Headshots can be such a conundrum. There are so many different photographers, so many different truisms about what makes a great headshot. What does it even mean to get a ‘great’ photo that ‘looks like you’?It’s so subjective. And yet, there are headshots that can capture the life in an actor and invite you to see more. Working in casting I see so many headshots every day, but I’ve been wanting to sit down with a prolific headshot photographer for years to pick their brain about what goes into getting great headshots, how actors can prepare for them and the best way to find the photographer that is a good match for you.
Joanna Degeneres is among the busiest headshot photographers in Los Angeles and was the name that was repeated to me most often when I ask actors “this is a great headshot, who took it?”. Her work is consistently inviting: really natural, crisp, filled with life and breath that is authentic to the actors vibe when then come in the room. Lucky for me Joanna Degeneres responded with a delighted “absolutely’ when I cold-called her about doing this interview. As a former actor she understands how important headshots are, what it’s like to deal with differing opinions on what is ‘good’ and how to shoot headshots for an ever evolving industry. We spent the better part of an hour 1/2 at her studio on a rainy day in LA talking all about acting and headshots.
There’s a ton of great info in here including:
How to make your insecurities into your strengths
How actors can prepare for a shoot to ‘look like yourself on your best day, but that is still you and still has life’
The evolution of the work ‘quirky’
How to create easy and real shots when there’s nothing ‘natural’ about looking into the lens of a camera
How the word ‘sexy’ can be a real challenge for some people
What photographing kids can teach us about taking good headshots
Why you should never work at your favorite restaurant
When to use your friend with an iPhone to shoot pics and when to invest in real headshots
WAYS YOU CAN CONNECT WITH JOANNA:
More about Joanna:
Joanna has years of experience working on both sides of the camera that give her a real understanding of how important an actor’s headshot is.
She moved to LA in 2002 with an MFA from the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program to pursue acting and started shooting headshots when the industry switched from black and white film to color digital. While pursuing her career as an actress, she had worked as an assistant and associate in a casting office where she had the opportunity regularly review thousands of headshots and then sit in on incredible auditions of the actors they called in.
Now, as a full time photographer she uses her actor training to get the best out of her subjects. Her only goal is for you to accomplish yours. She approaches each session as your scene partner and team mate and is a true advocate for actors
I am also happy to answer any questions that you can’t find answered here so please email me and I will respond as soon as I can. The biggest reward is turning on the TV and watching the actors that came to me for headshots WORK.
Joanna’s photos have been featured on 4 episodes of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, People Magazine, The New York Times and many other online publications.