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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Posted in Advice for actors
Tagged Actor Headshots, headshot retouching, Headshots, how much should retouching cost, Los Angeles Headshots, New York Headshots, printing headshots, retouched headshots, retouching, should I get my headshot retouched?, the best place to get headshots printed, What should my headshots look like?, where do I get my headshot printed, where should I get my headshots retouched
A question I get asked a lot is “should my headshots be horizontal or vertical?” Flipping through portfolios you’ll see that some photographers clearly favor one over the other. Peter Hurley, for example, almost exclusively shoots horizontal shots, while Theo and Juliet have a tendency to favor vertical headshots. There are many schools of thought on this.
Horizontal headshots allow you to fill more of the page in a printed headshot, but it’s important to note that the printed copy of your headshot has become secondary to the file that your agent uses to submit you for projects online. If you’ve ever sorted submissions in Breakdown Services (the primary way casting directors receive submissions from agents and managers) or even Actors Access then you know that casting directors are sifting through page after page of thumbnails. I was recently talking about the horizontal/vertical debate with a commercial agent who told me he requires his clients to have vertical headshots because they “pop” more when people are scanning through thumbnails in breakdown services . Take a look at the smaller thumbnails below:
In my opinion, there are advantages to both vertical and horizontal headshots. Vertical headshots may “pop” more in a gallery of thumbnails, but it isn’t as though horizontal headshots are invisible, and they may in fact “pop” more when the submission is actually opened. Keep in mind that the agent I mentioned before was a commercial agent– in most commercial castings your headshot is the sole deciding factor of wether or not you get called in for an audition (or your submission even gets opened!) You’re essentially trying to get picked out of a lineup. With theatrical auditions, your headshot is important, but your resume (or your agent’s pedigree) could have as much or more to do with you landing that audition than your thumbnail in a lineup.
All that being said, since people have such adamant opinions on the subject I make sure to capture every look, setup and expression that I can both vertically and horizontally. The client should leave the shoot with as many options as possible, so that they get their money’s worth. Some agents and managers are notorious for demanding new headshots of their clients, even if their look hasn’t changed dramatically– you could save yourself a lot of time and money by thinking ahead before you get your headshots taken and making sure you pack a wide variety of looks and styles into your first shoot so you’ll have options to go back and pull from.