A dancer typically needs to have a headshot for securing talent management. But they are then also used to submit for an audition. In addition, they can be used for social media profiles and also for the dancer’s website to build a brand for themselves. But what makes a good dancer headshot and how do you find a headshot photographer in Los Angeles?
A good headshot begins with one that represents you. So, to start, you might want to wear the outfit you would to a typical audition. Because you likely need more than one headshot, another outfit might be in your favorite top.
In addition, you might want to take a full body shot. In this case be sure to wear form-fitting clothes like tight sweats, tights, or leotards. Furthermore, generally speaking, keep the clothing simple. Avoid large logos or accessories, busy patterns like flannel, stripes, or dots unless they are very subtle. The point is to minimize your outfit’s claim to attention, so you get the attention and not your clothes. If you already have an agent or manager, be sure to get their input on what they might like to see you wear.
You probably already know to do an online search for a photographer. However, there are many other things to consider when doing this search. If you are using the most popular search engine, they will often show you results for the photographers closest to you, which are not necessarily the best options.
Be sure to expand your search to as far as you would consider driving. For example, the top five or six photographers in your area might all have 30-40 four and five stars ratings but what if you were willing to drive 10-15 more miles? You might find many other photographers that might have well more than 100 or 200 five-star ratings. In addition, you might find ones that save you money too.
So, do not just expand your search by distance, also be sure you are looking at ones with a lot of reviews. Some of the popular search engines do not necessarily list results by the most reviews with five stars.
Also, be sure to ask your photographer about their location. Do they have a commercial photography studio or rent one, or do they use a room in their home or apartment? This information is not always forthcoming on a photographer’s website. Ask for their rates – do they list them on their website and if not, will they email or message you rates so you have it in writing?
Finally, make sure you review their work. Most commercial photographers will have a website to show their work and provide other useful information – photos of their studio, address, background about themselves, and so on. Visit their website to see their work. If you have questions, ask away. Sometimes, how they answer – and how fast or slow – can be revealing as to whether you want to work with them or not.
The subject – you – is the first thing that matters in a photoshoot. So, be sure to bring your best you. Remember, you have dancer headshots made to use them to get auditions for paid opportunities. Literally, future earnings are on the line. So, be the best you, you can be – sleep well the night before, bring good options for what to wear, practice your looks in a mirror, and bring a positive and happy attitude. Now, the photographer can use their tools to make you stand apart.
Natural Light and Studio Light
First, lighting is a consideration. If the photographer is doing shots outside, they will be at the mercy of natural elements. Is the sun out at all or is it cloudy? What are the chances of rain? What about wind blowing your hair out of place? Is it so hot you will sweat or so cold you will shiver. These are just some obstacles. But they are not to say a good dancer headshot cannot be made in natural light. They absolutely can. The point here is to showcase some of the obstacles between natural light and studio light.
With studio light, you will likely be indoors. There is no need to worry about much of what goes on outside. But the photographer will need to have technical aptitude working with studio lights. Can they work with three, four, or five light setups or are they limited to just one or two?
The Camera and Lens
You likely sought out a professional photographer because you know a smartphone camera will just not cut it. When you combine the quality of lighting with the quality of camera and lenses used, it comes across in a photographer’s work. But this is only the case if they have the technical aptitude with how to use a great camera with a great lens alongside great lighting equipment. Just like a Ferrari cannot save an inept driver from going too slow or crashing, a great camera, lens, and lighting cannot save an inept photographer.
To Retouch or Not to Retouch
Retouching is an essential part of the headshot creation process. It is arguable that a picture has never in history been created that could not have been improved with retouching, even if just a little bit. Some photographers might argue that retouching just lies to the viewers, that it takes away from the image being the real you. This argument is likely made because they do not want to do retouching or cannot. There is nothing about removing fly-away hairs, acne that will not be there next week, lint on your top, and so on that takes away from the real you. Retouching is simply polishing the final product that will be your great headshots.
Remember, if you are working with a manager or agent, ensure they are involved. Get as much of their input as possible, like:
Find example headshots of other dancers online that you might like to mimic and share them with your photographer in advance. You can email or message them or at least bring them along and share with them before you start setting up to shoot.
Finally, remember to go into your session well rested and relaxed, and with a positive attitude. Though working with a headshot photographer in Los Angeles is a business transaction at its foundation, and the headshots can have an impact on your dance career, there is no reason to induce stress about it. In fact, the experience should be fun or positive and whether or not that will be the case begins with your approach to getting headshots made.