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 (www.shoottheframe.com). 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.

I Have So Many Great Shots! Which Ones Should I Choose!?!?!

The selection process can be the bane of many actors' existence. There are so many to choose from and again, your success or failure as an artist hangs in the balance. (Cue the ominous music.) Duh, duh, duh!

Here are a few tips to help you make this sometimes difficult decision.

1) Before you even shoot your headshots, you should have a clear idea of what purpose these pics need to serve. Write it down!!! This way you can continually remind yourself while trying to choose.

For example:

Dear Diary,

- I'd like to be able to submit myself for the following types of roles:
young mom, business professional, fitness enthusiast, romantic girl next door
- I also need casual content for my website - some shots that show more personality.
- I need some close-up shots of my face in front of a bright background for lacasting.com and castingfrontier.com so that my thumbnail will stand out on the page.
- I need some 3/4 shots to show that I have an athletic build
- I would like one or two full length shots to show that I wear clothes well (Marshall's, TJ Maxx type thing)

That's all for now. Thanks for listening.

- Holly.

These are just examples. Everyone's needs are different.

2) Select your top contenders. Narrow it down!!! This way, when you ask people their opinion, they're are selecting from the ones that you already like.

3) Ask only trusted industry professionals for their opinion on the selections you've narrowed down. Though Aunt Martha is very sweet and always supportive, she will pick the image that is the most flattering because she doesn't know the business. Please remember that neutral and flattering does not always equal jobs!!!

4) If you can look at a picture and it immediately conjures a brand, a character, or a feeling, it's a winner. If you're a casting professional with very little time on your hands, you want to be able to glance at a headshot and know exactly what jobs that person is right for. If the opposite is true, it's forgettable. Remember, there are an awful lot of pretty faces in LA. Be interesting!!!! Be you!!!!

Here's an example of a casting breakdown for a commercial spot from lacasting.com:
OFFICE WORKER / Supporting / Male or Female / All Ethnicities / 20-49
This character will be studying in his/her cubicle at night after office closing time. No dialogue.

That's it. That's all there is to go on and you have 10 mins to go through hundreds of submissions. What would you be looking for??

5) Don't ask me! That sounds mean but if I've included a shot in your gallery, it's because it's usable. I, very carefully, sift through your shots and select 50 or 75 of the very best images from your session, careful not to overwhelm you with too many options. I think they're all good. Each one of them could be useful to you depending your needs.

It comes down to this. I don't know you very well but you do! You know what you want and what you need. If you don't know what you want or what you need, save your money and give it a little more thought. You'll be glad you did.

6) If you have an agent, ask them. Their opinion, however, is not the end all be all. They are not as invested in your career as you are. They're probably not going to agonize over your headshots, rather, they'll give them the once over and give their immediate impression. Take their opinions into careful consideration, though if you feel they are overlooking something, ask them about it. Be your own advocate. However, they do know the market and what it takes to get you auditions.

7) The most important thing is that your headshot should look like you. If it doesn't, you're wasting your time and money.

8) When in doubt, go with your gut and make a decision. There's a thing called "analysis paralysis." The only thing worse than making the "wrong" decision, is not making one at all. Once you've made your choices, be proud! Get those headshots out there and make them work for you!!!!


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!!!

What? Did You Say Unlimited Looks???

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love shooting actors! I'm an actress myself and I'm very passionate about helping my colleagues take their careers to the next level. Which is why I'm so excited to announce the following news.

Firstly, let me explain why I've made a change.

Last week I posted an article celebrating the success of my friend and headshot client, Billy. I wanted to point out that the reason for his success (other than the fact that he's a brilliant actor and all around great guy) was that his headshots were wonderfully specific. To read this article click here.

I want the same success for all of my clients!!!!

In order for my beloved clients to get more out of their session with me, I've made the following changes to my package options.

I'm now offering as many looks as you can fit into the time for which you've paid.

The new options are as follows:

- $300 for 2 hours and unlimited looks.

- $400 for 3 hours and unlimited looks.
      + Optional 1/2 hr consult prior to shoot date.

Please inquire for full details!!!!



Much Love,


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 www.wcistudios.com 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