Headshot Experiment | See examples from 3 photographers

There are literally hundreds of articles online about how to choose the perfect headshot photographer...

So we all know by now that they need to be of a high quality, professional standard, but once we’ve established that, how on earth do actors begin searching through the mountains of photographers and find one that suits the style we’re looking for?

A musical theatre actor may require a very different headshot from a classical Shakespearean actor, similarly an actor who has been playing the panto dame for the last decade is not going to want the same style photograph as a recent graduate hoping to bag the lead on Hollyoaks. Every actor is different, and every photographer has his or her own unique style. The difference in style comes from the individual, their use of lighting, the types of lighting they use (studio, natural, moody, the list goes on), the way they frame and crop their photographs, and finally how they edit those final images.

When trying to decide which photographer to use, actors are faced with the impossible task of scouring the internet and photographers websites, to scroll through headshot after headshot of beautiful or striking people wondering what on earth us mere mortals will look like in the same lighting. If you don’t know the actor in the photo it’s almost impossible to decide if it’s a good likeness to them.

So here at Mandy.com (previously Casting Call Pro), after much persuasion from members asking, "Couldn’t it just be an even playing field?", "It’d be great if we (actors) could see the same person shot by a different photographer", we have managed to find three willing candidates (with a little help from our friends at the newly formed APHP) for a little experiment designed to give you the chance to compare some of the very many styles available.

We took one actress, who like most of us "hates having her photo taken" and sent her to three APHP approved photographers - Michael Wharley, MUG Photography and Nicolas Dawkes. She wore the same top, hair and makeup, and had a shortened session with each one of them.

Here are the results - three sets of fantastic photographs, but each with their own very unique style.

1. Michael Wharley - the vibe is relaxed, informal...

Smack bang in the centre of town, a short walk from Waterloo station, Michael’s studio sits alongside the train tracks, nestled amongst cabins of other artists. It’s creative, suburban and more importantly central. Tea is offered the moment you walk through the door, the vibe is relaxed, informal and feels like meeting with an old friend. His gentle, chatty demeanour puts you at ease before the session begins. His style of direction is subtle, and photos are snapped amidst conversation. His website is jam packed with information and videos on everything from how to choose a photographer to how to pose for headshots. Ordering after the shoot can be done fairly easily through his online system.

Michael: ‘I don’t have one look that I repeat, I shoot what works for you. I help you make the right choices of top, and direct you to achieve different subtle moods across the shoot, while using different backgrounds, lighting techniques & ‘feels’ of shot to capture your full casting possibilities’.

www.michaelwharley.com | Prices £275-£500

2. MUG Photography - Adam’s cosy studio has a comforting feel of being backstage...

A minutes walk from Westcombe Park Station, through a wooden warehouse gate, and up some stairs, Adam’s cosy studio has a comforting feel of being backstage. He’s warm, welcoming, and there is no hiding the ex performer in him as he gently hums show tunes whilst he sets to work. His clear and detailed direction is almost liberating, taking the pressure away from the actor ‘trying’ to get it right, and enabling you to trust him and go with it. As an ex West End Musical Theatre performer himself, he knows how to create flattering, sellable images for that genre as well as others. His shots range from headshots, to full body shots and he even offers shared sessions for students. His website has loads of information and some fantastically detailed examples about the difference a top can make. Ordering after the shoot can be done fairly easily through his online system.

Adam: ‘I wouldn’t say I’m trying to produce the most ‘traditional’ form of headshot we’ve seen in the past. I’m looking to get something a little more creative in my photography and looks we create. Something with some drama and dynamic tones to it. Something that really jumps out from a page full of thumbnails that a casting director or agent will be looking at. Something when you see on first glance grabs you, for that split second, and creates a lasting memory.’

www.mugphotography.co.uk | Prices £300-£500

3. Nicholas Dawkes - a big bright studio complete with dressing room...

A short walk from Westbourne Park Station, and a climb up a chrome staircase to a big bright studio complete with dressing room, fully equipped make-up area, a wall adorned with retro cameras, sofas and a huge screen for reviewing shots both before and after the session. This place is cool! (Possibly too cool for this thirty-something!) Ex actor Nic is chatty and light hearted, his studio is modern, as is his whole outlook, and technical system, everything from booking a session and telling him about yourself and casting type, to purchasing photos can be done smoothly and efficiently with his faultless online system.

Nicholas: ‘The aim of my shoots is to not put pressure on you to ‘perform’ in front of the camera, as soon as someone feels they have to project something into the lens, that’s when it all goes wrong! I want you relaxed and comfortable and only then can we capture some LIFE in the image. I use a lot of direction during my shoots to get you in a different headspace and thinking about your casting and where we want the photos to get you.’

www.nicholasdawkesphotography.co.uk | Price £255-£285


This is what our actress had to say about the experience:

‘I’ve always been terrified of having my photo taken, I had a few bad experiences when I first graduated until I finally found a brilliant photographer Claire Grogan who I have used ever since – she’s brilliant. So I was a little daunted at the prospect of going elsewhere. I needn’t have worried though, I found all the sessions comfortable and enjoyable, and my agent is very happy with the results from every single shoot which is a bonus!’


About APHP

In 2016 The Association of Professional Headshot Photographers, or APHP was created and much like Equity acts as a stamp of approval. Members of the APHP are all the most experienced photographers in the actors headshot business, expert image makers who possess not just decades of photographic experience, but also un-paralleled insights into how casting photos are used in the industry.

So now one way of ensuring a quality photographer is to look out for the “APHP Approved” kite mark. “APHP-Approved" is a neutral hallmark of quality and expertise in a crowded marketplace. Wherever you see it, you can be sure of working with an APHP-qualified photographer who is fair, reliable and responsible, possessing the experience, skill and knowledge to provide you with the highest quality headshots.

Find out more about APHP on their website.