The universal question from every parent considering modeling for their child is “Do we need headshots?!?” and the first resounding answer I give is, “No! Not yet!”
Why not yet? If you are simply in the submission process to children’s agencies, you need basic submission photos — you can do these on your cell phone. See this past post to know how to do that. If you are invited to begin working with an agency, use your agent’s guidelines for choosing the type and style of photos you need.
So if you get to the point where you actually need photographs, the first thing is… not all photographs are headshots. Headshots are shots, from the shoulders up, usually used for acting. If your child will be doing any acting with the agency, your agent will likely require strong headshots. You should probably aim to get two to three different expressions. The goal is to have one semi-serious and engaging looking for movies, TV, and theater and another fresh, happy face for commercial submissions.
Vocab term: a “look” is a hair and wardrobe combination. Most photographers sell their packages by the number of looks they will shoot. So five looks would be five different outfits with some different hair options mixed around. Note: five looks is usually too many. Three is usually just right.
So headshots are a must for acting. For modeling, your agency might ask for some professional pictures if your child is over five/six years old. Usually before that point, when kids still grow fast, GREAT snapshots will work. Modeling pics aren’t headshots. Usually they are full length and can be in fun clothes showing off a little fashion and then “lifestyle” pics which show the child doing something active instead of just standing there.
I’m going to show you some from my daughter’s recent session with Alex Kruk, an LA photographer who comes to New York for a few days at a time to shoot in the warmer months. She first photographed my daughter when she was four and I’ve been in love with Alex’s work ever since.
Behind the scenes: with Christina Turino, HMUA
When you’re selecting a photo package, be sure you talk to the photographer about what to wear. They usually send a list and you just bring a big bag of stuff and the photographer will select outfits that will look best in the setting and highlight the child’s features.
Also discuss hair and makeup. Most photographers have a hair and makeup artist they work with and I opt in for that package addition because my daughter has very long hair that needs attention. Makeup is usually very minimal and would consist of a bit of blush and concealer if necessary as well as a neutral lip gloss. That’s the most they would need. This session’s HMUA (hair and makeup artist) was Christina Turino, who does great work with kids.
At our agency, we have four headshot options (two legit; two commercial) the on-camera agents use and the modeling agents use those as well as some full-length and lifestyle looks in her portfolio. One session can provide all the photos necessary if your child is a model and actor — especially if you communicate with the photographer. Your work with the photographer should be a collaboration. Be sure you each know what the other one needs/plans and you’re all in agreement. Photo packages in NYC are running close to $500-$600 and up, so you want to come out with everything you need.
There are many great photographers. Your agent can recommend who is “hot” and the moment and/or who might do the best work with your child. There are young/apprentice photographers who will do a no-frills, one-look, no HMUA session for a low price and that can be a good headshot option if you’re starting out and budget is a major issue — but use one that other people are using, not your neighbor’s cousin’s babysitter. You want someone at least slightly proven.
I tend to stay in the box when choosing a photographer BUT I like to have a look a little different from what’s totally on trend at the moment — one reason why I chose an LA photographer who comes to NYC. But there are so many great photographers to choose from — just go with your tastes as much as the recommendations from the experts in the industry. You need to be very happy with these photos — not just ok with them because that’s who everyone else uses.
I’m about a year and a half out of the agent seat so I don’t maintain a list or really even name photographers off the top of my head, so I’m not going to give any additional recommendations. One reality is that kid models who work all the time really don’t need modeling pics because they have their tearsheets (actual modeling work like ads or catalogs) to use in their portfolios. If they act, however, they will still need pro headshots.
If you’d like to get in touch with Alex Kruk, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can reach me here, check out my instagram @thebizzymama, like the Facebook page The Bizzy Mama, or email me at email@example.com
(Note: I received no special price or other consideration for using Alex's work in this blog. She granted me permission to write about her.)