We asked our (wo)man on the ground to find us the best headshot photographers in LA, and she certainly delivered…
Your headshot speaks for you, whether you can speak it’s language or not, you need a translator.
LA; La La Land; the land of dreams; the place where there is an array of people waking up each day and deciding to be actors. There are the lucky ones; the ones who kinda know what they’re doing; the ones who mainly drive for Uber and aren’t really doing anything else except inundating casting directors and agents with their high-hopes and weird corporate headshots. Then you have the veteran actors – the ones who know what the fuckleberry-fin they’re doing – the ones who should terrify and inspire you. The latter is your competition no matter what kind of actor you want to be. So your foundation needs to be strong. Your foundation is the first thing agents, casting directors, and directors see. You can be the hardest working actor in the business, but if you’re not checking the first box, you’re going to have a hard time getting in the room.
Shortly after I landed in LA my manager suggested that I get some new headshots done. When I say shortly, I think it was somewhere between walking into Miley Cyrus with her dream and her cardigan at LAX, and getting passively (debatable on the passive part) stoned the moment I breathed in California air for the first time. Longing for a distraction, I immediately googled ‘best headshot photographers in LA’. The great thing about the internet is that you can jump online and type in one question and then 1,000,000 answers will be right there in front of you to choose from… Then there’s that thing that we (millennials, and perhaps one generation either side of us) are accurately taught growing up: don’t believe everything you read on the internet. It becomes frustrating when all you want is one answer that is endorsed by Kendall Jenner and then off you go on your way… But sometimes a little more research is involved. In this case, however, look no further: all the work is done for you and even handed to you on a silver platter…
So, because I wasn’t thrilled on the suggestions I was given, I kept digging. I turned to Instagram and searched a bunch of hashtags, I spoke to a few actors who are LA- entertainment-industry-veterans, then did some more digging and eventually found 4 ridiculously talented headshot photographers. I’m surprised how much work it took to find these photographers because their work is superb. You don’t have to take my word for it, I’m the messenger – look at their work, it’ll articulate their skill better than I can.
Before you do that, let’s talk about the information we already have and how to apply that knowledge when going in for a headshot session, and how these photographers can help with the things we know we should know but don’t really know… Confused? Same. I’ll simplify. The main reason I am writing this article is because I worked in casting for a while and then spent the following months in a looney bin because of actors’ headshots…
But there’s a subtle truth to that statement.
When I see your headshot I want to see you – I want the person in the photograph to be the same person who walks in to my office. It’s not about a pretty picture (not everyone has a symmetrical face and not every role needs one). And it’s not about distracting the decision-makers with your biceps or your thigh-gap (although debatable #Hollywood), It’s about understanding and owning your truth and your uniqueness – embrace the things that make you stand out from other people. The best headshot photographers are aware of this, and that’s why it’s imperative to know who they are, what they offer, and what works for you.
Let’s stay real: life is a constant exploration of yourself, so as an actor this is crucial – there should always be something you’re exploring. The key is to know what roles you are suitable for and what your niche is. Good news is that you’re allowed to seek a little help in this area. It’s imperative that you hire the photographer that is able to capture the parts of yourself that you do know and also has the experience, knowledge, and technique to unlock the parts that you don’t. Photographers are your ally, they are important: If you choose the right headshot photographer then half the work is done. It’s like having a director on set: you are the product and as long as you know who you are and what you can do, they are there to serve the purpose of the project and keep it on track.
Now for the good part – the list of the best headshot photographers in LA, a few examples of their work, and how to book these incredible, generous, daring humans. They don’t charge too much which means you don’t have to borrow your friends leg to pay for them. Some of them barely have a social media following (I’m old-school so I dig that) but for those of you who were born with an Instagram account and don’t take the advice from anyone with less than a 10K following because you’re afraid of trusting your own taste, remember that before anybody becomes somebody, they were nobody. So check out the links below and let them speak for themselves; if one doesn’t speak to you, keep looking, keep listening.
Not everyone is going to agree with or even like the choices you make, but remember there is strength in every choice; make the choice that’s your perfect. All the people you want to be are already not for you to be, so to embrace who you are is where the success starts.
Thank you to the wonderful photographers below who were generous with their time and energy, and with such authenticity.
A paragon with Australian bearings and immediate rapport. Paul draws your soul into the lens with an abundance of adventure and a great sense of humor.
“In its simplest form it’s about capturing an essence or emotion. The best portraits are honest and true moments. No posing. No overthinking. ”
- Look: paulsmithphotography.com
- Invest: paulsmithphotography.com/faq
- Book: paulsmithphotography.com/contact
- Follow: @paulsmithphotography
A beautiful spirit with a soul that warms those in her presence. Kathy, with a passion for cinematography, guides you through the world of your story and captures your life-force.
“I aim to capture a powerful genuine suggestion of who the actor is.”
- Look: www.kathyluuography.com
- Book: www.kathyluuography.com/contact/
- Follow: @kathyluuography
Kind and so much fun, Joanna welcomes you with conversations that capture genuine spirit. With a background on both sides of the camera she has an effortless way of inviting your best selves to show up.
“What kind of artist are you? You are telling people who you are.”
- Look: www.joannadegeneres.com
- Invest: www.joannadegeneres.com/packages
- Book: www.joannadegeneres.com/contact
- Follow: @joannadegeneres
Warm, personable and so great to work with. Stephanie accompanies her skill with the nourishment of enthusiasm and laughter, and a generous spirit.
“The goal of a great headshot is not to look perfect, but to show your personality.”
- Look: www.stephgirardheadshots.com/main-menu
- Invest: www.stephgirardheadshots.com/pricing
- Book: www.stephgirardheadshots.com/contact
- Follow: @stephgirardheadshots3
Ken uses his eccentric sense of humor to disarm and create a relaxed environment where your best self can shine through. Open to collaborating, he provides you with encouragment and feedback throughout the shoot and makes you feel totally taken care of.
“Nothing beats knowing you are in good hands, that is psychologically is unbeatable.”
- Look: www.kenweingart.com/headshots/
- Book: www.kenweingart.com/portrait-music/contact/
- Follow: @kenweingart
The Light Committee
Rafael, who operates The Light Committee studio, recently did a shoot with StageMilk’s own Morgan Bradley. The shots came out great and Morgan reported on Rafael’s professional set-up and attitude, and was very happy with the shots!
“Working with Rafael was smooth and easy. As soon as I arrived he had a costume and make-up station for me. He had a refreshment station too, which I thought was a sweet touch. His studio is big with multiple lights and backdrops. We used the studio for 1/3 of the session then headed outside. Once outside he had multiple spots in walking distance that had great lighting too. At the end of our session we headed back to the studio to do a few more shots. I enjoyed the whole process. He’s great to work with and gives you direction if you like it. He’s fast, professional and his turn around for the edits was great!”
- Look: https://thelightcommittee.com/
- Invest: https://thelightcommittee.com/actor-headshots/
- Book: [email protected]
- Follow: @thelightcommittee
You have your headshots. Now what?
It’s time to get an agent and get your career in this industry underway. We talk with some of the best industry professionals we can find each month in our acting coaching group to help you learn as much as you can about what to do with your acting career. We run monthly online group coaching video calls so you can ask any questions you may have. As well as get feedback on scenes and monologues you submit to us.