Getting A Great Headshot By Todd Estrin – Todd Estrin Photography

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If you asked someone outside the entertainment industry what a headshot was, they would probably either look at you in a funny way or give a very simple response – perhaps: “It's a picture of you.” This would not be incorrect; however, to an actor a headshot is so much more. In fact, it can be the jump start to your entire career. So given the sheer importance of a good headshot, how do actors get one that will “open industry doors?” To start off, it's important to note there is no formula to this question, no magic answer. Every photographer, actor, and casting director knows when they see a good headshot — but few know how or what it takes to consistently get one. As a photographer I would be lying if I said my process is the only way, but I believe in my work. Here is a little about my take on the steps to getting a great headshot.

  • Do your research. If you are new to NYC, Google “best New York headshot photographer”. Start to build a list of about 10 photographers.
  • Go through your list. Everybody has their favorites, but if you trust yourself, go with your gut. Narrow your list down to five.
  • Contact your top five. Send each photographer an email. Keep it simple. Introduce yourself, ask about their process, and find out their rates and available packages.
  • Select two photographers who meet your needs and set up a phone call or in person meeting. Any photographer, at a minimum, should be willing to give you at least ten minutes on the phone.
  • Make your decision. It is crucial that you work with someone who feels comfortable and with whom you vibe. You are hopefully going to be opening yourself up during your session; this initial conversation with your photographer should give you an idea if this will be possible. Don't worry about what your head says; your heart will know who is right for you.
  • Those are the 'steps' you need to do. Now that your decision is made and your session is scheduled, the hard work is done and the fun work begins!

    Whether you're experienced in front of the camera or not, your photographer will make sure you look good. He or she will be able to position and light your body and face in the angles that will accentuate your better physical qualities. All of that is craft that any photographer can learn; the real art of headshots is in bringing you to life. If you are someone who knows they need some help coming to life in front of a camera, you need to make sure this is one of your photographer's strengths. If not, you are setting yourself up for an uncomfortable session. My advice to all actors is to let go of trying to 'be' anything. Stop caring so much about showing confidence or trying to emulate what is sexy, commercial, or dramatic. Allow your essence to be seen and work with your photographer to help capture that essence in a picture. Your headshot session should be an enjoyable experience, one in which you get the space to explore who you are. It should feel a little exposing, but after all, isn't that why you act?

    Todd Estrin is a noted New York photographer specializing in headshots for actors. His studio is located in Brooklyn, NY. If you'd like to set up a headshot session please email me at

    Todd Estrin Photo Todd Estrin Photography is a Brooklyn based headshot photographer specializing in working with actors. To experience simply being yourself in front of the camera contact theme at his website

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