It may have been due to seeing more lines and creases in the mirror, or the fact that I haven’t had many meetings or self-tapes this year, but something told me that it was time for new headshots.
Often used as the universal panacea by agents and actors when times are hard, it’s the headshot that gets you in the room. It’s your calling card.
When I told a young drama student how much the photographer would cost, he responded: “I’ve got a mate with a camera. He could take the pictures.”
Well, yes, and I have a friend with a spanner, but he won’t be mending my sink. I’ll be getting a qualified plumber so I know the job is done properly.
Headshot photographers are expensive these days, but they are a great investment – the right picture will get you work. You just need to check what you’re getting in the package. They may promise to provide you with 300 digital images – though whatever you do, don’t send all 300 to your agent, you won’t be popular. The photographers will offer to retouch a certain number of images. Check how many – the more the better.
But the sad fact of the agreement with the photographer means your picture is not yours. Flash, bang, wallop! Not your picture. The copyright is owned and remains with the photographer.
So check the terms of what your photographer offers. In extreme cases, any editing or cropping you do yourself could be an infringement of copyright.
My recent set of pictures was sent to me digitally, locked into an online studio, with the photographer’s watermark heavily printed across all of them.
It was slightly hard to imagine just how much work I might pick up by circulating photographs with large copperplate writing across my chest, but in the age of the internet, this has become essential for photographers
to protect their work.
Having spent a pleasant three hours in the studio with a photographer who is chatty and has an extensive variety of adjectives to make me feel good – “Stunning. Oh yeah, that’s great. Head to the left. Loving it. Tighten that chin” – I was a little disappointed when I saw the results a couple of hours later at home.
Yet I don’t worry. I know in my heart I am Rotherham’s answer to Ryan Gosling. The people who need my picture are my agents who actually sell me. I leave the choice to them and one shot to the photographer.
The retouched pictures look great. But more than that, they look like me, the me other people see. We don’t define our own casting just as we don’t define our own look.
It’s what other people see that matters. And as long as that headshot is an accurate representation of what physically walks into the audition room, then it’s done the job. And in my opinion, it’s a job best done by a professional.
Paul Clayton is an actor, director and author. Read more of his columns at the thestage.co.uk/author/paul-clayton/