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How To Choose A Headshot Photographer For Your Performance Portfolio

Building your performance portfolio is an important aspect of being a musician. It is your business card. It outlines to prospective persons and groups what your musical abilities and accomplishments are, while displaying your talents. Its presentation is crucial, because it's often the only impression you’ll be able to make. And although every part of it is significant, your head shot is often the most influential part of the entire portfolio. Naturally you’ll want to choose a headshot that shows you to the best advantage.

Choosing a photographer for your headshots can be a little daunting. Although it may seem pretty basic, you need to pick someone who is up-to-date on the latest photography and artistic performance trends. Plus, photos aren’t cheap. You want to choose a professional who can create an evocative picture that intrigues the person or acceptance committee you want to impress on the first try. These tips can help you narrow down your options so you can choose the right photographer for this important element of your performance portfolio.

Choose a Professional

This really goes without saying, but many students and musicians want to cut corners on the costs, and ask a friend or other amateur photographer to take their headshots. Don’t do it. As an artist yourself, you know how valuable precise execution and personal expression can be in a performance. It’s the same for photography. Taking great pictures is an art, and you should only consider professionals when choosing your photographer.

Look for a Professional Who Understands the Art of a Great Headshot

Taking a headshot may seem simple, but it definitely is not. The photographer must know what kind of lighting, background, and settings will perfectly complement your particular eye coloring and skin tone. You’d be surprised how much of a difference these factors can make on creating an appealing picture that brings out the best of you.

Talk to Your Colleagues and Peers

Look at the headshots of other musicians you know and talk with them about which photographer(s) they’ve used. Most of your contemporaries will be flattered if you ask who took their photos, if you’ve paid attention to the little details that make their pictures look so stunning. For example, does the headshot really embody the talent and experience of the musician? Does it complement their music style and convey their personality? Does it make them look attractive, appealing? These type of subtle features can mean all the difference in choosing a photographer.

Choose a Photographer with Whom You Feel Comfortable and Safe

No matter how awesome someone’s work is, if you feel weird or uncomfortable around them, you won’t be able to present your best face for the camera. It’s not hard to recognize the fact that if you feel relaxed, calm, and safe, you’ll be able to look your best during the headshot session. Having your picture taken can be a very "intimate" experience – after all, looking into someone's eyes (or camera) can feel like you're exposing yourself. Any uneasiness or tension will come through in your pictures. That's why it is so important to pick a photographer with whom you're comfortable. That way on the day of the shoot, if you do feel anxious, the photographer can help put you at ease. They do it all the time!

Play the Odds

When you're viewing a photographer’s portfolio of headshots, play close attention to how many of them are truly outstanding. Naturally, the examples you see will be their best work, and if there are more “ho-hum” pictures than “wow” ones, odds are that your shots will come out ho-hum too. A portfolio that contains mostly awesome headshots is the best choice, because the odds are that your pictures will also look great.

Get Upfront Information About the Pricing

There are many “extras” involved in photography, so you need to outline the total costs before you schedule your session. For example, some professionals charge by the hour while others will set a fee based on how many settings you’d like. Moreover, retouching costs may be included, or they may not.

Find out the full range of charges and what they include before you agree. It’s also a good idea to have everything defined in writing. Does the photographer have some different settings that would be great for musicians? Will they be "candid" or posed shots? Can you arrange for an outdoor shoot, if desired? These type of aspects are always better to nail down before you have your sitting. That way there won’t be any surprises later.

Ask for a Digital Format

Although most professional studios provide you with a digital copy of your headshots, you want to ensure that they are included in your price. Having a copy of your headshots gives you a way to create more prints, if necessary.

Choosing a photographer for your headshots shouldn’t be taken lightly. The headshot itself is a powerful tool for creating a lasting impression, so don’t rush it, because the right headshot can be a huge advantage to your musical career.

Intellectual Property (Copyright)

In most cases, you will choose to buy however many images you want from all of the shots that were taken. Make sure you understand what you're paying for. Because this comes under the "work for hire" section of copyright law, you will own the images and their copyright when you buy them. The leftover images that you don't buy, remain the property of the photographer. Check the language in your contract to make sure you acquire the copyright to the images you purchase and the ability to use them as often as you wish and in any way you wish. Some contracts may specify that the photographer's name be included when published, e.g. photo by [name of photographer].

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