Frequently Asked Questions
Why is variety so important?
“Aggghh!! My headshot looks exactly like everyone else’s!” I doubt you have any intention of spending a small fortune to utter that sentence. But it’s surprising how often it happens anyway. At an audition, would you wear the same shirt as everyone else? Or do the same monologue? So why have the same headshot?
Most headshot photographers in New York keep taking the same photograph day after day, year after year. By the time you submit your brand new headshot to agents, they’ve already seen that exact photograph over a thousand times. It’s easy to know if this will happen to you. When you’re reviewing a photographer’s portfolio, can you anticipate what the next image will look like? Do they all have the same background, cropping and lighting? Or does every photograph surprise you? If a headshot doesn’t surprise people, it’s not effective, no matter how cool it looks. It’s very easy to take a cool photograph. What’s difficult is to take a different cool photograph day after day, year after year. To make every actor’s headshot stand apart from the pile. That’s my intention.
Do you shoot inside or outside?
Both. I shoot in my natural light studio and at several different locations for every session. I hate repeating myself, and I believe that variety is essential to a successful headshot session. It’s actually not important to me whether we shoot inside or outside; what’s essential is to find the right background color and texture for you. I’m always on the lookout for interesting locations. I’ve shot in restaurants, coffee shops (Starbucks ALWAYS kicks me out), buses, subways, real estate offices, wine shops, my roof deck, my studio, the park… and that was just Monday.
Is studio photography more reliable?
The main arguments studio photographers make against outdoor photography is either 1) the background will be distracting or 2) the weather is uncertain, and you can’t leave your headshot to chance. Since I shoot in my studio as well, I’m not purely an outdoor photographer. But for arguments sake, I will address these concerns as a representative for all location photographers.
I’ll speak directly to the studio photographers (but you’re free to listen in)-
Guys, come on now. You know as well as I do the only reason not to shoot outside is that it totally screws up your schedule. The light is infinitely better, and the colors are more vibrant than anything you can create in your studio.
Your argument about distracting backgrounds is legitimate if the photographer has no idea what he’s doing. If I pick up a point and shoot camera set on automatic, the shots won’t look so great. But I don’t use a point and shoot, so it’s not a problem. A great background is flattering without drawing attention to itself, and that can be achieved inside or outside. The background colors should bring out the client’s eyes, hair color and skin tone, and be compositionally interesting. The variety of locations available outside makes this much easier to accomplish. As you know, agent’s trashcans are overflowing with headshots that lack these qualities, and they’re usually studio photos.
While I’ve got your attention, may I ask you a question? Are you going a little crazy shooting with the same set-up, in the same room, every single day? Does that white background of yours ever start talking to you? Are you about to pull a Jack Nicholson in The Shining, completely flip out and chase a client through a giant hedge maze? I would.
What do you do in the winter?
I’ve spent ten winters shooting headshots so I have it down to a science. We will split the session between my studio and several indoor and outdoor locations, or shoot completely inside if you’d prefer. We often drive to the locations, so you spend very little time outside when we’re not shooting. Of course, my coffee addiction comes in handy- there will always be warm beverages available. About a third of the photographs on this website were taken in the winter. The light is beautiful because the sun is low in the sky. Due to the low humidity, the images are very sharp, so the results are beautiful. And at least you’ll be wearing clothes.
What’s a shoot like?
It’s not rocket science. In order to have a great headshot, you need to be relaxed. In order to be relaxed, you need to be having fun. So I make the process as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. I like to joke around. I don’t take myself seriously. I am very specific about what I want. I encourage spontaneity, but I’m very directorial. I don’t expect you to know how to perform for the camera- it’s not your job to make me look good. I shoot a ton of shots, I’m always making suggestions and I’m a varietyaholic.
What makes a great headshot?
Terrific actor headshots must have three qualities. They should accurately show what you look like on a great day. They should capture a unique and interesting aspect of your personality. And they should be engaging, creative and original photographs. Without all of these characteristics, a headshot is ineffective.
My session is split between my natural light studio and various outdoor locations. Natural light is a very honest, beautiful light. You will look like a real person- this is extremely important to agents and casting directors. They usually request natural light photographs because they're tired of meeting actors who don't look anything like their headshots. And when used properly, it is the most flattering light as well, so you will look your best. After all, there's no reason a headshot can't be a beautiful portrait.
Photographers who only shoot in a studio or at one specific location are trapped by their own surroundings. Given few options, they will take similar photographs every day, and your unique appeal will be lost in the pile. But using several locations for every shoot allows me to create a variety of compelling images that are unique to you. Since my background is in acting and photojournalism, I believe in a very natural, candid approach to headshots. Just as I'm not interested in artificial lighting, I have no interest in artificial posing either. I want to capture a spontaneous moment in your life, when there's a real spark in your eyes and a genuine expression on your face. Your greatest asset as a performer is your individuality. So all you have to do is show up. I'll take care of the rest.
Do I need professional headshots?
Can’t I have my friend take my headshots for free? Tempting as it may be, you shouldn’t use headshots taken by friends. With the explosion of digital photography and inexpensive cameras, actors often ask themselves, “Why do I need professional headshots? My friend has an SLR and took a photography class. He’ll shoot me for free to build up his book. Maybe I’ll get something I can use.”
On the positive side, it’s a great excuse to hang out with a friend, and you never know what can happen that day- you might meet the love of your life or bump into Spike Lee. But you almost certainly won’t get great headshots. So don’t spend the money to reproduce the photos, and don’t email them to professional contacts. The quality will not be great, and as a result you will be considered unprofessional. Most casting directors get hundreds of professional headshots submitted every day. Yours need to be even better, and that won’t happen unless your photographer can do it better. Perhaps one day your friend will be among the best in the industry, and that will be a great time to cash in on the free offer. I’m sure he’ll be happy to honor it :)
What’s a bottom feeder?
A bottom feeder is an inexperienced photographer promising something for nothing- great headshots with little investment. It’s the headshot equivalent of that Arabian sheik who just emailed you- wire a little money into his bank account and you’re set for life. Imagine your friend from the question above, but with a website and a business card.
What's better, horizontal or vertical?
Do you shoot 3/4 shots as well as close-ups? Here's how the submission process works now- your headshot is submitted online, and the casting director scans through hundreds of thumbnails, selectively enlarging the most interesting images. The photographer has to be aware of this process, because if your headshot doesn't look good as a thumbnail, they will rarely choose to enlarge it. Images that look good as thumbnails tend to be tight shots (from the shoulders up). Once a headshot is enlarged, horizontal tends to work a bit better because a computer screen is formatted horizontally. A vertical 3/4 shot is essential to have if your body type, physicality or hair length is important to your castability. Otherwise, keeping it relatively tight works best. That said, since I'm a variety junkie I'll probably shoot a lot of both anyway.
What is the best time of day to shoot?
That depends on the day and the season; I always look for the best start time for each client. When we schedule a date to shoot, keep the entire day open if possible. I will call you the day before to set the time, once I’ve seen the weather report.
What’s better, bright sun or an overcast day?
They each have their advantages. Overcast light is very flattering and versatile, and sunny days are just plain fun. Oddly enough, my favorite light is foggy and misty, just before or after rain. The headshots on this website have been taken in every imaginable light and weather condition.
Will it be distracting if people watch me?
If you feel it will be distracting, we can find very private locations. Or we can shoot in my studio. That said, I don’t remember the last time anyone stopped and watched a shoot. Occasionally they say something funny as they pass by, and that usually leads to a great commercial laughing shot.
What’s your policy for rescheduling?
Please give me at least 72 hours notice if you need to reschedule; otherwise, you will be subject to loss of your deposit.
Should I hire the makeup artist?
I strongly recommend make-up for everyone. If you don't hire my makeup artist, I cannot guarantee the results of the shoot. Unless you or a friend is a professional makeup artist, you should hire mine. The only reason anyone has ever requested a reshoot is if they don't like their hair and makeup. I now work with two women who I trust completely (and never receive complaints from clients).
I’m a guy and I don’t want to look like a drag queen wearing makeup. Why not?
The drag queen look will be in next year. Seriously, if you look like you’re wearing makeup, it’s a total disaster. However, you’ll never step foot on a movie or television set without makeup. It’s the same process with my shoot- your skin will look even, your eyes will pop, you won’t shine, but nobody will know you’re wearing makeup. Plus my makeup artist is a MILF (said with her blessing and encouragement), great fun to be around, and a collaborative partner during the shoot.
Do you review the photos during the shoot?
If you’d like to see the images, I’m happy to show you; I enjoy the collaborative process. That said, I usually don’t recommend reviewing images during a shoot. It tends to make people self-conscious. Generally the first thing people do when seeing a photo of themselves is to look for the quality they like the least, and obsess over it. That’s a natural and human reaction, but not the best thing for a productive photo session. It’s like watching a scene you’ve just performed, and then trying to do it again without being self-conscious. My process is geared to get you out of your head so you’ll be spontaneous and relaxed- stopping to look usually defeats the purpose. But if you feel you can see yourself objectively rather than emotionally, let’s get crazy. I’m sure you’ll love what you see.
Do I need a comp card?
The short answer is yes, everyone can benefit from a comp card. It helps you get an agent, book print work and make lots of money. Comp cards are not just for models. I’ve dedicated an entire section of my website to comp cards. Take a look.
Where do you shoot?
Although I have photographed people all over New York City, my location of choice is Ft. Tryon Park. Just thirty minutes from midtown, it's the park in northern Manhattan near the Cloisters Museum. The park and its surrounding area have space, beauty, variety and privacy. There's nowhere better for outdoor photography. If you’d prefer to be inside, my studio has natural light, plenty of space, good music and great coffee.
Do I own the photos?
Absolutely. You paid for them. Many photographers won’t release hi resolution photos from your session without additional payment. They say it’s for “quality control,” but really they just want to make backend money by charging you extra fees. It’s like double dipping, and you should be very wary of anyone who won’t give you the photos you’ve hired them to take.