I’m going to say something here that you probably haven’t heard from a headshot photographer before. Something that may alienate me from other headshot photographers. That is:
Do not stay loyal to any one portrait or headshot photographer.
And, yes, that includes me too. I’m serious.
Now before you ask ‘Have I lost the plot’, let me also say this: If I was an actor looking for work and, therefore needed to get some professional headshots done, after having had new ones done last year, I would not use the same photographer I used last year.
Even if the photographer I used last time round was incredible in every way imaginable, I would still search out a different photographer for my headshots the next time around. And the next time. And the next time.
Not only would this result in more rotational business than repeat business for us headshot photographers, but actors, too, would also benefit from working with different shooters (rather like working with different directors, if you will); and thus explore a wider range of different looks and approaches to performing in front of a (albeit still) camera.
Let’s take for a moment, just for fun, some of Hollywood’s top A-list actor-and-director pairings, and imagine those very actors at the very start of their careers, all out of work. And imagine the directors they so often pair up with now as their headshot photographers:
Johnny Depp and Tim Burton
Brad Pitt and David Fincher
Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino
Laura Dern and David Lynch
Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese
Sure, these actor-director pairings work wonders on screen. Uma Thurman always looks amazing in front of Tarantino’s lens. Brad Pitt is taken more seriously in front of Fincher’s lens. And DiCaprio has frankly never been cooler than when he’s ruling the world before Scorsese’s camera.
But would Laura Dern have that Jurrasic Park appeal? Would DiCaprio still be called forward to play Johnny Depp’s retarded younger brother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Would Depp of even played Gilbert Grape? Maybe they would. Maybe it makes little to no difference in the end. Who the hell even knows. The point is that these actors and directors respectively have a certain two-way working relationship unparalleled by any other actor-director relationship.
Conversely however, it goes without saying that the shared rapport and energy vibe an actor has with any one headshot photographer will always be different from another. And playing the field with headshot photographers is particularly recommended for any actor wanting a chameleon acting career.
This is not to say I’m adverse to repeat business from actors wanting new headshots. Far from it. In the event of a previous client wanting refresher headshots, I would aim to make the overall dynamic of the shoot itself as far removed from the previous headshots as possible – different location, different lighting etc. A bit like having a different photographer, even though it’s still me from last time.
Of course, we all have a variety of interchangeable energy vibes from one day to the next, whoever happens to be photographing us. And that, of course, will always reflect in the final photo. But if photographer and actor in collaboration (since that’s what the relationship here is always) are not open to change and (subtle) experimentation, the shoot itself could result in little more than a homogenous rehash from before that negates such headshot session being a ‘refresher’ shoot.
After all, headshot photography is a field where actors already have the luxury of, not only ensuring they get a polished professional head-and-shoulders portrait, but one where they also get to at least choose the director/photographer.
‘Till we meet again. Or not.