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Laurieby Karen Michel Pavlick

My child is stuck in the body of an actor!

The month of September! Back to school! New friends, new activities, new clothes and a fresh new look! I always loved those first days of going back to school, the excitement of not knowing how the year will unfold!

Going back to school kind of feels like getting a fresh new headshot! And that’s where I am, back in business, all because I got a fresh new look!
Headshots are by far one of the most important tools for the aspiring actor.

And when you get the look you LOVE, like I did with one of my favorite photographers, MELISSA KOLAKS BROADDUS, there comes that familiar excitement of not knowing how the year will unfold.

School’s back from summer, which makes this the perfect time to take a refresher course on headshots…. Meet your instructor…Melissa Kolaks Broaddus.

QUESTIONS: How do you find the right photographer to do your headshots?

ACTORS: Referrals.

I think that’s the best source. When you see another actor’s headshot you like, ask who shot them. Call that photographer and see if she or he gives you a good vibe. You might get the assistant. That’s OK. Ask them some questions and see if you can set up a time to meet the photographer in person to review their work and get a vibe from them. However, you don’t always need to meet in person.

When I was acting, I was successful getting pictures with and without that pre-shoot consultation. It’s most important that you feel comfortable with how you proceed and you want to feel excited for your shoot. If someone gives you a bad vibe on the phone, move on. There are many EXCELLENT photographers in LA! And…yes… there are also those not doing great work, and that’s where you just have to do your research. If you don’t know a lot of actors from whom to get referrals, log onto LA Casting to check out the ads or walk into the labs like Pixels LA, Reproductions, and Argentum, to name a few, and look at the headshots on display. This is an EXCELLENT way to maximize time as you can also compare printing processes and see how you feel about the customer service at the labs. I love labs that aren’t intimidating and are happy to help new actors navigate the process of getting headshots!

You want to feel that the photographer that you are hiring will not only work to get you what you want, but will also guide you from their experience. Do you feel they will follow through and deliver? Do they seem to care about your career and appreciate your business? Make sure to look at their packages and prices and see if that is a match for you budget. Get the information you need to make yourself comfortable and then go for it! You can over research too. So when you click with someone and like his or her work, you have to dive right in.


QUESTIONS: What is a good price for pictures?

ACTORS: This, like anything, is relative. Some people want a full-service package all-inclusive with editing and retouching, pro make-up artist and posh studio setting with awesome location options. Others just want basics, no make-up artist, a disc of pictures unprocessed to head off with right after the shoot. Bargain pricing isn’t the end all. Just remember that! It’s not a bargain if you pay $200 for 8 looks and none of them are up to par and you have to shoot with someone else for another $300-$400. You just spent $500-600 to learn a lesson when you might have been able to have that posh experience for that price from the get-go. That said, some great photographers do offer some great pricing specials to generate new business. So don’t be afraid just by a low price. You have to see their work and get a feeling for their personality. It’s worth it to work with someone whom you trust, takes your career seriously, cares about getting great pictures you love and knows the industry folks will love them too!

And don’t be fooled by a high price either.

Recently, a client went to shoot with a very high-priced photographer, around $1000, and she ended up coming to me afterwards because almost all the shots were unusable. He just didn’t care to get it right for her.

So, a “good price” is one you can afford that gets you not only the shooting experience you want but the post-service you may want as well, pictures that are professional and look like YOU and are appropriate to the type of roles you want to book…and that you are excited about!

Remember as you compare prices; photographers who are in studios or who do custom processing/retouching themselves have more overhead and prices may seem more expensive at first than those who work from home, on location or don’t do any retouching or processing and just hand you a disc or copy files on flash drives after the session. And remember to consider the cost at the lab after the shoot; digital processing and retouching are charged by the hour.


QUESTIONS: How many looks should I shoot?

ACTORS: Again, this changes based on your type. Young actors may only need one or two shots. A commercial shot for younger kids is usually best. But if the young actor is really suited to drama, get a nice theatrical shot as well. For most actors, you need at least that basic commercial and theatrical look. It should be casual attire that suits your type and is technically good for the camera. Photographers have some guidelines for this and it’s best to consult with them before the shoot to talk over looks and wardrobe, some say no white or black or graphics. I’m more of an “it depends” type shooter. If a client comes in and really has specific needs to meet agent requests, we absolutely adhere to that – but it doesn’t prevent us from throwing a few extra surprises into the mix. Some of the shots that have worked the best for actors have been those we’ve experimented with and “broke the rules.”…That said, I love a clean white background and a great close-up that is full of intention and completely engaged. Can’t beat that. It’s really all about you – capturing you – introducing you – you jumping off that paper – you there in front of that casting director, agent or producer and saying, “Hey, that’s right. I’m exactly what you’ve been looking for and I’m right here!”

Beyond the two looks, all bets are off! Again, you have to do some research of your own. What helps me when talking with clients is to ask, “What roles in film or TV should you be playing?” Then we identify those types and build wardrobe choices around that – not costumes! Smart, wardrobe choices. I say if you aren’t great with fashion, look at current commercials and TV shows and find those characters that you see yourself playing and take clues from that. But mostly, you need to be you and there is nobody like you…so at least you have that down 🙂


QUESTIONS: How many headshots should I print?

ACTORS: I’m sounding like a broken record: it depends. Since so much of casting is done online, your really don’t need a lot of copies of your headshot. If you are seeking both a theatrical and commercial representation and doing same direct submissions yourself for projects, I’d say start with 50. You’ll be submitting online for castings but for agents you’ll still be mailing packages. 50 should cover you on that first round and if you don’t get a call from that batch, you’d want to try a different shot anyway to change it up. If you have an agent and they are sending you out tons and you also go out for theatre and direct submission castings, maybe you need more. But you’ll be far enough along at that point that you wouldn’t be asking me that question as you’d know best.

Starting out, new to the business, I’d cap it at 50. The main thing is, you don’t need to over do it. For kids especially, they change so fast, if you get 100 or more you may only get through half of that before it’s time to re-shoot. But you can always send extras to the aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, 2nd cousins, great aunts, and so on… Or take them in to your local diner or Blockbuster signed in a sharpie to hang on the wall when you book your first movie or TV role!


The short and sweet, do your research, come up with ideas about what you want and need, (you have to learn how to market yourself, yet, take good guidance), consult with your photographer, pick a date, put down a deposit, go shoot and have FUN!

And then get those pictures out there in a timely fashion so you can get acting!


Check out Melissa’s studio and headshots!

Go to my facebook page, Questions & Actors, click LIKE and start communicating with fellow actors and parents!