Actor headshots are one of the most important marketing tools for aspiring actors, alongside an acting resume.
Los Angeles is known as the hub of the best headshot photographers in the country, and possibly the world.
Headshot standards set by the industry run in Hollywood are catching up everywhere else, and particularly in other entertainment capitals like New York City and London.
It’s important to get your acting headshots done as soon as you decide to pursue a career in acting. You’ll soon start mailing those to top talent agencies in Los Angeles, desperately hoping to get signed.
Recently, after my big move, I finally got my own first professional actor headshots in LA. They definitely look far more attractive than my old ones.
In this blog post, I’ll walk you through what I’ve learned about the process and what you should expect if you’re about to hire your own LA headshot photographer.
How much do actor headshots in LA cost?
Headshot prices in Los Angeles vary greatly. You can find price tags from as low as $99 and going up as high as $1000 and even higher.
Most quality actor headshots in LA are done by professional photographers that work independently. Those are the ones that will definitely help you book more acting auditions.
Normally, you can find headshot rates on the photographer’s website.
Headshot costs are shown per session, and anything that’s included with that session should be listed on the website as well. If you don’t see anything else listed, email or call the photographer for more details.
Majority of LA photographers will have several “packages” of pricing.
These headshot pricing packages differ in:
- Length of the photoshoot
- Number of looks (change of clothes)
- Printing of your headshots
Other perks can also be included/excluded from certain headshot packages, but you need to evaluate whether they are worth the extra cost or not.
Personally, when it comes to headshot pricing, I break it down into three categories, based on the photographer’s best package (the one where the photographer excels).
- Budget: $100-$150
- Good: $150-$450
- Expensive: $500-$800
- Overpriced: $800+
These prices include a full photoshoot package, but usually exclude make-up/hair, which is normally $100-$200 per session.
How much should you pay? Here’s how I think about it.
This is the “below market value” pricing. If the budget is really tight, you may consider these cheap headshots but expect to get what you pay for.
Finding a great photographer with these rates will be difficult. Most headshots will be of average quality at best, although there are some semi-decent options.
Nevertheless, if you get very cheap acting headshots in this price range, you’ll have to upgrade them as soon as you can afford it.
Good/average priced headshots.
I think headshots in this price range are usually the winners for most beginning actors.
You can find a really great LA based photographer to do a full headshot session with multiple looks under $500.
I got mine done for exactly $450 including make-up, and had extremely positive responses on their quality. Having professional headshots that actually look legit matters a lot in Los Angeles.
If you’re not on a strict budget and you can afford a $150-$450 price for headshots, I highly recommend these instead of saving money on budget headshots. Skip one month of Starbucks.
Unless you’re getting scammed, actor headshots in this price range will look professional and high quality.
However, are these headshots worth the extra $300 for a small session, excluding make-up/hair for a starving artist? I don’t think so.
Actors who have no problems with finances shouldn’t think twice and use the most professional photographer. But majority of us need to be careful with our money.
If you’re just starting out, there’s no need to go for the most professional headshot with the highest price tag. Once you start making money from acting, this is when you upgrade your headshots to expensive ones.
If you’re not a name actor in Los Angeles and you’re paying over $800-$900+ per standard session of headshots in LA, you’re getting ripped off.
The photographer may be professional and known, but at this point, you’re mostly paying for the name.
When finances are important to you, avoid anything above $800. There’s no need for that.
Where to get your first acting headshots in LA?
Finding a professional headshot photographer in Los Angeles isn’t difficult.
If you’ve done your Google search on “best headshots in LA,” you’ve probably seen thousands of them.
But here’s how you find the one for you:
- Talk to your fellow actor friends, classmates
- Check lists like Yelp
- Ask around on forums and elsewhere
- Then do the research to pick the best one
Honestly, Googling is one of the best ways to find a good professional to shoot your headshots. You just need to do a lot of research and look at a bunch of work to find the right photographer.
Here’s what I did:
- Used different keywords on Google to find many LA photographers
- Visited every single website and collected all the data
- Saved all relevant information into an Excel spreadsheet
- Categorized all photographers based on price range
- After deciding how much I can pay, I went through their work
- Once I found the best ones in my price range, I called to talk
- After discussing a session, you usually have a feeling which way to go
It’s a pretty straightforward process that’s a little time-consuming. However, this won’t take longer than an hour or two.
Spreadsheet: For collecting info on LA photographers, you can create something like this. Unfortunately, I don’t have my old spreadsheet with all the photographers.
A few quick tips before you do the research.
A) I highly recommend not being lazy and actually finding a lot of LA based photographers.
B) Also, do go through their work to see which one you like. Pay attention which photographers shoot a type similar to yours best.
C) Don’t aim for budget headshots on the higher end. Either save money and get really Cheap headshots (and upgrade ASAP), or spend another $100 to get Good headshots.
D) Make-up/hair is always a good idea, even if you’re a guy with short hair. Trust me.
What an actors headshot session looks like?
The whole process is very simple and can be extremely fun, provided that you picked a fun photographer.
Personally, I had a great time shooting my headshots. The photographer, his assistant and hair/make-up girl were a blast.
Setting up the shoot.
First, after you’ve done your research and picked a photographer, you setup a day of the shoot.
If you want to have a really good headshot photoshoot session, you need to prepare in advance.
Arriving for the shoot.
On the day of the shoot, you’ll arrive to a) photographer’s studio, or b) meet at a location for outdoors shoot.
You’ll spend some time talking to your photographer, mostly chit-chatting and discussing your goals. This is so that you and your photographer feel more comfortable around each other. A successful shoot depends on that.
The two of you will also go through your wardrobe and discuss which looks you’ll use.
Next, if you requested hair/make-up, you’ll get that done for you.
Start of the shoot.
After that, you’re ready for a shoot. Depending on how much you’re paying, you may have several locations where you shoot, ranging from in-studio only to walking/driving outdoors.
A good photographer will keep chatting with you, and guiding you how to show your best for a headshot.
A session will normally range from 30 minutes to 2 hours, unless you’re doing something more complicated.
Wrapping it up.
After the time has run out and you got all looks you’re paying for, the two of you will browse through the work. If your package includes retouching and/or printing of some headshots, you’ll tell the photographer which ones you like best.
You will get a DVD/USB at the end of your session with ALL (anything from 100-1000 images) of your photos in there.
If you’re paying in cash, end of the session is when you pay the photographer and the make-up/hair person. Then, say your goodbyes.
How to prepare for a headshots session?
In order to have a truly successful actor headshots session, you need to prepare.
Here are the things you need to keep in mind:
- Ask your photographer questions
- Prepare the right wardrobe
- Bring enough clothes for different looks
- Make sure you get your beauty sleep
- Do your grooming
- Know what you want
- Get ready in the evening
Personally, I researched a lot, and thought that I was ready for my session. Nevertheless, I still made one mistake. I didn’t bring enough wardrobe.
Turns out, a lot of the things that I brought simply didn’t fit my look, the light, my type, or whatnot. I learned a lot that day, and I’m now relaying this wisdom onto you.
Asking questions. It’s important to ask your photographer questions.
Not only will you be better prepared for your actor headshots session by requesting specifics, but this is also a good way to see which photographers are friendly and will be easy, fun and relaxing to work with.
Wardrobe. Unless you really understand headshot photography, only the photographer will be able to tell which clothes work best. That’s why you want to bring a lot of choices.
However, don’t bring everything you have.
There are a few general guidelines for which clothing works best that will help you filter out some times. Also, definitely ask your photographer for tips on what he/she thinks will work best.
Rule of thumb of what NOT to wear:
- No overly bright colors
- No distracting, overly “busy” textures on your top
- Nothing that takes attention away from your eyes
- No turtlenecks (unless going for a very specific look)
- Logos are not a good idea; small ones may be okay
- Usually, plain all-black or all-white is a no-no as well
- Nothing that’s too stretched out or hasn’t been ironed
- No accessories that you don’t wear daily, esp. for men
Finally, don’t worry about the bottoms and especially shoes. Headshots don’t go that low.
The most you’ll see in a headshot will be the top of your waistline (if that), so one pair of something that “kind of” works with everything else is usually good.
Using these general guidelines, pick 3 pieces of clothing for every one of your looks. So if you have a shoot with 4 looks, bring at least 12 items for the photographer to help you choose.
Beauty sleep. Getting enough rest is really important.
For all the skeptics out there, beauty sleep does exist, and it matters.
You will believe that the minute your face has been shot with a giant photo lens that exposes everything you’ve missed in the mirror before.
You should be rested and refreshed. Not only to look good in your acting headshots, but to enjoy the whole process.
Grooming. For most, there’s very little to do in terms of grooming.
If you hired a make-up/hair person, then simply go through your regular routine and leave the rest (hair styling and putting on make-up) for the professional.
Those who do not get a hair/make-up person may want to work on styling their hair and putting a little make-up.
Knowing what you want. This may seem insignificant but actually matters a lot if you want to get the most out of your headshot session.
When you call the photographer, talk about your goals, your type and what you’re looking to accomplish.
Once you meet the photographer, talk more about your type and the kind of roles you see yourself in. The photographer will also give you his/her opinion, and then you’ll come to a conclusion of what look fits you best.
After that, you have to “work” that look. The photographer will guide you through this, but it’s also a good opportunity for you to act through stillness.
Take Home Message
Finding acting headshots photographer in Los Angeles is a time-consuming, yet straightforward process. Do enough research to succeed at this.
When you invest enough time in actually looking through all the offerings, you’ll know how to not underpay or overpay for your headshots.
Discussing your shoot with a photographer ahead of time can help you prepare better.
Make sure to bring enough clothes, follow rule of thumb on wardrobe and ask questions of your photographer. Don’t make my mistakes; ask questions.
A successful headshot session will depend on your ability to do enough research and prepare in advance so that you’re rested, free and energetic on the day. Enjoy the process!