Headshot Conversation with Zero Dean

After the above exchange with Zero Dean, I received a follow-up message from him, which I will also share with you.

I think the primary problem in most cases is a misunderstanding of what a headshot is for (both by actors and photographers), which is also why the information you share about the subject is extremely helpful and also why I came to you when I had questions. I will freely admit that your previous articles on the subject directly changed they way I shoot and look at headshots.

Well, yay! I’m glad I could help! As long as everyone remembers that headshots are nothing more than an actor’s business card, we’d all have it a lot easier.

The thing is, nearly any photographer I know who has been making a living from what they do has developed a particular “style.” Not only has this style become a “comfortable” way to shoot (do anything over and over and it becomes easier), but because the style is “obviously reflected” in the work, it’s one of the primary reasons clients seek out a particular photographer. (Whether or not they realize the reason they like the work is because of the “style.”)

And, in my opinion, once a certain “style” has been developed and repeated over and over and over, it becomes harder to “escape.” (This is something I personally battle with because I feel that stretching as an artist is good and while I want people to appreciate my work, I don’t want every shot I take to be obviously pinpointed as “a Zero Dean.”)

Okay, a couple of things on this.

I totally agree. And I think it’s awesome that you even see an artist’s responsibility as one that includes stretching. The fact that you pay attention to that indicates that you won’t succumb to the trap we see other LA photographers fall into.

So while headshots are about the actor’s brand, they are also, almost inseparably about the photographer’s style (or “brand”) as well, in my opinion. And I’m not really sure that even matters so long as the photographer’s [headshot] brand is ultimately meeting the needs of what a headshot is for. (Right, Bonnie?)

Preach, Zero! You read me!

There’s a photographer in NYC who charges over $1,400 for a headshots sitting (or so the rumor goes) because he’s developed such a style/brand that people feel they will truly benefit from it. Does that mean his headshots are any more effective than some person who pays $250 for theirs? I suspect not. But in the end, does that even matter either, so long as the headshots are meeting their intended purpose and the people paying for the service are happy?

Except for when CDs get concerned that an actor is spending way too much money on photos in order to compensate for a lack of talent. I mean, if you only have so many actor-dollars to spend, how can you afford class for a year when your headshots are that expensive? It makes us nervous. And, again, we’re looking to eliminate actors any way that we can!

I think, in the end, it comes down to a photographer and an actor connecting and being able to communicate well (needs, results, goals). When an actor is uncomfortable for any reason, it shows through in the photos and, again, that’ll give us a little psychological nudge in the wrong direction for an otherwise qualified and talented performer.

The thought I try to convey to my [headshots] subjects is: Are you simply looking for the thrill of being called in by a casting director because of your “beautiful” (or flawless) headshot, but then ultimately rejected because of it? Or would you prefer to be called in having confidence that you and your headshot reflect each other accurately and that now it’s really up to you and your acting chops to land a role?


If you can post that up somewhere in your studio or on an info sheet for actors, you will be providing them a wonderful service.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000673.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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