t charge that much money as a photographer. With a mid-price photographer you get quality without busting the bank and many of them offer quarterly specials if you keep your eyes out, especially during pilot season (wink wink).

There are, of course, no hard and fast rules when it comes to headshots. You could find great headshots for $100 in Idaho– or you could get useless pictures for $900 in NYC– but your odds of getting a good photographer and your odds of walking away feeling good about how much you spent increase dramatically when you do your research.


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