The Value of Headshots as an Actor in NYC

Headshots, moreover in NYC, can be insanely expensive. Insanely is, of course, a relative word. What may be insanely expensive to one person is not so insanely expensive to another. A Maybach car, to me, would be insanely expensive. A Maybach car, to Jay-Z, would be fairly affordable. The rapper would say something like ‘that’s not so bad.’ Or, because he’s a rapper, he would actually say ‘That’s not so bad. In fact, it’s pretty rad.’ He would say that because he’s a rapper and the two sentences follow a rhyme scheme. Granted, it’s fairly simple, but I’m not a rapper and am only trying to emulate what one would say.

At any rate, people often to tend to view headshot photography in this black-box, catchall world that they don’t understand. They know headshots are expensive but not entirely sure why. The entire concept seems ridiculous, since taking a photo involves pressing a button and is this really simplistic thing. Despite this they know there are good , professional headshot photographers that do a quality job and construct a fairly amazing set of images, and there are not so good semi-professional headshot photographers that are actually your uncle Ted dressed up in a really convincing other-person-suit taking photos of your face that look like kindergarten drawings of someone else’s face or a basketball pump.

Nevertheless, people will continue to hire the latter group because in the short term the latter group costs less money and because a headshot is just a set of pixels all working together to describe what somebody looks like and once that’s done that person simply needs to get called into an audition and thereafter will dazzle the casting director, the world, and the casting director’s mom.

But those people are wrong because they’ll never get called in to begin with because they have a terrible headshot.

Your headshot is your brand.

In reference to brands, let’s take a few and look at them for example. We’ll take Apple, Nike, and Chanel. Next we’ll take Jordache, Acer, and Wrangler.

You likely view the first three as valuable, and you likely view the latter three as not so valuable. The first three are what you buy if you money isn’t such a question, and the latter three are what you buy if you have fifty dollars in your pocket for the week and need shoes, pants, and a computer.

As far as where those images come from that those brands evoke, a small percentage of that image comes from the actual products themselves. A larger percentage comes from the images you see of those products in the places you visit (magazines, sidewalks, the internet, and everywhere else you’re marketed to). Nike has far and away some of the best product photography in the shoe market. An average shoot for Chanel likely exceeds 50-100k, when the models, photographers, and sets are accounted for. Apple doesn’t even do product photography anymore, as all it’s ads are renders.That’s how important it’s image is to itself. Apple is sitting around like ‘how people perceive us is so important that we don’t trust the physical reality of the world we live in to illustrate this object. We’ll let a computer do it.’

And you can apply this principle to everything, including your headshots. What do you think is going through a casting director’s head when he or she sees an expensive headshot and a not so expensive headshot. If that casting director has 10 slots for the day, two of those slots are left, and he/she has to choose between someone with a headshot that would be worthy of a Nike ad and a headshot worthy of a Jordache, the former would get chosen for a call in every time because that person is a brand that’s perceived as more valuable.

It’s simply the human condition. That being said, you can apply this to headshots not just for actors, but corporate headshots, theatrical headshots, headshots for opera singers, linkedin headshots, and everything else in between. The quality of the photo you have of yourself is directly correlated to the value you’re perceived of in the eyes of a stranger.

This being said, consider this the next time you hire your headshot photographer. I’m not necessarily saying you absolutely need to go out and drop two grand on one, but if you’re on the fence between one or the other and the other you’re considering only because of a hundred dollar or so difference, remember that in the long-run you’re simply costing yourself.

Feel free to check out my own headshots portfolio and, in the meanwhile, if you need anything else, don’t hesitate to email me.

Some additional resources for your headshots and acting in general:

Reproductions – Reproductions is a headshot printing, retouching, and demo reel video company serving actors and artists nationwide.

Actors Connection – Everyday, dozens of seminars, classes, auditions, and castings occur at Actors Connection. Need an agent? They have legit agent seminars nearly every other day that give you the opportunity to read in front of one.

StageMilk – StageMilk is an online blog acting as a resource for actors. It contains a myriad of tips and articles on not just your craft but about the other areas of it needed to move you forward.

Backstage is the number one audition resource on the internet. At least in my eyes. It’s far and away viewed as the most credible and a go to for casting agents and directors everywhere. Everyday, countless roles get added between Los Angeles and NYC for people needed in everything from the simple short to the Paramount epic (seriously, I saw them casting for ‘Annihilation’ roles on backstage).

Corporate Headshots NYC – Not here for actor headshots? Check out my corporate headshots as well and maybe I’ll see you in a suit sometime.