headshot photography

Why I Love Shooting Actor Headshots

When I first started out as a photographer, I had dreams of shooting serious photojournalism for newspapers and magazines. That’s still a goal. But the reality is that my bread and butter is doing photography for private clients — weddings, mitzvahs, family portrait sessions and, more than all of them combined, actor headshots. And, while in the beginning I thought it was just a temporary way to make a living while I developed my “serious” photography, what I’ve come to realize all these years later is — I love shooting actor headshots and there’s a special reason why.

When I was in high school, I was a theater kid. I was a passionate actor and dreamed of being a movie star some day. It was my whole identity. I studied at HB Studios and became an aficionado of all things theater and film. All of my friends also did theater and we went to plays and the movies constantly. We lived, ate, and breathed acting. Unfortunately, like many, I got scared off of acting after my first rejection in the real world and, even more so, after an acting teacher discouraged me. I was too young to protect what I felt I had inside — to understand that nobody but you knows what you have inside. Eventually I moved on to other interests, on the other side of the stage. Instead of performer, I became observer and eventually that path led to photography. In a way, that bad teacher all those years ago lit a fire in me to champion the young actors I work with today and urge them to believe in themselves, even if just for that one hour I have with them, as their headshot photographer.

That’s me on the left (obvi) in an original play, my senior year in high school.

While I love being a photographer, to this day I feel most at home in the theater, seeing a play, or watching a performance on film. I still get a thrill from it and I still love actors. I just get them. I know that they’re not really narcissists, as some people think (well, maybe some of them are, hee hee) but empaths, driven to tell people’s stories and be a voice for the underdog. In fact, I see similarities between my purpose as a photographer — to pull back the curtain on people’s lives — and that of actors shedding light on the human condition.

So, when I first started working as a photographer, I took like a duck to water photographing actors. Living in New York City, there was certainly no shortage of demand. Before I knew it, I was shooting headshots full-time and building a successful business. I love the interaction with actors and getting to know them. I love figuring out who they are and how to reveal that in their headshot. And I love figuring out their casting and how they might actually fit into the real world of acting, whether it be in theater, film/tv, or commercials. (Nobody is better than me at figuring out what famous actor you look like so you can tell casting directors your type!) But, I especially love encouraging young actors who are just starting out, especially when I sense a little self-doubt or exhaustion. I passionately want to give them the confidence and resilience I lacked when I was their age and that they’ll need to survive. I fiercely want to protect that light in them before it flickers out, like I wish someone had done for me. Turns out I discovered a way to merge photography with my first love, and keep a foot in acting after all.