Is it ethical for your agent to force you to get headshots with their photographer? Robyn tells you exactly what you need to know. Also should you wear any jewelry for your headshot?
I just signed up with an agency. I had headshots that I thought were good, but they want me to do a shoot with their photographer. The cost is $750. Is this legit or do you think it’s a scam? – Denise E., Albuquerque, NM
The cost of a professional headshot varies by city, and certainly by photographer. Rates in Los Angeles and New York may rise into the thousands for high quality work. However, in Utah, rates for professional photographers can drop to $150.00. There are a lot of photographers who will sell their work for below market value, but these are usually photographers who are just getting started and are looking to build a name and a portfolio. Always ask to see a photographer’s work before you commit to shooting with them, or look them up on the internet. Compare their work to other photographers. Do you think they are worth the money? We live in a digital age where consumer research is easier than ever. Educate yourself and choose wisely.
It is considered highly unethical to force a talent to shoot with a specific photographer, especially if they are employed by the agency. Agencies do have favorite photographers whom they will promote above others, but they cannot force you to shoot with them. An agency which employs a photographer is usually looking for an added income stream and may not be ethical. Good agents make their money from bookings, not photography. Again, research pays. Find out what clients they work with and how many people are in their agency. If there are thousands, you probably don’t want to sign. Once they get your full payment for headshots, you’ll probably slip through the cracks and never audition. If you have a good, clear headshot that is taken by a professional photographer, you do not need to pay high prices to an agency photographer. I have seen many actors fall into this scam. They have great, marketable headshots that serve them well, switch agencies and are forced to pay upward of $700.00 for a headshot of lesser quality that does not represent them as a professional talent.
Should I wear jewelry for my shoot? – Shannon M., Palm Springs, CA
If you wear jewelry for your photo shoot, make sure it is simple, small, and that it complements you and your wardrobe. I’ve seen headshots where women wear their favorite necklace and it ends up being the only thing you see. Remember you are selling YOU, not your taste in jewelry. Wardrobe will accessorize you for the production, and because they do, you must keep the slate clean. Try seeing yourself as a blank canvas that many people will paint on to produce the perfect character. These people include casting directors, directors, hair stylists, makeup artists, and wardrobe stylists. Your headshot must show your willingness to take on the character, not show off your own personal style.
I’ve heard people call headshot 8x10s – does that mean they HAVE to be 8×10 – how about my resume that’s printed on bigger paper? – Justin A., Provo, UT
They are called 8 x 10’s because that is the actual dimension of the paper. This is an industry standard and will likely remain that way until physical headshots are replaced by digital images. Resumes need to be centered and cut down to fit the 8 x 10 format of the headshot they will be stapled to. NEVER let your resume extend the edge of your headshot. It’s like selling a house with bad curb appeal. No one wants to deal with the mess. However, there are rumors of some headshots going to an 8 ½ x 11 format in smaller markets. This format cuts the cost of reproduction and is more accessible to talent. Always ask your agent what they want. It is their decision in the end. They are client informed.
– Robyn Adamson
Robyn had a love of art and a vivid imagination as a child that led her to her careers as a photographer, actress, writer, cinematographer and director. These entwined skills culminate in an innate ability to tell a story. Over time, Robyn has acted opposite film greats such as Gary Oldman, Margot Kidder and Tess Harper. The mid 90’s brought the world of photography to Robyn as she began shooting actors’ headshots and models’ portfolios. In 2004, Robyn became VP of Business Development for the Academy of Performing Arts, a children’s theater and performing arts school. During her tenure in this position, she helped to bring thousands of dollars in scholarships to the at-risk youth who studied at the Academy as well as vital programs to students from all over the Salt Lake Region. Robyn’s star shines brightly, and she is attached to many projects as a cinematographer as she continues her work as a photographer.
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Last modified: August 12, 2017