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What Does Basic Retouching Mean?

Retouching is the process by which software is used to manipulate an image. This can be anything from removing a blemish to completely transforming the original image. Below is an example of an image I shot last year that ended up being a top ten finalist in the Shoot the Frame international photo competition ( As you can see, this is example uses very heavy handed retouching in order to achieve a surreal, absurd look. Obviously, this is NOT the same "basic retouching" that comes with every headshot package we offer :).

Basic retouching involves the following:
- Brightening
- Color correction
- Sharpening
- Skin softening
- Brightening the eyes
- Teeth whitening

I do this to every image before releasing them to you. Why? Well, I go into detail in my previous blog post RAW vs. Cooked. I get very artistic and philosophical in that article. However, when it comes to headshots, I can sum it all up by saying - high definition is mean!!! Though the file sizes and the clarity DSLRs (digital cameras) can provide is very exciting, they can also be very unforgiving. The reality is, nobody can see what these incredible cameras can see... not casting directors, not anyone! They pick up every pore, every hair, and every little imperfection. When selecting your headshots, you don't need an exaggerated reminder of every perceived flaw. Am I right???!

Below is a before and after example of the basic retouching done to every image in your gallery.

As you can see, the beautiful Catherine still looks exactly like herself, but the image is brighter, softer and more vibrant. By being able to see what the image looks like in its finished form it's much easier to make the best selection possible.

Further Retouching?

I'm always happy to do further retouching at an additional price. However, I caution everyone, do not over retouch!!!! Your headshot should look like the best version of you, not the best version of you twenty years or twenty pounds ago. However, if there's something in your image that is distracting and/or not a part of your every day look, that's something we can remove for you. Perhaps you had a breakout the day of the shoot and basic skin softening isn't doing the trick. I can certainly help with that. Maybe you don't like the color of the shirt you wore. We can change it! Maybe you'd like the background to be another color... we can change that too. There's really no limit to what's possible. Check out some examples below.


Soooo, it's the day of your headshot session. You're wondering what to expect, how to prepare and perhaps you're stressing just a wee bit. I get that. We, as actors, put a lot of pressure on this day. It's make or break right? You only have so much money to spend and you've sunken it all into today. These pics are going to dictate whether or not you work for the next year!!!!! You've woken up with a zit!!!! Ahhhhhh!!!!

Woah, woah, woah nelly! I know, I know. It's overwhelming. I completely get where you're coming from, I'm not saying that all of this isn't true. However, putting all that pressure on yourself, and me, isn't going to help! Take a deep breath and have faith in yourself and your photog!

You've done the prep work. You're ready. All you need to do now is show up and have fun!

You might be asking yourself, "Prep work? What prep work?" Hopefully, you've done most of the following:

- You've carefully considered what "looks" you're going for.

- You've decided what outfits to wear for each look.

- You've decided what order to shoot which outfit based on which clothes are easiest to change in and out of.

- You have quarters for parking.

- You've practiced your hair and make-up.

- You have a brush, hairspray, powder, and lipgloss/stick packed and ready.

- You've taken snap shots of your outfits to make sure they look the way you want them to on camera.

- You've ironed or steamed the clothes that need it.

- You have an undershirt or tank top so that you can make quick changes on location.

- You've packed your clothes in your car ahead of time so you're not sweaty and out of breath upon arrival.

- You've eaten a good breakfast and have avoided drinking too much coffee.

- You've hydrated.

- If you're prone to low blood sugar, you've packed a snack.

- You've selected pants or a skirt and shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk around and move in, just in case Holly asks you to squat at some point (I will :)).


Now that you’re ready, here’s what your session will be like.

You'll meet me at the predetermined address. I'll be the one with the green backpack, looking around and checking my phone ;). You'll say, "Are you Holly?" to which I'll say, "I am! You must be _______!"

At this point, we'll chat for a min to discuss what you've brought and which looks you'd like to achieve. I'll give you a debriefing as to how I like to shoot. Ie, there is no right or wrong. My style is extremely casual. We'll continue to chat the whole time and hopefully you won't even know we took pictures. Sounds painless right? It is!

After the opening chit chat, we'll walk to our first location. I'll decide where that will be once I know what your first look is. I shoot in a downtown setting where I can access a variety of locations within a few block radius. Don't worry, we won't be walking miles.

Wow, we totally nailed the first look! Great job. Okay now on to the next look. Perhaps we'll head back to your car if you need to grab a sweater or jacket or brush, you get the idea. Because you've planned your looks so well, this part is easy and doesn't take up too much time.

We basically carry on like that for the next couple of hours. I will probably tell you to relax your shoulders and lower your chin about eighty times (don't take it personally, I say it to everyone!!!). You'll probably tell me you hate the way you look in pictures (you are not alone). I'll tell you you're killing it (because you will be, because you're prepared, and I'm awesome! Ha!).

It's gonna be a great day. You will be nervous. Just know, I have your back. I care about your career.

We will have fun!!!

Hey guys! Just wanted to touch base and tell you about some great news.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I LOVE PHOTOGRAPHING ACTORS!!!! The only thing I love more than photographing actors is photographing prepared actors! What does this mean???

Picture this, Sicily 1972... Just kidding. Imagine for a minute that you're a busy casting director. You've been given the task of bringing in, lets say, 100 actors for the role of "grizzly bar-fly." As is the norm for such a task, you've been given 10 minutes to sift through hundreds of thumbnail submissions. Now tell me this. Would you want to take the time to click on a thumbnail of a pleasant, neutral looking guy and imagine what they would look like with a beard and messy hair? Or would you skim through the hundreds of images and grab the ones that popped out and were already exactly what you were looking for? Chances are, you'd go with the latter.

In preparation for their headshots the actor should know the following:

1. In what market are you trying to work?

New York? LA? Chicago? San Diego? San Francisco?
Why is this important? Because different markets require different looks. For example, my agent in San Diego wants a neutral "healthy, happy" headshot and only really requires one look. This is because the majority of work here in San Diego is local commercial, industrial, and print work. For example, one of the major companies here is Petco and they're generally looking for "family" types. In Los Angeles, however, they require a much broader range of looks, the more specific the better. For example - "edgy blogger" "young mom" "exercise guru" "frazzled teacher" etc.

2. What kind of jobs are you looking to book?

Commercials, Theatrical (this means film and tv on the west coast fyi), theatre?
Again, it's important to know the difference in styles. It's also important that your photographer knows the difference as well. If your answer to question #2 is YES! I WANT TO DO ALL OF THAT!!! Make sure that you've planned your looks very well so that you can get the most mileage out of your shoot. If you don't plan well, you will have a bunch of "nice" pics that may not book you a whole lot of work in any of the catagories.

3. What is your "type"?

As actors we bristle at the thought of our artistic potential being stifled by the constraints of a "type." The reality is, however, time is money and casting folk don't have time to figure it out for you. Getting in the door is the hardest part. Once you're in, you can show them your range, but let's get in first! Here's how I break it down... If I can look at a headshot of someone I don't know and say, "oh! I know exactly how I would cast him!.. or her!" well, that's a good headshot. On the other hand, if I look at the shot and say "oh wow, another pretty face..." or "hmmm, that's nice." Well, you get the idea. As a photog, I can only shoot what you bring to the table. If you don't know your type and dress accordingly, there's only so much I can do.

I know, I know! Here it is. One of the most prepared actors I know and have had the pleasure to shoot is my friend Billy. I met Billy because I took his marketing seminar (for details visit I highly recommend!!!). A while back, Billy came in for a headshot session and because he was so freaking prepared... well, just look around and see what we got!

Because of his preparedness and the resulting fab shots, he has booked no less than 7 national commercial spots this year!!!!!

Great job Billy! Here's to many, many more!!!

The Guru

Stoner Dude

The Ex-Con

High School Counselor

Civil War Guy

Substitute Teacher

Serial Killer

A Girl Who Knows What’s Up!

Samantha came to me fresh from the WCI Studio's marketing seminar knowing exactly what she wanted to get out of her headshot session. She came prepared with the knowledge of how she fits into the world of casting and what she needed to do to market herself in an effective way. If you know me as an actress or a photographer, you'll know that I see no value in being neutral when it comes to casting. If you look "nice" in your headshots, chances are you'll be lost in the shuffle. Knowing what is different about you and capturing it in your headshots will tell casting directors what to do with you. If you don't tell them, they won't have time to figure it out, believe me! If you are thinking about becoming an actor or already are but feel stuck in a rut, I highly recommend Billy Cowart's seminar aptly titled "Just Tell Me What To Do!" The course delves in and demystifies the daunting task of preparing yourself for the "industry." Click here for more information on the seminar and make sure you take it before you come to me for your headshots!!! :)


Jamie is new to San Diego. Having just moved to a new city, he figured it was the perfect time to finally get professional headshots taken for any networking opportunities that might come his way. It doesn't hurt to have great pics in case any ladies might be lookin' too! Here are some of my faves from Jamie's profile picture portrait shoot!