Monday, January 4, 2010
Let's take a look at headshots!
This all started from a question I got a while back. Someone asked me if I could shoot a headshot that could stand up in other markets, and what the differences in those markets are. I thought about it, scratched my head, called friends, and was puzzled as far as how to answer it because the differences aren't really there as far as what's a good shot here and what's a good shot out on the coasts - this posting is an expanded essay on my answer to them.
I'm going to break headshots down into 3 categories - Models, Actors, and Professionals. Granted I'm sure we can break those down more into commercial models, vs character models (normal people, older people, etc), TV actors vs theater vs whatever, and different kinds of professionals... But, for this posting 3 main categories work out just fine.
(I'm not going to go down the electronic music route and really break things down - http://techno.org/electronic-music-guide/ )
Now I do throw around words like "casual" and "anything goes" - this doesn't mean that the elements of design, or any lighting goes, just that anything well done to a professional standard goes. The whole post is more about style and retouching than anything technical as far as cropping and other deconstructions.
Type 1 - The new model.
This is just to get you in the door for open castings and agency visits. So this is a pretty boring shot that just shows yourself off, and they are usually accompanied by a front and side shot of you in a bikini or something - the general stuff you need.
I do suggest that if you want to model to first talk to legit agencies to test the water before throwing money at portfolios and headshots.
Type 2 - Working Models.
So let's take a look at some links...
http://rednyc.com/ - Red model Management
http://www.clickmodel.com - Click
http://www.elitemodel.com/ - Elite
Now, after looking though those sites - and they were just off the top of my head, what can we take from them as far as headshots? There are all kinds of styles represented across the board, we have art images, highly retouched beauty, no so retouched filmlesq, and everything in between.
So what we can take away, as far as fashion, is anything goes as long as it's well done and represents the model well. Some agencies may want a more toned down image, but generally those standards of "anything pretty much goes" holds up anywhere. Although commercial models may want something a little more toned down, but still if we look at local agencies here in Minneapolis...
We see a wide variety of shots - not as out there as the nyc agencies, but nothing to put a thumb on to say "this is what a model headshot is."
Again, like models, just about anything goes here. There are studio shots, outdoor shots, retouched, not so retouched, and so on. What is common between them is that there is a little more emotion than model headshots, and it's a little less formal - more casual in the approach, retouching, and expression.
As I mentioned before, anything goes doesn't mean chuck cropping and elements of design out the window, but professional pictures with a range of styles that doesn't have one predominate feature about them in common other than they are of a model and cropped as a headshot.
I'm not going to really post any examples here since we've seen so many of them. They are all around us, on billboards, commercials, in stores, on promotional material, etc. The one thing they have in common is their goal is "I want to sell you something" or "would you buy insurance from me." They are meant to show that someone is a professional, easy to work with, and open to answer questions. Or in the case of some lawyers, that they are serious about what they do and can get results.
What you have to consider with these, is that sometimes they can be a second thought - and they can look like a second thought. So if you're a professional please pay attention to your pictures and make sure you get one that fits your business, that's well done, and that doesn't get people thinking "I can take pictures for you" - because if the general public is thinking that then they aren't thinking about buying your services.
The "real" difference between a headshot shooter here in the midwest and someone in NYC or LA.
I'm mostly serious here, but after talking with a few friends in other larger markets we came to the conclusion that the main difference is, wait for it, overhead and the market.
Think about that for a minute. The demand and competition is more for everyone in larger markets, which means that some of the passable shots that can get a working model/actor by here in Minneapolis may not cut it out in NYC. That doesn't mean that someone here can't take a good shot - we can - that doesn't mean there is any huge style difference - there isn't - it just means that there is more of demand and the market is more critical out there than here.
The other difference is overhead and rates charged. Someone out in NYC can charge $700-1400 for headshots because the market there both can support that amount and the cost of living demands that amount. So again, there really isn't a big difference in quality between someone there and here in the Midwest, just the cost of doing business. Granted there will be celebrity photographers who have a following and charge large amounts due to it, but that happens in any industry.
The difference between headshot photographers.
There aren't as many technical tips and tricks as there were with film. Everyone has the same programs, everyone is online, everyone has the same equipment and access to the same equipment. It all comes down to the individual photographers style, their technical skill, and how well received their pictures are in the market - this goes for any art, and headshots aren't any different.
Since this could be a hot button issue here is a disclaimer...
If you're a new model, actor, working model, working actor, professional, or anyone who needs headshots then I suggest you do some research in your market and see who is doing what and who can provide you with images that showcase yourself and that can be beneficial to you. The reason for this post isn't to lower the bar, but to knock down some myths about headshots and show that the main difference between them is a little bit of style and the photographers vision. I also don't get any work by the links I posted, they are just examples.