dealing with actors' portraits
I've just run into a little problem, and I'm hoping some of you can help me with advice.
I have just started doing test photos for actors. I am trying to practice and build a portfolio so that I can get work taking headshots. I have taken out an ad, specifically stating that I am looking for actors who will do "time for prints". I put in the ad that I will provide five prints of various shots to the actor. No contact sheets, no cd, no negatives, no monetary compensation. Five prints, that's it.
So, inevitably, I have an actor who wants me to give him a CD of ALL the images so that he can pick which ones he wants. I explained to him before we shot, the following: I will provide you with five prints, we will be using black and white film, and we are working TFP. Now, I cannot (will not) possibly print every image from the four rolls we took and then scan them onto a cd so that he can look through them. I also don't want to just give him contact sheets so that he can (they always do) pick the worst looking shot that is overexposed or has problems. AARGH! I thought that I was very plain about all this, explaining both verbally and through e-mail what he would be getting. So far my experiences with actors have been pleasant, but I suppose there's always a bad seed.
I don't want to be argumentative, so perhaps there is a compromise that I haven't thought of. Any ideas?
I did head shots and composites in LA for a few years.
I don't think compromise is needed here. You stated your ground rules. He didn't pay anything. You have the right to do busines the way you choose.
Stick to your guns.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
Some humble suggestions,
Move on and do not use this "actor" you set the parameters
2. Use non actors-make them a 5 shot portfolio in exchange for the model release.
3. Contact the agencies who hire actors bases on portfolios
4. Hire an actor or a model for one hour....if they are good it will be worth it....you could pay them their fee and or swap barter etc...however, if you thire the actor directly or through an agency and your work is good you have started your network....true professional models are worth their hourly fee.....and how they look is your ad!
I did the headshot thing for a while in New York. Every city has its own conventions, so what works in other parts of the country may not fly here, and things have changed since I was doing it, now that there's more digital involved, so you'll need to do some research to see what's current locally. If you want to do business, you need to offer something that's competitive in the local market. A CD with hi-res images of all shots from the session is too much, I'd say, but a contact sheet is reasonable. There should be no issue of exposure problems with headshots, because you should be shooting in a controlled studio environment, where the exposure is always going to be about the same.
Look at the headshot ads in Backstage and talk to working actors, and see what kinds of deals the pros are offering. Usually it's a contact sheet and a master print (or more than one master print or a digital file with the selected prints), which the performer goes and has reproduced at a lab that specializes in headshot repros. Most photographers will offer to handle the reprints, but this is not really the interesting part of the business, so unlike wedding photographers, they get paid for the master prints, and the reprints are out of their hands. Also unlike wedding photography, the headshot business is about repeat business, because actors always need fresh headshots and may want special character shots for a particular audition.
Another thing to look at in the Backstage ads, and the walls of Modernage and Kenneth Taranto labs, is what the current fashions are in headshots. Do some shots with your own ideas, but most actors want the same damn thing that everyone else is getting, so learn to do whatever that thing is at the moment, and offer shots in that style. Kenneth Taranto (the best headshot repro lab) used to do an annual show of headshot photography. See if they are still doing it, and take a look at what's out there, and once you feel confident about your work, you might exhibit in the show.
New York is generally more conservative regarding headshots than Hollywood. On the West Coast, color, horizontals, and outdoor shots with natural lighting have been acceptible for quite a while. For a long time these were regarded as unprofessional in New York. Color has become more accepted in the New York market as photographers have gone digital in the last few years, and then I think you started to see more variety and natural lighting as amateurs without studios started getting in on the act.
David is absolutely right. My take on your post that you were just trying to build up your portfolio to get started.
Once you get a decent portfolio though, you will have to do what David suggests here to get mainstream and competitive.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
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I think the problem here is all the digital guys that have 'lowered' the market standard. What I mean is many, many digital photographers give away images on CD - all of them and all hi res 'cause they want a portfolio so badly. So here you are competing the likes of the digital snappers.
I am in the same boat. But, I stick to my guns. When I shoot TFP, I flat out tell the models that:
1. I shoot film
2. I don't shoot a bajillion shots, just one roll per look - that 12 pics on MF
3. I always have an MUA minimum and usually I have a stylist
4. She only gets a few (at most 2 shots per roll - usually only one shot per roll and maybe another couple from the entire shoot - this usually ends up about 6 at most and averages 3) hi-res pics for her portfolio and web quality pics for whatever she want
5. She signs a limited model release
But it's tough because of your digital competition and the lowering professional standards out there. Stick to your guns. Shoot quality work and the work will come. Many models are starting to want more than just 'agency' pics - they want artistic pics and pics they like in their portfolio.
What is TFP?
What is MUA?
Just need to understand some new TLA's (Three Letter Acryonms; Sorry-couldn't resist)
TFP = Time For Prints (The model poses for prints as opposed to ca$h)
MA = Make Up Artist (A great person to have)
At least here in Los Angeles, the local convention over the past year or so has been Color Shots for Commercial Submission and Black and White for Theatrical, Film & TV Submission. I'm sure this drives the actors nuts because now they need twice as much as before.
Anyone care to discuss pricing? I'm in Atlanta, Georgia and formerly charged $150 for up to 2 "looks". Tried doing publicity shots for a couple theater groups but even though everyone "loved" my work, few hired me for headshots.
So earlier this month I doubled my rate. Will be interesting to see if a higher fee is perceived as being "better" when it's the same 'ol me.
(Was inspired to charge more when I saw what the folks on the west coast charged, up to near $1000.)