You’re an actor, so the brief for a good headshot ought to be simple: it just needs to look like you. And yet in a business where your face is your fortune, but that fortune comes from playing characters who are not you, the concept of “you” gets complicated. So what should casting directors be seeing when they look at your headshots? And how do you go about finding the photographer to get the images that will do the best for your career?

The first thing to get clear is that your key headshots need to be faithful, up-to-date representations of you, with your eyes engaging the viewer. Your personality must leap off the paper or screen, but for a portrait to project a sense of your style and versatility it shouldn’t express any one emotion or atmosphere too overwhelmingly. Only if you’re asked for “US style” headshots should you send an image which is tailored to a specific role.

Actor Headshots - On Set

So you’ll want a portfolio of images with different looks, in both black-and-white and colour: from these, you’ll be sending a casting director four or five which are appropriate to the production and demonstrate your emotional range, while leaving scope for the production team to imagine you in their idea of the role.

Makeup should be light and your clothing straightforward and contemporary, while the lighting should look natural. Working with natural daylight can produce great results but it can be limiting: we live on a rock in the middle of the North Atlantic and whether you’ll get perfect natural lighting is a matter of chance. However, find a photographer skilled with light and you’ll get natural effects no matter what the weather.

Preparing for a role requires concentrated effort and at Studio Grey we believe that good portraiture is performance art too. You need a photographer who is as comfortable on set as they are behind the camera, because our job is to be your fellow-performer, working with your keys and giving you cues to play off, so you can find your most relaxed and vivid self. We’ll also collaborate with you over wardrobe and styling, and we have professional stylists, hair and makeup artists to help.

But how to find the right photographer, out there in the jungle where everyone wants your money? Look at Spotlight’s listings, ask around, read recommendations and reviews, and study portfolios, looking for qualifications and accreditations to professional bodies such as AoP, BIPP or RPS.

Costs are based on the photographer’s time; many start from AoP or NUJ rates, but totally understand that actors are not CEOs, and will offer starter packages or discounts. But since you will want to come away with a portfolio, you’d be well advised to reckon on a 2-3 hour shoot, and the price is likely to be £350-£400. If it’s significantly less, ask yourself what the photographer won’t be doing – and whether it’s the right equipment, or the right skills, that they don’t have.

Of course with your portfolio of images from a good photographer, you’ll also get the confidence that your files are securely stored, and easily accessed – and as your career develops, we’ll enjoy working with you to create new images that continue to express your professional identity.

Actor Headshots

Mark Grey is a qualified, experienced headshot photographer recognised by Spotlight. He works in both studio and natural light and is based in Covent Garden, at the heart of London’s Theatreland.

Your brand, that unquantifiable asset defining your coaching service has to be clear, simply understood and coherent. Images, straplines, messages and ultimately your service have to sing from the same song-sheet. To help you, we have put together a simple questionnaire enabling you to determine your visual online presence.

Coaching Brand Questionnaire

Six straightforward questions to help you think through your imagery. Once we have your answers we'll provide you with a personalised mood-board.
  • Headshot Questionnaire2
  • Headshot Questionnaire2
    Select each option where the images will be used.

We’re all taking stock, aren’t we. Are you wanting to build your presence in your industry? Are you trying to change industry altogether, or embarking on blogging or vlogging? Or maybe you’re about to tackle your lockdown hair, which has prompted a re-think about your whole image, and you want your corporate headshot on the website and the board in reception to match.

Or has staring so often at other people’s headshots on Teams or Zoom, because their wifi went down yet again, reminded you just how important anyone’s profile image is to their working life, whichever way they’re headed?

The thing is your headshot, your profile image is the first and sometimes the only visual reference employers, colleagues, customers and industry associates have for who you really are: your personality, your experience and capabilities, and, crucially, your potential and aspirations. You thought your CV was important – but your professional portrait never gets put away in HR’s files, it may well go around the world, and it’ll probably represent you for years.

That makes getting a new headshot perhaps a bit daunting, but also exciting: here’s your chance to actively shape how you’re seen by the people who matter to your career. A good photographer understands all this and can help: they’ll listen to what you want, then use their experience and skill to create the images that will work best and hardest for you. So what should you be saying to them?

First, think about how you want to be seen. What’s your narrative: the story about you that the image should be telling? You’re a professional in your industry, obviously, but beyond that, is your story about ambition and energy? Creativity and communication? Or thoroughness and dependability?

Second, what’s the context of your corporate headshot being looked at? The story needs to be just right for that specific place. Someone looking at your profile on the company’s website isn’t thinking how they think when they’re on Linked In. If you’re being seen in the wider world – an industry publication interview, a news item, an award announcement – the narrative needs to be different again. In each of these contexts your professional portrait needs to tell the right story about who you are, where you’ve come from, and where you’re headed.

But above all, your portrait needs to speak of your individuality: what makes you, you. It’s that which makes viewers feel they know you – and from there it’s easy for them to imagine how you’d be to work with, and what you can bring to their business.

At Studio Grey we’ve years of experience in drawing out the real, professional you and capturing it in camera. We have experts on hand who can help with your styling, your confidence, and even that lockdown hair – and we have a good line in coffee and jokes along the way. Whether you’re heading up a multinational or a department, going for promotion or setting up your own company – and whether you’re excited to have a good portrait or nervous in front of a lens – we’ll work with you to create the images that will help build your career.

So the long, pandemic enforced, wait is over. And if like many people you have used the time to reflect on life, you may be thinking of change. For many the idea of going back to old jobs, old routines and old way of life is completely inconceivable.

Director Headshot photography

Some might think that uncertainty means that now is not the time to make changes. But to quote the ancient sage Hillel, “if not now, when?” Crisis creates opportunities and Covid-19 is no different. The financial shock will force change on many of us; we can either fight the torrent or, like a skillful slalom canoeist, use it to our advantage.

Changes do not have to be huge: simply deciding to work remotely rather than commute could improve your lifestyle immeasurably. Or you may decide on dramatic change: switching career, starting a business or moving company.

Whatever the change, you will need to adapt the way you present yourself (because if you present the same old profile, you’ll get the same old results). People, your colleagues and clients, need to see a physical change and in this connected 24 x 7 world, that means your web-presence.

That means changing your professional profile, LinkedIn, Company Address Book, Social Media etc., to support the new you. And while you are painstakingly editing your profile, do not forget the first thing that people will respond to: your profile image. Princeton research has confirmed that clients, colleagues and potential employers will make snap judgements in split seconds. And that can mean the difference between success and failure.

Your Headshot, be it a Corporate Headshot, Actor’s Headshot or Social profile shot, communicates subliminal messages: have you got it right?

Take a look at your colleagues (or companies or industries you want to join). How do they present themselves? Is there a unspoken uniform? Is a jacket and tie expected, or is a more business casual image required. Also, look at the lighting and background: how does a different look make you feel? How do you wish to adapt your image to communicate the right messages to the right audiences?

Mark Grey is a professionally qualified, experienced photographer working out of a Central London Studio. He takes headshots for business leaders, high court judges, consultants and celebrities. His work has been published in Forbes, The Lawyer, The Telegraph and Vogue Italia.

Contact: Studio Grey, 71-75 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9JQ. www.studio-grey.net, enquiries@studio-grey.net or, 07764 801420

Covent Garden emptied on Friday 20th March. Since then I have had to check on the Studio and get it prepared for post-lockdown. Here are some images, taken on an iphone & my SLR camera, on the days I worked. Enjoy (I think).


Covent Garden Plaza, about 4 minutes walk from our Headshot Studio
Friday, 20th March. An occasional commuter, outnumbered by security personnel.

The Lyceum Theatre, Diney's The Lion King. About 10 minute walk from our Headshot Studio
Monday 11th May 2020, Government message: “go to work if you can’t work from home”. Much quieter. A client desperately needed a headshot for his Internship.

Lockdown in Covent Garden, where our London Corporate Headshots Studio is based.
Tuesday, 19th May, Preparing for Post-Lockdown. Covent Garden is even quieter.

And now some Lockdown – Easing Images.

The government easing started around 11th May but it wasn’t until 15th June (two weeks ago now) that non-essential shops were allowed to open. The following images were taken between 15th-26th June it is slightly better, but nowhere near normal.

One thing we need when emerging from the current crisis is a gleaming LinkedIn Profile. No matter if you have been furloughed or worked normally, we know that more commercial activity will take place online and our web-presence is more important than ever.

And what better place to start than at the beginning: your profile page masthead. The Background Image.

Now LinkedIn has a default. It looks like a 1960’s linoleum pattern. Neat, tidy even but frankly Meh! Faced with the prospect of putting up a background many people go for the personal approach. A nice landscape picture taken on holiday. Or something snatched from the web. But this isn’t enough, your background image has a commercial job to do: it supports your message.

Your background image provides context to both your headshot and your profile. Getting it wrong is the equivalent of turning up to a cocktail party in fancy dress. It looks out of place and does nothing for your credibility. A good background should aesthetically match your headshot and provide visual signifiers that enable anyone scanning you profile to understand what you do, who you are and decide to connect within a fraction of a second.

A few examples.

Browse our background collection.

We have a selection of LinkedIn Backgrounds for you to choose from. Each image is optimised for LinkedIn, so you can be sure they will make you look your best.

No, seriously. Who are you?

You are far more than the Vice President EMEA, Human Resources manager or actor’s agent. Who are you is a deceptively simple question but for an effective headshot it needs an answer.

Most headshots are either for networking sites such as LinkedIn or for a professional listing on Spotlight. So perhaps the question should be: who are you, professionally? It’s an easier question and one that profits from a little research.

Start off by asking yourself: who am I selling to? Imagine yourself as a commodity or service that has a market. Thinking this through will help identify your audience. You may have several distinct groups of people to communicate to. Facebook, LinkedIn and Spotlight audiences are different and subtle adaptations of your message may be required.

Once you’ve identified your target market, what is it that they are looking for from you? What core skills mark you out from the crowd? What is it about you that people ‘buy’? Many of us are too close to the product to see our own strengths. Ask trusted friends. Take a look at your colleagues profiles, they are your competitors. What are they saying? How do they communicate with the audience. Once you have a clear idea of what you wish to communicate make a list of your key qualities:

  • Experienced/Newly Graduated/Competent
  • Attention to detail/Self-Starter/Team Player
  • Diligent/Creative/Finisher
  • Trustworthy/Resourceful/Dependable
  • Empathetic/Results-Driven/

It is these qualities that start to form the narrative in your headshot portrait.

What is Narrative?

Every image has a narrative: the story contained within the image. Often tacit, the narrative is rarely consciously recognised by the audience. At a very basic level it is simply understood. It is the first impression, taking microseconds to form and can be the difference between success and failure.

You might think that headshots, being close-cropped portraits, have little or no narrative. But colour, lighting, pose, clothing, hair, make-up, background have a profound effect on your message. Look at the images below. Can you spot the Writer? Property Investor? Banker? Start-Up CEO?

For commercial images narrative is a conscious choice agreed by both subject and photographer. Narrative has to be compelling, captivating, capturing imagination and honest. Done well, it will hold the audience’s interest.

Perhaps the most important element of narrative is expression: what elements of your personality and character are you transmitting to the lens at the moment of capture? It is hard to look intelligent when daydreaming. Getting the right expression is part of the theatre of photography and portrait photography is performance art. It is an exchange between you and the photographer for the benefit of the audience. It captures the real ‘you’.

Context

If narrative is about what is in the image, context refers to external elements: where will the image be seen (art gallery, magazine or social media). Elements adjacent to the image will modify how it is ‘read’. A profile picture can look out-of-place if the context doesn’t match the narrative. Audiences feel that something is ‘wrong’. The viewer (potential client, casting agent, recruitment professional) may not know why they feel uneasy, they will just move on to the next candidate.

Matching Context to Narrative (and vice-versa)

Where will your image be shown? How will it be shown? Different media often need different narratives: an image for a book cover may need to be different for a magazine PR release. So consider the options: do you need several headshots for different publications?

When planning your LinkedIn profile think through the following:

  • How can my image match my LinkedIn profile (what does someone with your skill-set and experience look like)?
  • What background/supporting image is needed to support your profile picture.

Your linkedIn default background is a standard blue background with a constellation of networked blobs. Is this good enough? Does it do you your profile justice? Think about your background: what context would support your headshot?

Your LinkedIn background should provide the right context for your role. It should strengthen and support your message and it should sit comfortably within the overall design. The focus should be on your headshot. The background is simply there to enhance your profile.
Occasionally the headshot can create questions. Where there is doubt as to who you are or what you do, the background provides context giving the audience more information about you. Helping them make sense of your headshot.

Planning your shoot

Once you have a broad idea of the audience, message and how you wish to communicate all you have to do is take the picture. Self-portraits are notoriously difficult to capture exact expression, pose and lighting. So, for the budget conscious, try to at the least enlist the support of a friend with some photographic skill.

But you may decide that visual consultancy is needed. In which case you’ll be looking for a professional photographer. Choose a portrait specialist: professional photographers specialise. A still-life or food photographer may light you wonderfully. But do you really want to look like a Tiramisu?

When deciding on a photographer, check their credentials: are they qualified? Do they have any reviews and ratings? Does their portfolio demonstrate variety? Can they adapt to take the image you need or do they just have one style? Are they as comfortable in the studio as outside in ‘natural’ light?

But perhaps most importantly, will you get on with them? Portrait photography requires teamwork and you need someone who is interested in you.

About Mark Grey

Mark Grey is a portrait photographer working from his Covent Garden Studio. Mark is a qualified member of the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Royal Photographic Society. His images have won Gold Medals and Cups. Clients include: Accenture, Chanel, Kerney, Lombard Odier, TV personalities and actors.

Life after Covid-19

When the country starts to take the first tentative steps to ease lock down, we will be launching our own safe headshot service. And we need your help to trial the new arrangements.

Free Headshots – Friday 22 May 20

Actors and performers have been particularly hard hit by the Virus. Theatres, film sets and venues were the first to get shut down (and they may take some time to reopen). So we’d like to help the community by providing Spotlight Headshots for Actors & Celebrities free of charge for one day. Each actor will get up to a 30 minute session and a set of images will be sent over for your final selection. We will retouch and prepare one headshot for Spotlight, Social Media and Print.

One day only

You will be helping us get our social-distancing, safe headshot sessions right (for safety and to keep to the 2m rule, the shoot will be conducted outdoors rather than in the studio). All that we ask in return is the right to use your headshots for portfolio and marketing.

How to get involved

No-one knows when restrictions will be lifted, so we are being as flexible and reactive as possible. The earliest date is possibly the first week of June but it may be sooner. All we ask is that you register your interest and we will send details of the shoot.

Register your interest here or email

Before the virus changed everything our world was becoming increasingly commoditised. Unicorn start-ups financed by speculative venture capitalists launched apps and websites that de-skilled traditionally complex services. London’s Black Cab Drivers, who had spent a minimum of two years leaning every street, avenue and road in Central London suddenly found themselves competing with unskilled drivers using an app on their smartphones.

De-skilling trades is nothing new. In 1865 a photographer called James Mudd imagined a clockwork camera that could be wound up and sent off to automatically take great views and snapshots.

Recently, VC backed firms have launched services that make hiring a photographer as easy as buying pizza: the Uber model of photography. On the surface this appears to be a great idea. A Unicorn start-up disrupting established businesses. After all, modern expensive cameras are packed with technology, the operator doesn’t need any skill to fire off multiple exposures.

Headshot for Forbes Magazine

And here the analogy with Uber is relevant. About two years ago I was in the back of an Uber taxi. We were stationary, stuck in an app-generated traffic jam as everyone was routed down the same roads. Eventually I was dropped, 20 minutes late, 400m away from my client’s location (the driver did not know London and simply dropped me where his app dictated). I have taken Black Cabs ever since and always arrive on set early.

Professional photographers are either graduates with three years’ study under their belts or have spent a 3 – 5 years assisting (a hands-on apprenticeship). Many have both. They will belong to one of three trade associations: The British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) or The Association of Photographers (AoP).

Corporate Headshot, Male, Taken at our Covent Garden Studios

If your headshot simply needs to be a likeness it doesn’t matter how its taken: use a photo-booth. But your professional image has a job to do, it speaks to your target market. Be that a potential employer, clients or your colleagues and managers. Properly trained photographers will ask questions you have not thought about. They challenge your assumptions to create images with narrative that engages the audience you wish to impress. It is quite impossible to pre-programme a camera with three years worth of complex political, social and aesthetic visual analysis.

So, if food quality isn’t an issue order an online pizza, if time doesn’t matter travel by Uber and if your image is unimportant, get a mug-shot.

Professional photography is highly bespoke. It is as individual as you are and simply cannot be commoditised.

Low Key Actors Headshot, Attractive female Headshot
The Corporate Headshot - What is it and What makes a good headshot?

It’s a simple question but the answer is anything but simple. Technically, headshots are tight framed portraits that focus attention on a person’s face. And that’s where many people think the story ends. Clients may simply ask for a professional headshot… ‘I just want to look professional’. But they haven’t fully thought through what a headshot is and what functions it performs.

Close cropped, they provide detail and expression so communicate character, mood and intent. And this is important because a professional portrait isn’t simply a likeness, it is a marketing tool. It has an audience and a message. Whether it is a set of team photographs on a company website, your C.V., LinkedIn or even a dating website profile: your headshot has a job to do.

This is where things start getting interesting for us and we’ll share with you some information around purpose and how headshots can engage positive emotions. After reading this brief guide you’ll know better about what kind of headshot you should be asking your photographer to deliver to you on your next headshot photography session.

Headshots – The Basics

Although attention is on the face, there are signs (signifiers)  and narrative communicated in expression, dress, lighting, background and focus. And we use every element to craft complex messages that transmit emotional meaning. The human animal is highly tuned emotionally (how often have you heard the phrase: people buy on emotion, justify with logic)?  And this is really important in a C.V. or your LinkedIn profile. Your next boss/client/HR manager, will take a quick look at your headshot, in a split second experience a set of complex emotions (often subconsciously) and then start to read your ‘personal statement’. If your headshot does not support what is written the manager will feel uneasy and move on to the next candidate.

It is perfectly possible to create a headshot that is at once, professional, relaxed, senior, intelligent and approachable.

What is a headshot and how do we consistently delight clients.

How Do We Go Beyond Headshots Basics?

First we need to understand your requirements; who you are and what you wish to communicate? Our preparation guides start to get you thinking: what clothing is appropriate for the shoot? What do I wish to communicate? Even on our most basic headshot session we spend time getting to know you, understanding how you express yourself. Looking for the little character traits that make you special, working out the most flattering angles for light, lens and camera.

Headshots communicate emotion

Lighting creates mood and therefore has to be tightly controlled. No matter if you are using ambient light from a window or catching the last rays of a sunset, light has to deliver the mood required for your headshot. And, as you are a busy executive and as we live on an island in the North Atlantic, the likelihood of being able to wait for the perfect ambient light is around zero.

But this is where you can have your cake and eat it. Light is a known quantity, we can adapt and modify it for the situation: creating sunset at mid-day and warm rays in winter. It is simply a matter of applying the right components of light.

We will discuss your requirements and create a lighting set (both in studio and on location) to meet them (assuming the perfect light hasn’t magically made an appearance).

How do you want your headshot to be read?

Signifiers or signs: these can be found in many places but particularly your pose and clothes. We will take you through a number of poses and show you what your body language communicates. A simple signifier can be  the difference between wearing a tie or having an open necked shirt.

Expression: photographic portraits are performance art. Even the most experienced can feel a little uncomfortable in front of camera. As portrait specialists we adapt our performance to bring out the required emotional expression: whether that is a wry smile, steely-eyed glare or warmth and compassion.

london corporate headshots

Audience

All headshots are marketing documents. They have to communicate the right message to your audience/marketplace. And that audience will change. One day you might be sharing news of record growth with your co-workers, the next discussing cyber security with directors. So many senior executives and consultants actually need a library of PR images: so that your marketing department can respond quickly and appropriately to an editor’s request for portraits.

Professional director headshots

If you have an audience of casting directors, your images have to work extremely hard. Not only do you have to fit the role, you have to stand out against many other suitably qualified actors. Just as importantly, your headshot should give the casting director confidence that your ability and character will enable them to fit you to the role.

– Corporate headshots:

Either crafted for companies or individuals, these images have a professional, business function: to communicate value. They are typically larger than a simple headshot and have room for greater narrative. They can express your core values, your brand: the sort of business person you are.

Often corporations (especially professional service companies) use an ‘Our People’ page so that potential clients can see who they are dealing with. This practice is well known in human resources and corporate marketing and is called “staffing”. Showing a human face to the public on their websites brings clients closer to the human side of a company: something that couldn’t be achieved if it wasn’t for corporate headshots. Brand consistency is important: the images have to conform to a similar look and feel. However, each individual character has to shine through the filter of the corporate brand. Viewers reading the whole page at a glance subliminally recognise a multi-disciplined team. A company with a depth of resource.

Public Relations Corporate Headshots

– LinkedIn headshots:

On May 5th, 2003, Linkedin launched and in a stroke revolutionised business networking. It is the No. 1 resource for HR professionals, recruiters and job seekers, looking to connect, hire and secure their next role. As the platform has grown, so has the competition. And whether you like it or not, people read a book by its cover. So, if your LinkedIn profile picture is poor, you will be making a poor impression. Your LinkedIn headshot is often the first thing a potential client or new employer will see. So, imagine how you would prepare for a first meeting with them and put the same effort into your headshot.

– Director headshots:

Director’s have multiple roles requiring complex messages to many stakeholders. Communications to employees will be fundamentally different to messages targeted at investors, clients and the market in general. Even the simple headshot has to be prepared for the specific audience. For directors the marketing department need an extensive library of public relations images. And they have to be prepared in the correct file format and colour space (it is no good sending a 72dpi jpg in sRGB to a publication that requires a 16 or 32 bit image in CMYK colour space). Directors are regularly recruited for their personal characteristics as much as their technical proficiency.

Director Headshots are carefully crafted Libraries carrying multiple messages.

Professional character creates corporate culture. And it is this character we have to capture and communicate. Consider the setting: what narrative needs to accompany your likeness? How should you dress (we regularly have stylists with changes of outfit for our Director Headshot sessions) And of course grooming is vital. All directors need a make up artist on set, simply to make sure you look your best; each hair perfectly in place and tie knots haven’t slipped.

–    Actors headshot:

These are powerful headshots that set you apart and give you the best chance of success in your profession, whether actor, performer or celebrity. Again, intended audience and message are key to getting a good headshot. Take a look at the competition: what are your fellow actors using on their Spotlight listing?

You are a performer and a headshot session is performance art: we work with you to get the most out of your performance, acting variously as director, antagonist or audience as appropriate. Prior to the shoot we will discuss details, the kind of role you are looking for and who you are as an actor. It enables us to discuss various options with you. Throughout the shoot we review images as they are produced, adapting and modifying lighting, background and expression as required. It is collaboration in its highest form.

corporate portrait photography London

Some people get easily confused with all these different categories, so we hope that now it will be a less murky concept for you. We also hope that after reading this brief guide you’ll be better known about these 5 closely related genres so the next time you’ll pick a better suited headshot depending on what you want to achieve. If you have any further doubts, don’t hesitate in contacting me.


For Corporate and Business Headshots:

Grey Corporate Headshots London

71-75 Shelton St, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9JQ

07764 801420


For Actors and Performers Headshots:

Garrick Headshots

75 Shelton St, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9JQ

020 7407 8776