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More about headshots

I like to stay up on the current trends in headshots and of course headshot photography news as it comes ‘hot off the press’ as they say.

Occasionally I come across some advice that really bucks the trend and in some cases is rubbish. Regular readers will know I like to give useful advice to help actors improve their chances of getting a great headshot, you’ll also know I often warn people to be wary of ‘amateur photographers’.

Actors headshot by Nick Gregan

Actors headshot by Nick Gregan

There isn’t a professional governing body that regulates photographers, you don’t have to have any qualifications to call yourself a professional photographer – indeed I myself don’t have any at all other than 25 years experience. If you are an electrician or car mechanic for example you have to pass industry standard exams before you can practice solo – this isn’t the case with photographers, a camera is all you need.

One of the results of sophisticated digital cameras becoming cheaper and cheaper is that it’s easier now to take a half decent photo than ever before. Therefore there are more and more part-time or amateur people calling themselves headshot photographers without the knowledge or skill to back it up. Even many actors now advertise themselves as headshot photographers with the tag line ‘I’m an actor so I know what a good headshot is’ – well maybe if they had a great headshot they’d be busy as an actor and wouldn’t have the time to shoot headshots?

The point I’m trying to make is that there isn’t any regulation in the business and IF you’re a new actor to the business it’s

Nick Gregan Headshot Photographer

Actors Headshots © Nick Gregan

easy to follow the wrong advice. I feel really sad and frustrated when clients come to me after suffering poor or misleading advice AND after wasting much of their money and time!

Here’s an article that is just that – full of poor advice – (to be honest I’m not sure if it’s a send up and done in jest or not, maybe theie photo is a giveaway?). Read the full article here If you’re new to the business and followed this advice you’d have a set of photographs that are totally unsuitable for your purpose. What actor needs a photo of themselves “squatting on a train track?” or ‘with a sexually-ready face?”

Come on this is not the range of headshots that an actor needs, admittedly the market in the USA is different to the UK but not that different, I can imagine a model needing some of those shots but not an actor. I wonder if these guys are simply having a joke on us maybe they are because they say they shoot their headshots on an iPhone 4S?

As a final thought, please do your research when looking for a headshot photographer, there are lots and lots of really good shooters out there with tons of experience and knowledge to pass on to you. There are publications such as Contacts and Spotlight where you can view plenty of headshots photographer’s work side by side. One final point to consider is the issue of cost. It can be very short sighted to base your choice of photographer on the cheapest price point; often they’re cheap for a reason. I strongly believe that it’s better to save hard or give a miss to a few nights out and put that money towards your headshot. Remember it’s your career that you are dealing with; a weak or poor headshot can do immense damage to your career especially if you are just starting out. Check out this blog post for more info on choosing your headshot photographer. Also if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line.

– Headshot Photography News?

Photographing headshots for actors is about giving the actor the very best chance of being noticed, so staying current with the style, capturing personality and emotion and understanding that actors’ castability are all elements that play a part in creating a headshot with the ‘Wow Factor’. We want Casting Directors to look at their headshot and say “wow, I like that” if that happens then I’ve done my job as a headshot photographer.

I was doing some research today and I came across this article in the Guardian newspaper by Laura Barnett about Casting Directors and the role they play within the production process. I thought it was worth sharing, especially for actors who are new to the industry, where the many job descriptions can become confusing or muddled. We often think of the world and roles of the Casting Director as mysterious as they are rarely interviewed or proclaimed outside of the industry.
From my perspective as a headshot photographer when I am shooting a clients’ headshots I need to keep in mind the ultimate use of the headshot which is to impress a Casting Director enough to make them invite the actor to audition. After that the headshot has done it’s job.

Headshot photographer Nick Gregan


Here’s a small snippet of the article but I urge you to head over to The Guardian to read the full piece – it’s really worth it.
How does a casting director go from looking at a CV, a headshot, or even an actor on stage, to deciding that they’re the embodiment of a character? I’m struck by how much of this seems to hinge on instinct. Spon (a Casting Director – my brackets) points out, however, that it’s the director’s instinct that ultimately counts. “It’s not about my vision,” she says. “I could read a play and think, ‘Oh, the perfect person for this part is whoever.’ And then the director says, ‘I see it like this.'”
Casting a major feature film involves walking an even more precarious tightrope between filming schedules, actors’ availability and studios’ tastes, as Lucinda Syson explains in her tiny attic office in Soho. We talk in the “taping room”, where auditions are filmed; one wall is light blue, apparently the most flattering colour for skin. “Many producers look at casting,” says Syson, “and think of it as just finding people for individual roles. It’s actually about a total alchemy. You’ve got to be able to tune into the director – to where they’re shooting, to what the undertones and sense of the project are.”

– Headshot Photographs & The Casting Director

Who Is That Co-Starring In My Headshot?

Headshot photographers are popping up all over the place these days, virtually anyone with a digital camera and the kahoona’s to say so, can call themselves a headshot photographer. As far as I know there are no professional bodies or qualifications needed. A classic example of this is myself – I have no formal qualifications and am not a member of any professional bodies – but, I have been a busy working headshort photographer for almost 20 years.

I learned all of the many skills involved in creating and producing photography over several years and because I was using film I had to fully understand the principles of photography before I started calling myself an actors headshot photographer. It just wasn’t possible to charge clients for my services and HOPE that the film came out right. I had to completely understand how to use a camera, how to use exposure, composition and lighting before I called myself a professional headshot photographer.

Unfortunately that is not the case nowadays as the easy of use sophisticated digital cameras takes away the need to fully understand these integral components of being a professional headshot photographer. Therefore it’s too easy to make a mistake with composition and the rules of a good actor’s headshot.

You regularly see headshots used by actors where the lighting is poor, the background is too dominant or the posing or posture of the actor conveys negativity. I feel sorry for actors who use this kind of headshot photographer unknowingly. Most ofetn these ae students just starting out on their acting career who often don’t know any better. The problem is with this kind of poor headshot is that it will do more damage to an actors’ career than they are aware of.

Casting Directors and Agents know exactly what is and isn’t a good headshot, they take a view of  poor unprofessional to equate with unprofessional actor, or simply why bother looking at this headshot if I can’t really see the actors’ eyes?

Jack Murray Actors Headshot © Nick Gregan

Jack Murray Actors Headshot © Nick Gregan

My studio is in an area of London where there are quite a few photographers, not too long ago I saw a photographer shooting headshots in a location I like to use – fair play I don’t have any exclusive rights on locations or styles of headshot. The location is under an old railway bridge and gives a great backdrop for an edgey atmospheric headshot. However I saw the headshots they took a few days later and noticed that I couldn’t see the eyes of the actor, they were deeply in shadow and lifeless. I wasn’t surprised as the photographer didn’t use any kind of refectors or additional light which is needed in that kind of location – this clearly led me to beleive they didn’t really know what they were doing.

I felt sorry for the actor when I saw those headshots as she couldn’t use any of them, she should have contacted the photographer and asked for either a reshoot aor a refund. However if she didn’t know that these shots weren’t acceptable then she has really lost out as they certainly won’t help her career move forward.

So back to the title of this post, ‘Who is that co-starring in my headshot?’ it’s certainly not the photographer, and they should be. A great headshot is a collaboration between the actor and the photographer and both people should benefit from working together, the actor in securing more auditions and getting more attention, whilst the photographer should be using those headshots to build their portfolio and their reputation.

A great headshot needs two pwople to make it great!

– Who Is That Co-Starring In My Headshot?

Facial hair is quite popular at the moment, everything from full beards to designer stubble can commonly be seen on the streets of our cities. However there’s a couple of things to consider when thinking about having facial hair in your headshot, ‘to beard or not to beard’ or is ‘moustache the question’. Headshots are about creating the right first impression and facial hair can occasionally give the wrong type of impression, it can alter people’s perception of you when looking at your headshot. You may not have considered how facial hair can alter people’s perceptions but here’s a few things to think about. There are some significant psychological influences about a man with a beard against a clean shaven man. More often than not a beard will make a man look older. For instance, adolescent boys don’t need psychologists to tell them that growing some stubble could help them look more mature, but it also turns out the ageing effects of a beard don’t disappear as you get older. A group of men and women were asked do guess the ages of men with beards and men without them —and it was found that both men and women assumed the bearded men were “significantly” older than they actually were. Not good when your playing age is late thirties and your actual age is early twenties.

So there’s a pretty good reason why wearing a beard can effect your chances of being cast, and here’s another.

Jack Murray Actors Headshot©Nick Gregan 2011

Jack Murray Actors Headshot©Nick Gregan 2011

It’s worth considering is how a man with a beard can give the impression of being more aggressive than a clean shaven man. In a 2008 study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, British psychologists at Northumbria University manipulated men’s facial hair in photographs, giving them five degrees of beard — from clean-shaven to hairy. They then had 60 women rate them on various attributes — and found that the men with full beards scored highest for perceptions of aggressiveness as well as masculinity. The good thing noted here was the perception of masculinity in a man wearing a beard. In a 2012 study written up in the journal Behavioral Ecology, men were photographed bearded and clean-shaven while making neutral, happy, or angry expressions. The men were of a mean age of 23, so all fairly young and the bearded men were judged to be significantly more aggressive than their clean-shaven counterparts. I can guess that most guys who sport beards aren’t particularly aggressive but it’s also a fair bet that they hadn’t ever considered this.

So there’s an extra reason not to have a beard in a headshot you don’t want to be perceived as being more aggressive than you actually are. The term beard can be somewhat of a mis-description as there are many types of facial hair to be seen on the streets at the moment from thick beard to a bit of designer stubble (I am talking about thick, full beards here),

Ok, let’s back up a little bit and see how a hairy face effects you and your headshot, one thing that is definite is that facial hair will limit the amount of roles you would be cast for as not all character roles are suitable for wearing a beard.

Let’s deal with the full beard first, it’s generally a lifestyle choice although sometimes it can be fashionable too, as in the case of the “trucker look” that’s been quite popular recently. However if you are the sort of guy who sports a full “Wild man of the mountain” beard then it is clearly your look, it’s obviously taken quite some time and a fair bit of effort to grow so it’s unlikely that you’re going to shave it off for a photo shoot. You may consider going clean shaven for a good role should you get it, but you’ll be stuck in that ‘Catch 22’ situation of not wanting to shave it off after spending the time to grow your beard whilst not being suitable to audition with your beard. It’s a tricky one.


So in this case having a headshot done wearing a full beard would be the right choice as this is how you would expect time to turn up at an audition, there’s unlikely to be a drastic change in the way he looks between having his headshot done and turning up for an audition.

headshots with a beard

Designer Stubble in a headshot

On the other hand there are lots of people who wear designer stubble on a regular basis. This type of facial hair often varies in length from a light or short growth to a stylish, shapely full beard that are worn as fashion statements as opposed to lifestyle choices such as the ‘Grizzly Adams’ look. In this case I always suggest to my clients that they have some of their headshots taken wearing facial hair, but that they also take the time to shave during the session so that they can have a clean shaven look too.


From a Casting Directors point of view, decisions about suitability and wether you have the right look they have in mind for the character they are casting for are important. If you are a well-known actor with a good body of work behind you it’s less of an issue as Casting Directors know your look and have a certain amount of flexibility. On the other hand if you are less well established or are just starting out in your acting career then it’s important that there are no barriers put in the way of fitting the Casting Directors idea for the role.


So what does it boil down to in the end? Know your castability, know your look, don’t limit your options and be flexible.

























– Should I Have Facial Hair In My Headshot?

I saw this article today in the LA Magazine about a team of actors ‘turned’ headshot photographers (you know my thoughts on this).

It sounds like a crazy idea but in the city of LA anything goes. In all seriousness is it a good idea? Well there are a couple of things that make me question its feasability, I know it’s a big truck but it’s still a small studio that has lots of limitations on lighting and space (distance from the background). Also is there a set style that all of the actors ‘turned’ headshot photographers shoot in or is it pot luck on who’s available on the day?

The other thing that caugt my attention was the fact that this statement was made Although the Headshot Truck’s target clients are, per Hendershott, actors “from Arkansas who may not know any better” and that kind of makes me feel uneasy. I wrote about ethics in the headshot industry yesterday and this statement kind of harps back to that.

I understand that they are pitching themselves at the lower end of the headshot price range and it is interesting that Hendershott decided to launch his Headshot Truck because of his own terrible experiences with headshots. Once again I talk about this quite ofetn and I always stress that an actor should research headshot photographers very well before they decide to book a session and I think it’s imperative that the very least you should do is talk to the photographer on the phone to get an idea of whether you like or get along with them.

However saying all of the above I hope it takes off and proves a huge success and maybe it will change the way we shoot headshots in the future. Having recently gone through the trauma of a studio move, including finding a premises that are right, in a decent location and that are affordable I find that could warm to the idea of being mobile and reducing overheads.

read the full article here.


– Is This The Future of Headshots Photography – I Think Not

This short video is of my good friend and training partner Mark Finn from Dockside Fitness. I train with Mark outside in Ropemakers Field E14 mostt mornings at 7am and on a Sunday at 9am. I often see and hear about ‘functional fitness’ and wondered what it was. I used to think that lifting weights and doing a few sit ups along with a session or two on a spin bike was enough to keep me healthy and fit.After training with Mark for a while I grew to understand that ‘functional fitness’ is about being able to deal with the surprises life can sometimes unexpectedly throw at you such as having to lift a heavy item or move quickly to get out of danger.

I think its incredibly important to be fit for purpose and as an actor that includes being ready for anything or as they say in Latin. Utrinque Paratus – it’s the motto of the Parachute Regiment (I used to be involved in as a Territorial soldier many many years ago) the motto means ready for Anything and this has been one of those tenets that has stuck with me through my life. Its part of the reason I train in a functional way. So as an actors what is being ready for anything, how can you apply functional fitness ways to your career?

Is your headshot up to date – do you look like it?

Is you resume polished and current?

How does your body lookare you carrying a few extra pounds or have you lost some weight?

What kind of shape are you in – are you fit enough to to 8 shows a week or a long tour?

these are just a few of the basic questions you should be asking yourself ona regular basis, have you taken any classes recently or hows your own marketing going? Being an actor is more than solely acting its about all of the other things you have to do to keep yourself in shape for any opportunity that arises – however suddenly it may appear.

As a headshot phortographer I am ready for anything all of the time, I’m ready to adjust my shooting style for each and every client who comes into my studio, every session is bespoke and every actor has different needs, do they want character shots, do they need shots doing outdoors, is daylight better on their skin tone or are they better represented under tungsten light. Doe sthe actor know what they want, do they know their casting range or castability? Part of my job and part of the experience of a Nick Gregan headshot session is offering advice, understanding what the actor wants , also presenting to them other options that they may not of have considered in a headshot. I like to keep the motto Utrinque Paratus in my mind as I approach every day.

– Exercise is The Food of Life – Dockside Fitness

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