*** I am no longer creating traditional headshots. However, the advice on this page is still valid and useful, and may help you find the right headshot photographer for you. Please give it a read !! ***

Headshots: Know Before You Spend

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For all women: My Personal Public Service Announcement

Do you know how many photography posing guides exist, with countless "poses" for subjects that are women? How many photographers use terms like "pretty," "sexy" and "sweet" during a photo session with us?

Here's the thing: it's the 21st century. Your professional headshot is about empowerment, and it's about YOU as a person and a woman. You are not a doll to be positioned, and you are not here to "give [the camera] sexy". That's not to say that you aren't sexy or sweet--but you are the many, many, multi-dimensional aspects of your identity that too many photographers neglect to consider or ask you about. When a photographer falls into this kind of rhetoric - often with the kindest of intentions - it diminishes you. You begin to imitate and play a role for the camera, instead of invoking your inner voice.

When I work with any headshot subject, I'm not interested in molding you like clay, or telling you to "give me" anything. I'm interested in body language that makes you feel empowered and natural, and techniques that invoke your uninhibited, real self. Whether it's me or it's someone else, do yourself the favor of finding a photographer that stands behind your right to be more than a buzz word.

Actors- Who should take your headshots? (Non-Actors, scroll down)

Actors looking for headshots look like easy money. Frankly, because most people are not very informed consumers, we are easy money. It’s not that photographers are trying to rip you off on purpose – it’s just that, in the era of digital cameras, a lot more people have proudly entered the market, fancy Canons and Nikons in tow. 

Simply having a good camera does not make someone a good photographer. Moreover, being a good photographer doesn't make you a good headshot photographer. That's like saying a hockey player can win a figure skating championship without training. Think about it.

To sift through all this and find gold, you need to identify three things: 1) Technical aptitude. 2) Style. 3) Something I call "Spark." Here's how to look for them.

1) TECHNICAL APTITUDE – This should be a given. A headshot photographer’s subjects should be well-lit—no harsh shadows or glares, unless dramatic lighting is intentional for a specific "mood" portrait (not a good idea for general headshots). Eyes must be crisply focused. The background should be soft and blurry, so it doesn’t pull attention from the person.

2) STYLE – A good photographer needs to have a distinctive, contemporary style. A dated shot doesn’t give the impression that you’re a modern professional. Current styles are full bleed (no border), and have a clean, natural look. They shouldn’t look stiff, posed or be in front of a patterned backdrop. Nor should they be super touched up "glamour shots." Leave the cheesy backdrop and glam lighting in the early nineties, where they belong.

3) SPARK – This is a term I use. This is the hardest element to identify, and the MOST IMPORTANT. Once you figure out how to see it in a photo, you’ll always know when it’s present or absent. A picture is worth a thousand words. Below are two shots I took during one of my early headshot sessions:
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Both are lovely. But only one has spark. It’s all in her eyes. X-Factor. Energy. Charisma. Steve McCurry calls it the "unguarded moment" when someone's essential soul peeks through . There are a million words to describe this concept. It’s the thing that makes some performers captivating, even when they’re motionless. You know it when you see it. Well, it must be present in a headshot! Pretty, cute, and nice are synonyms for generic. A headshot must contain your personality. When someone looks at your photo, it should feel like you’re there in person, looking right back at them.

Before choosing your photographer, you need to be sure you see the “spark” in all their images, and feel confident that they can help you achieve it too. I tell clients to get a good night's rest before a headshot, because I'm going to need all their energy. Well, I always get a good night's rest as well, because in order for you to get the best shots possible, I also need to be on my game. A skillful photographer knows that it’s vital to get subjects to produce "spark," and has techniques to help you produce it if you don't already know how to do so yourself or are having a hard time inducing it on cue. It’s different for every person, so it becomes a team effort. To achieve a great shoot, a good photographer must also be your coach, therapist, cheer squad and teammate. So make sure you pick someone that will give you all of that -- your money's worth.

Finally, let me lead you to the site of a top-of-the-line headshot photographer. Notice how all his subjects have spark and personality:

Peter Hurley: www.PeterHurley.com

Why do I offer "free publicity" to a famous photographer? He doesn't need it, trust me. It's because I genuinely want you - the performer - to make an informed decision. If reading this leads you to get headshots with Peter Hurley, power to you - I'm certain they will be extraordinary. If it leads you to me, I will take that as a compliment. And if it leads you elsewhere, I hope I've helped you make the right decision for YOU.

Non-Actors: Why get a good portrait photo?

Once upon a time, the only people getting professional portraits were kids looking for yearbook shots, and adults who needed to print their image on publications or business cards.


In this era of social media, your image is out there long before you walk into a job interview, meeting or even a social engagement. Social media has generated the Lifelong Global Yearbook. Here are the types of profile photos you should AVOID using on professional networks like LinkedIn:

-The "Floating Arm" - the casual photo that you've cropped their friend out of, leaving just a floating arm.

-The "Selfie" - Cell phone self-portraits are all the rage in Middle School. Not for you.

-The "Awkward Mall Portrait" - The stiff, high-school style portrait of the past just makes everyone cringe.

Everyone knows that first impressions matter--and in a digital world, that first impression is not always face-to-face. A good headshot captures you in a way that looks natural, but intentional. It exudes your persona, whether professional or personal, without being "glamorous." It's the expression and energy someone would experience if you walked in and shook their hand. The overall look of a good photographer's business or personal headshot portfolio should not be uniformly stylized - the setting, lighting and shot needs to be tailored to you based on your needs.

In the Actor section above, I discuss the importance of "Spark" in an image. Spark is just as important in business portraits - it's the factor that makes your image feel authentic rather than contrived. I work with every client to ensure this comes through in their image; that's why I don't offer 10-minute sessions that some photographers do. Ten minutes won't get you the impactful portrait you deserve. 

Before choosing a photographer, take a look at her or his portfolio and make sure you like the balance of professionalism and personality that you see in the images there. If everyone looks the same, that's a bad sign. If you get a sense of subtly different personalities in each shot, that's what you want.

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