10 Signs You've Found the Best Headshot Photographer in Boston

10 Signs You've Found the Best Headshot Photographer in Boston

With so many great photographers in Boston to choose from selecting the best headshot photographer for you can be a challenge. Here are ten tips to help you get the most out of your investment in professional headshots...

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16 Best Practices for Actors Applying to Boston Casting Calls

Good Advice for Boston actors submitting their acting headshot to casting calls

Occasionally I help cast film projects (and I post those castings on Hollywood East Actors Group), and every time the experience provides tremendous insight into what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a casting call. I'll see a handful of great actor submissions, but more often I see submissions that could be improved.

Here's what I've learned from being on the end of the casting director - hopefully these tips will help my actor friends present themselves more professionally and increase their chances of getting called in for auditions:

 

1. Keep in mind it's a real human being receiving your submission email, so include a short but sweet intro message along with your submission. Only submitting a headshot and resume with no text is impersonal, and you’re missing your chance to make a great first impression. Don’t write a paragraph, but in a few words be nice. Say hello be grateful for the opportunity - essentially give them a reason to like you before they’ve even looked at your headshot and resume.

 

2. Follow the instructions. In my most recent case I asked actors to include “CASTING: (Your name)” in the email subject line. People who did not follow these specific instructions made themselves stand out as someone who does not follow instructions, and that's not good. Even writing “Casting:” with lower case letters is still not following instructions. Remember, small things matter.

 

3. Only submit to the casting if you actually fit the character description. Seriously. If you know you don't fit but still want the chance to get in front of them for other jobs you can say that, but be professional and polite. You could say something about requesting to be included in their talent pool for future opportunities.

 

4. If you're serious about acting invest in a professional headshot. Amateur photos and selfies, especially wearing sunglasses, do not make you look like a serious actor. Remember, a casting director is receiving numerous submissions and the photo you're using can either grabs their attention and interest or just makes you blend in with the crowd. It’s the actors with high quality professional headshots that stand out and come across as the most professional.

 

5. Ensure that your headshot file is named appropriately. It should be labeled with your name rather than just “IMG_584c”. That helps the casting director do their job more efficiently and it makes you look more professional.

 

6. Make sure your headshot is a small file, around 300KB. Do not submit a file over 1MB, and certainly NOT your printable 8x10 file. Keep in mind that the person you are submitting to may have to forward multiple photos onto their client for review, and if your photo is too large and causing the email to be unsendable by exceeding the limit you risk them dropping your headshot. 

 

7. Make sure your headshot looks like you. This is too important. The headshot you're using should be current. If you send two headshots with different hair cuts be sure to mention which one most accurately represents your current hair style. If you have a different hairstyle or facial hair then tell them, and in this instance including a recent selfie, alongside your professional headshot, is appropriate. Of course, let them know you’re including a recent snapshot to indicate your current hair style.

 

8. Mention where you saw the casting, or if someone referred you mention them. That can help the casting director better understand how actors are finding their casting, which is helpful. Anything you can do to help the casting director helps you.

 

9. Properly format your resume and deliver it ideally as a PDF. Remember, the casting director may be forwarding your headshot and resume onto someone else, so it should be an attachment. Avoid Excel spreadsheets, PNGs, a link to IMDB or other website, putting the resume text directly in the email, or a photo of your resume page. Here’s my resume, which I created as a Google doc and exported as a PDF. Feel free to copy the formatting. 

 

10. Send your headshot and resume as separate files. It’s fine to have a headshot thumbnail on your resume, but make sure you also include your headshot as a separate attachment. Speaking of which, make sure the files you send are attached and not embedded in the body of your email. Both of these practices are important when the casting director is forwarding your files, along with the attachments of the other applicants, to their client.

 

11. Send your headshot as a single image, not a composite of images, unless you’re applying to a modeling gig where a comp card is appropriate. If you want to send multiple images send them as separate files, that way the casting director can select which image they like the best for this particular job to send to their client.

 

12. Be respectful of the casting director’s time. Do not include a million links in your email. They are busy and most likely not going to watch them. Only send your best stuff. Remember, less is more.

 

13. Ensure that you use spell check and correct grammar in your intro message. Never use ‘u’ instead of ‘you’. It looks really bad!

 

14. If there’s something wrong with your headshot or resume, do not point it out. Take the time to fix it. If you are starting your message by pointing out where you’re lacking in preparation it does not create the best first impression.

 

15. Assuming you are being polite and succinct, ask questions like “How can I stay connected to you and future projects you’re casting?” But don't be offended if they don't personally respond to you. Remember, these are very busy people.

 

16. If you are uniquely qualified for this project in any way, tell them about it! But keep it short and sweet. For example, this recent casting was looking for men who like sports. The best response I received was from a young man from Kenya who told me how he came to America on a tennis scholarship and along with a professional headshot, included some shots of him playing tennis. You better believe I’m going to be pointing that out to my client and that will earn him extra consideration for the role.

 

Many people who call themselves professional actors come across as amateurs in the submission process, and short of the audition, nothing is as important as the first point of contact when you first submit to a casting director. Keep in mind that these are busy professionals who deal with a ton of people and will not take the time to give actors feedback on where they can improve their submission practices, which is why I wanted to write this post. I hope these tips help my actors friends show up as the professional actor they are working so hard to be!

BTW, these tips are just my opinions and are in no way final or definitive. Please let me know if you would like to add any tips to the list or disagree with anything I’ve written. All feedback is welcome!

 

Erica Derrickson is an award winning headshot photographer residing in Boston, Massachusetts.  Her professional headshot photography portfolio, along with articles on top headshot tips, can be viewed on her web site, http://www.ericaseye.com.  As the founder of Hollywood East Actors Group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/hollywoodeastactors, Erica has been able to share her expertise with actors throughout New England, establishing herself as "Boston's headshot expert."  Beyond being one of the top headshot photographers in Boston, Erica Derrickson is a professional actress, http://www.presskit.to/erica, whose recent film credits include "The Heat," with Sandra Bullock.

How Traveling in India Made Me A Better Photographer

India is a challenging and confronting place by its very nature, but from challenges come growth, which is why it’s not uncommon that people who spend time traveling in India come back somehow transformed. Just ask The Beatles or Steve Jobs. As for me, after three backpacking trips to India in my 20s, totaling a year of traveling altogether, I can say that that the experiences I had in India had a huge impact on me and my photography.

This was me setting out on my first backpacking trip at age 23. I spent three months in Thailand and two months in India

This was me setting out on my first backpacking trip at age 23. I spent three months in Thailand and two months in India

My first backpacking trip to India was over two months in the late winter of 2009 when I was 23, and I can confidently say that it was the rebirth of my photography. Although I started out as the apprentice to a wedding photographer in Washington DC in 2001, I hadn’t had a camera in years. However just before I left on this trip a dear friend gifted me a Canon G10. It was a point and shoot camera with a few manual controls and I used it to reconnect with my love of the artform, explore the country through its lens, and I even published a book of the images I created called "Thousand Words: India".

Fast forward a few years later to when I began my career as a Boston headshot photographer in 2012. Over the next two years I built a solid portfolio of acting headshots that instantly impress casting directors. I was good at creating the kind of images where I had the full attention of my subjects, where I was gazing intently into the depths of their souls and revealing a truthful essence there. This kind of headshot photography became my thing and I became well known for it.

But in 2014 I went back to India on my 29th birthday, this time for six months. It was an amazing experience, but as a photographer I got incredibly frustrated.

This time I came equipped with my Canon 60D and two lenses I had been using in my career as a professional headshot photographer, great lenses to photograph people up close and personal (my trusty Zeiss 50mm and my Canon 70-200mm), but therein lied the problem. Everything in India is big! Think of temples, elephants, mountains and bustling marketplaces! With the lenses I had I could photograph keyholes in doors with great precision but I wanted to photograph the whole building. I didn’t want to zoom in, I wanted to zoom out! I still took some great shots on that trip (and I was very happy to exhibit some of those images), but this second backpacking trip to India instilled in me a new appreciation for when, where and why I would want a wide angle lens.

So I came home and regrouped my resources. People would think I was crazy but I had to go back. There's a much longer story (that I'll tell when I write a book one day) but in so few words I went back because there was still something my soul had to learn. So within five months I broke my lease and said goodbye to my photography studio, renounced all my possessions except what I could fit into a few bags and in late September of 2015 I went back for my third trip to India, right before my 30th birthday. But this the most critical difference was that I brought a new lens, a Canon 16-35mm, an extraordinarily wide angle lens. This time I was ready for India, or at least I thought so.

I was ready in a sense. Space was now mine as an element to explore. With my new wide angle lens I no longer had to focus in on one thing, I now had the tool I needed to explore new dimensions, relationships between elements, and even how people interacted with space they were in. It was a whole new world for me, a total departure from how I was doing things before.

But on this third backpacking trip I got frustrated again, because even though I was beginning to see things differently I was still holding on to my same old approach to photographing people. I wanted to get them to look at me, I wanted them to throw wide the windows to their souls and let me peer inside. But it wasn’t that easy.

It’s not enough to have a person look at your camera, they have to trust you. This was something I already knew but in India the lesson was being thrown in my face over and over again. The people I was meeting on the street didn’t trust me. There was an awkward energy, it was guarded, they were like, who is this white girl sticking a camera in my face? A lot of times when I tried to photograph someone their hand immediately shot out for money and the whole dynamic was ruined. The energy was off. As a professional headshot photographer who enjoys photographing people because I enjoy being given access to their inner world it was incredibly frustrating because I was being locked out.

I tried a couple different things, I even tried paying people to pose for me, but it still wasn’t working. Each time I got blocked. So I adapted, and I changed the rules.

This is when I realized that I no longer had to get people to look at me to create their portrait. This is where I started observing people from a distance and incorporating their identity as an element of my image instead of the focus of it. I began experimenting, trying new things, and letting go of the old rules of headshots that I used to operate by. And it was fun. I felt a renewed sense of excitement about creating images. I was beginning to flex different creative muscles and trying to see how many different ways I could look at the same scene. It became an exercise in seeing.

India-Pushkar-2475.jpg

But don’t get me wrong, I still got up close to people and made some incredible portraits, but I learned better ways of overcoming that awkward closed off energy. I discovered there are predominantly two ways to get great pictures of people:

I called her Grandma. She was shy woman who owned the houseboat on Dal Lake my sister, baby niece and I stayed on during our time in Srinagar, Kashmir. She was initially hesitant about my camera but warmed up and let me get this shot after I had been staying on her boat for a few days.

I called her Grandma. She was shy woman who owned the houseboat on Dal Lake my sister, baby niece and I stayed on during our time in Srinagar, Kashmir. She was initially hesitant about my camera but warmed up and let me get this shot after I had been staying on her boat for a few days.

The first way to get the best pictures of people is to spend time with them first. Imagine you and your family are having a BBQ in your backyard and a stranger rolls up in a car, jumps out and starts taking photos of you. You wouldn’t be comfortable, right? Same goes in a place like India. If you want people to open up to you as a photographer they have to become familiar with you first, which frankly was something I was already knew and was incorporating into the process of my headshot sessions by taking time to sit, relax and chat before we started shooting. I learned that I had to find a way to do this on the road, which often meant that I had to spend time with people without my camera in my hands before I ever lifted my lens towards them. In order to create the best portraits I had to take the time to get to know my subjects first and give them a chance to get to know me.

The second way to get better photos of people, especially when I was just passing through and didn’t have the time to spend getting to know them and vice versa, was to take responsibility for the quality of my energy before I interacted with them. The happier I was when I approached them the more receptive they were to me and my camera. When I was feeling frustrated, angry, homesick or just low for whatever reason that was the worst time to approach people for an image. When I was happy, exploring and just having fun being on an adventure in a new city (like I felt in Bundi) people were more amused by me and willing to open up, even if I just approached them on the street. Their reaction to me was predominantly based on the energy with which I encountered them.

To sum it up, here are the top 5 reasons traveling in India made me a better photographer:
  1. It gave me ample opportunities and inspiration to practice and expand my thinking around the art of photography

  2. It taught me to zoom out, to see the bigger picture and not get so focused on individual elements, but rather to explore how elements interact with one another to form relationships, moments and stories

  3. It taught me that a great lens is great in a certain situation for a certain result, but if I want a different result I need to understand and equip myself with the right lens to achieve that result

  4. It made me profoundly appreciate that there’s a very special relationship between a subject and their photographer and it involves trust. When I want to photograph people I must get past their barriers by first building a level of trust with my subjects and I can do that by spending time with them and giving them the chance to get to know me, as well as by taking responsibility for my energy when I do interact with them.

  5. I learned that when it comes to art and photography it’s always a good idea to try different things, to experiment, to let go of the rules and not get too caught up in the way things are supposed to be. The best art happens when we let ourselves have fun and try new things.

So how will these lessons affect my career as a headshot photographer in Boston? I would say that, much like for the Beatles, the impact of my time in India has opened the floodgates of creativity and is heralding a highly productive and inspired era of my career. I will continue to offer my clients (who include actors, models, individuals and businesses who seek and value high quality photography) the strong, truthful portraits they know me for, but now I’m going to giving even more. Instead of just focusing in on a person’s face my images will now include more body shots, more of an exploration of form relative to space and dimension, more movement and energy and definitely more experimentation and creativity. 

The other way my work will be changing is that I will no longer be focusing solely on headshots. Now I'm excited to take my new skills and confidence back into the realm of wedding photography to create stunning images that reveal emotionally rich moments, relationships and the spaces between people where love stories live. In addition to taking bookings for weddings in the spring/summer of 2016 I'll also be starting by photographing couples in engagement photoshoots. I'm thinking of calling this new extension of my brand Love Stories by Ericaseye. What do you think?

 

If you'd like to see more of my images from India check out the Dec 2015 - Jan 2016 section of my Tumblr blog here.
Connect with me on Twitter here, on Instagram here and check out my Ericaseye Facebook page here.

Erica Derrickson is an award winning headshot photographer residing in Boston, Massachusetts.  Her professional headshot photography portfolio, along with articles on top headshot tips, can be viewed on her web site, http://www.ericaseye.com.  As the founder of Hollywood East Actors Group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/hollywoodeastactors, Erica has been able to share her expertise with actors throughout New England, establishing herself as "Boston's headshot expert."  Beyond being one of the top headshot photographers in Boston, Erica Derrickson is a professional actress, http://www.presskit.to/erica, whose recent film credits include "The Heat," with Sandra Bullock.

10 Reasons Why Everyone in Business Needs a Professional Headshot Photo

by Lynn Julian

Actress and musician Lynn Julian

Actress and musician Lynn Julian

    Whether an actor, artist or real estate agent, every business professional needs to have a professional headshot done every few years.  Your headshot or profile picture is the first impression you make on every potential new client or co-worker. If your headshot photos are outdated, you may never even get a call back...and you may never know why!  Boston, Masachusetts has steadily grown as a successful business hub and major motion picture location, where I spoke with headshot expert and founder of Hollywood East Actors Group, Erica Derrickson. Here she offers her top ten reasons why everyone needs new headshot:

1. We live in the Internet Age of visual stimulation and photos are  King.

2. Many people are far too busy to read every resume, and may only look at your headshot photo. This is your chance to make a great first impression. Don't miss out on that!

3. Everyone judges others based on profile pictures, be it Facebook, casting or dating sites. You know you do it and other people will do it for you, so make sure you set yourself up to be liked on screen before you ever walk into the room.

4. Just one great headshot photo can get your foot in the door for an interview or audition.

5. Just one bad headshot photo can damage credibility and cost you financially via lost wages.

6. A professional looking photograph projects the image of a professionally behaving individual. Especially for actors a great headshot tells casting directors that you take your career seriously and will show up as a professional.

7. You've studied and worked so hard to hone your skills and your photos should reflect that. Your dream is on the line!

8. You may not in fact always look your "best," but a professional headshot photo will because part of what a professional headshot photographer like Erica does is put you at ease and bring out the very best in your personality and eyes. That's literally her job.

9. Hair and clothing styles change quickly, and so do you. Old headshots make you look dated. Just don't do that to yourself! Respect where you're at and go for photographs that show it.

10. New, professional photos, every few years, are a priceless way to document your success.

Erica Derrickson is an award winning headshot photographer residing in Boston, Massachusetts.  Her headshot photography portfolio, along with articles on top headshot tips, can be viewed on her web site, http://www.ericaseye.com.  As the founder of Hollywood East Actors Group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/hollywoodeastactors, Erica has been able to share her expertise with actors throughout New England, establishing herself as "Boston's headshot expert."  Beyond being one of Boston's best headshot photographers, Erica Derrickson is a professional actress, http://www.presskit.to/erica, whose recent film credits include "The Heat," with Sandra Bullock.

What To Wear in Your Headshot Photoshoot

Ok, you just booked your session, congratulations! Now we start figuring out how on earth we're going to prepare for the big day. Well, first of all be sure to check out "10 Ways To Prepare for Your Photoshoot", but when it comes to clothes here's The Deal:

 

  • Pick clothes that have bold, solid colors. Avoid busy fabric patterns that distract the eye (definitely leave the Hawaiian shirts at home!)
  • Bring an undershirt or wear a tank top underneath your outfit so you can comfortably switch shirts outdoors
  • Avoid large logos; small logos are ok, like those little crocodiles on polo shirts
  • Avoid black and white, unless you're planning to layer it under something else like a scarf or jacket. Black leather jackets are ok!
  • Speaking of which, during your shoot think in layers; we can get more 'looks' in the same amount of time by just being creative with the way we layer clothing
  • Focus on shirts, we might include the top of your pants in some 3/4s shots, but the main focus in our photos will be on the tops. 
  • Don't worry a thing about shoes! In these shots we will most likely not see your footwear. 
  • Above all make sure you feel comfortable in what you're wearing! That's the most important piece in the puzzle! 

 

10 Ways to Prepare for Your Headshot Session

How To Prepare For Professional Headshot Photography

The moment you book your session is exciting...and scary! What should you wear? How should you prepare? There are so many things! Here are a few tips to help you feel prepared for our shoot:

1. Clothes

Choose the exact clothing and accessories to wear during your headshot photo shoot and put them in a bag the day before your headshot photography session, so you're not stressing to find and assemble them the next day.  A headshot photo pictures the shoulders, or mid-chest, up to the top of the head, so the shirt is the most important item. We'll also get some full body shots so do bring one or two options for pants, but focus more on bringing a range of different tops. 

Avoid shirts that are overly bright or have busy patterns, as they distract from your face. Go for a solid colored shirt that elongates or features your neck. So, turtlenecks are out, as are solid black and solid white shirts, as they wash out your skin tone. Also avoid clothing with large logos. We don't want anything to distract from your face and eyes. See "What Clothing To Wear For Acting Headshots," for more top clothing tips. 

2. Skin 

Drink plenty of water in the week prior to your headshot phootshoot, as this will keep your skin plump, smooth and clear. Try to eat healthy foods, as fried and salty foods cause bloating and water retention.  Also avoid sun exposure, which can make you look tired and leave your skin irritated. Get plenty of sleep to avoid dark circles under your eyes!

If you want to go the extra mile treat your face to a pore cleansing facial followed by a soothing mask to get your skin as smooth and shining as possible.  **Important! Do this at least a week in advance, in case your skin gets irritated and breaks out. And even if it does don't worry, that's what retouching is for. 

3. Hair

Choose a haircut and hairstyle a week or two in advance, as freshly cut hair can look strange on camera.  Understanding that you should look like your headshot photograph, choose a hairstyle that you can easily recreate for your auditions.  A neutral style that highlights the natural curve and shape of your face is always the best choice for an acting headshot. 

4. Facial Hair

Prepare your facial hair for your headshots by trimming, plucking and/or choosing a style for shaving facial hair in advance.  Knowing that plucking can leave red marks, and bleaching can irritate skin, be sure to do these things a couple of days before your session.

Also, I invite my male clients to arrive at the shoot with stubble or beard for the first shots. In between looks you can shave so we can get a cleaner look, however some men's skin becomes red and irritated after immediately shaving so this option may work for some better than others.

5. Teeth

Avoid anything that may stain your teeth on the day of your headshot photographs.  If your teeth are noticeably yellowed or stained, invest in having them professionally cleaned and whitened, but don't worry if you don't have the time or money, we can easily get the same result with a little bit of Photoshop magic.

6. Nails (Yes, nails!)

Your hands may end up in some of our shots, so get a manicure for your nails. For women choose a neutral, skin tone polish, or a clear coat, so as not to distract from your face. For men a clean trim is enough.

7. Peace of Mind

For total peace of mind write down all the details for your headshot photo session and add them to your clothing bag: helpful info to include would be time, location, directions, and any instructions provided. It's also a good idea to have your photographer's number already saved into your phone in case you need to contact them on the way. If you are working with your own hair stylist or make-up artist, make sure to send them all these details too. 

8. Know what you want

Modeling for a headshot photograph is like acting for a still camera.  Take some time in advance to consider what kind of feeling you are trying capture in your image. Prepare by thinking ahead of some of the characters you want to be cast as and then practicing their "looks" in front of the mirror. Don't worry if you are not certain about this, a good headshot photographer should help you figure this out, but if you can come in with your own ideas that will help!

9. Don't rush

For a lot of people having their photograph taken is already a stressful event, so set yourself up to minimize your stress.  Be sure to GPS the photoshoot location in advance and allow yourself plenty of time to get there. Map your route in advance and consider what the traffic conditions will be on the day of your shoot. Give yourself at least two hours to spend at the studio. It's important that we go at a comfortable pace and not feel rushed during our shoot.

10. Communicate

Be in communication with your photographer before your session. You should definitely feel that your photographer cares about you and you're not just another client. Be sure to ask them any questions you have and a good photographer should take the time to answer your questions and put you at ease. On the day of the photoshoot make sure the you are in text message communication with your photographer, that way they can help you if you're having any trouble finding the location or for anything else that comes up. This is your photoshoot, it should be a special event where you feel supported by your photographer throughout the process and great communication is definitely a big part of that.


I love working with my clients to create images that help them be instantly liked by the people they are trying to impress. Whether it's a casting director, potential employer or investor, I create headshots that help my clients make the best first impressions to help move them towards their professional goals. To learn more about my work visit www.ericaseye.com and if you have any questions about my rates, policies or procedures check out www.ericaseye.com/faq. And if you want to reach me directly email ericaderricka@gmail.com.

5 Reasons Why You Need A New Headshot

1. People make judgements on you based on  your profile picture from casting to business to dating sites

2. A bad photo makes you lose credibility instantly  

3. A great photo makes people eager to like and trust you

4.  It shows people you're serious about what you do

5. A truly great photo of you at this moment in your life is valuable in itself for history's sake!