Win a £600+ headshot makeover with CCP and me

Getting in the festive giveaway spirit & teaming up with Casting Call Pro to offer a fantastic headshot package prize for members in December.

'The American' for screen actor Sam Smith - a new portfolio session from Michael Wharley Photography

‘The American’ for screen actor Sam Smith – a new portfolio session


I often offer headshot prizes at events like Surviving Actors, so it’s not out of the ordinary to be involved in a competition, but this package is pretty exciting, if I do say so myself.

Evidently all the Christmas decorations going up around town have got me in the festive mood of goodwill to all men.

Michael Wharley Headshot Photography  So Casting Call Pro and I – together with kind support from - are offering one member the chance to totally overhaul their professional portfolio with a fantastic headshot & photo session worth over £600.

Yep, £600! And that means the lucky winner will get:

      • ‘Headshot healthcheck’ to assess current portfolio and casting, worth £25.
      • ‘The American’ headshot portfolio, worth £350: a brand new package from Michael Wharley Photography, covering all your promotional needs: standard actors’ headshots in a range of studio & naturally-lit setups for the UK castings market, US-style headshots for Transatlantic castings, and model-style promo shots.
      • Full makeup and hair by a professional team, worth £150.
      • 100 hardcopy, full-colour, prints supplied by top print-lab,worth £80+If you’re a CCP member, all you need to do is answer the following:



 How would new headshots
change your 2014?

Easy, right?

The comp closes at 4pm on Thursday 19th December, and entries should go to or via the CCP FacebookLinkedIn or Google+ pages.


21/11/2013 MW

Spotlight on head & bodyshots for actor Sam Smith

Spotlight on…creating a new head & body shot portfolio for actor Sam Smith of Waterloo Road and Vikings


Headshot portfolio subtly capturing playing-age range for actor Sam Smith

Headshot portfolio subtly capturing playing-age range for actor Sam Smith ©Michael-Wharley-2013

Last month, I spent an enjoyable morning shooting with actor Sam Smith.

Sam’s had a great run of work recently, including leads in Waterloo Road and Casualty, not to mention appearing in blood-and-guts, Emmy-nominated, US hit Vikings (though the games geek in me was more excited that he’s recording a lead character for the new Assassin’s Creed…)

That’s exposed him to a lot more US castings than before, and meant he came to the session with a fairly specific brief for both headshots and body shots.

I thought it’d be interesting reflect on the results a little, because it illustrates how an actor can have substantial input into the success of session with any photographer.

Capturing playing range

Full length body-shot for Sam Smith © Michael Wharley Photography 2013

Full length body-shot for Sam Smith © Michael Wharley Photography 2013

Rather fresh-faced, Sam can play young, and certainly has done in his career to date. So, he was keen to give his agent, Conway van Gelder Grant, headshots capturing both youthfulness and a degree more ‘edge’ and maturity.

Not to mis-represent him of course, but to help them sell Sam to employers across the range of the 16-25 age bracket he has listed on Spotlight.

As you can hopefully see from the set of three above we achieved this by keeping a little bit of stubble throughout for definition and to age Sam up a fraction, as well as by carefully varying outfits, lighting conditions, hair and Sam’s address to camera.

The blue shirt-shot – with hair almost entirely off the forehead and shouders slanted away from camera to suggest a slighter build – is younger and more ‘wholesome’, while the other two, shot straight on and with warmer, more mischievous/stronger thoughts help Sam show a slightly older, edgier casting.

I’d say the right-hand shot is a nice half-way house between the two ‘extremes’.

  • Without such a brief from Sam, we’d have got him some lovely general shots, but his specificity meant we were able to zero on on exactly what he and his agent needed.
  • That’s the sort of detail you should be able to throw confidently at any good headshot photographer – they will use their skills and technical ability to help you tell those casting stories.

Build & Bodyshots

Body-shot for Sam Smith © Michael Wharley

Body-shot for Sam Smith © Michael Wharley

It seems increasingly common for UK actors getting a lot of US castings to need 3/4 length, full-length and even body shots – I guess Stateside producers want to see the full package, and with series like Game of Thrones making on-screen male nudity de riguer, full-package means almost everything on show…

At 5’8″, Sam’s no half-pint, but having bulked up for a recent role, he wanted some dramatic bodyshots showing off this toned physique.

So we worked on something with the photographic vernacular of men’s health or fitness shots (see the 3/4 length above), as well as something with a moodier, more ‘fashiony’ set up (see the full-length above).

These aren’t going to be first up in Sam’s Spotlight portfolio, but they are useful tools to have in the armoury when specific castings arise.

  • In the UK there’s a little bit of historical snobbery about 3/4 or full-length shots in casting – as straightforward descriptive shots they tend to be associated with extras and walk-on artists.
  • But as our headshot approach gradually takes on more US stylings, I do think there can be a place in an actor’s promotional portfolio for good quality longer shots, with a fashion or lifestyle photography vibe. Not least because they can offer an accurate preview of build.
  • Check out headshot photographers like Nicholas Dawkes, Mug Photography and Faye Thomas, who all offer their takes on 3/4 length or full-length promotional shots for actors.

Sam says…

“Having the space to relax and get comfortable before and during the shoot made a big difference – the knowledge that you allow for time to get the best possible shots immediately put me at ease. I was delighted with the finished shots, as was my agent.”

15/08/2013 MW

Check out Previous ‘Spotlight On…’ articles

Spotlight on… Katherine Press Headshots


Katherine Press headshot portfolio

Creating a new headshot portfolio for Katherine Press.

A Cambridge graduate, a former student of the Central School of Ballet, and currently to be seen alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor in Poliakoff’s ‘Dancing on the Edge‘ on BBC 2, Katherine had been an eloquent participant in myTake Control of Your Headshots seminar for the Actors Guild in Autumn 2012.

And she was kind enough to choose me to shoot her new actors headshots later in the year.

Katherine particularly wanted to give her agent, United Agents, a breadth of new photos to help capitalise  on a run of excellent work – including Ophelia in Trevor Nunn’s “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead” at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.

Capturing true range

Keen that her photos show directors and casting professionals a true sense of her range, Katherine was able articulate some specific castings to focus on together in the session:

      • Something to capture a classical elegance and youthfulness
      • Something softer and more commercial.
      • A tougher, grittier shot for more contemporary and ‘edgier’ castings.


As a headshot photographer, I find that’s a great place to start, because for all that I can make quick assessments about an actor’s skin tone, eye colour, hair colour, facial structure and potential casting, often it is the actor who knows him or her self and their career best.

Showing range subtly

So, working together, we selected the tops that Katherine had brought to to best suit these broad themes.

And by shooting both indoor and out, as well as reviewing batches of photos  regularly, we were able to capture that range together.

Not just with lighting, hair and clothing choices, but also by directing Katherine to subtle variations of thought and mood.

Hopefully, the portfolio above gives a sense of our success; the photos are now helping Katherine show her full casting range to casting directors, both on Spotlight, and on her website.

Katherine says…

Michael’s “philosophy” on the value of having a varied headshot portfolio really struck a chord with me. In an enjoyable and relaxed session, we worked together to produce a new selection of shots to cover the full breadth of my casting range.”


Check out Previous ‘Spotlight On…’ articles

FAQ – What’s Your Booking & Cancellation Policy for Headshots & Portfolios?

My Headshots and Portfolios Bookings and Cancellation Policy:

•  I treat our session as very important and hope you do too. I take a £50 non-returnable, non-refundable deposit to confirm your booking, which is fully deductible from the session fee on the day of our shoot. 

• Once that is transferred across,  I clear the time for you in my diary, and don’t offer it out to anyone else, no matter who their agent or who they are. Often I’ll turn down several other offers of client for each slot I have available, and I am booked out 4-8 weeks in advance, depending on the time of year.

• This said, I totally understand that in the entertainment business auditions and other commitments come up at the drop of a hat, so all I ask is that you let me know as soon as you do if there’s a clash. I never book more than two clients a day, often only one, so that means I can offer the session elsewhere to someone on my waiting list or plan other work.

• I also know that sometimes it’s not an audition, but something that can’t be planned for, like a nightmare week, a break-up, childcare issues, a bad back or personal trauma. The session’s supposed to be about you at your best, so just give me a call – even if it’s on the day itself – explain, and we can find a day to work together when you’ll be more like yourself. I don’t bite and I’ll totally understand.

Cancellation Policy:
• If you need to rearrange your session earlier than two working days ahead of our agreed time, we can reschedule and the deposit is deducted from your session fee on the day we shoot. If you rearrange within two working days of the session it is not. If you cancel at any point, the deposit is non-returnable.

FAQ – What are your actors headshots sessions like?

© Michael Wharley Photography 2014

Exactly how the session works will depend on which option you’ve chosen, but generally I like to work in an organic way, reviewing photos throughout and trying to give you as much variety as possible. You definitely aren’t going to have 200 shots with the same lighting and very marginally different expressions….

A typical session lasts from 1-2.5 hours in the spacious, well-lit space in my airy Waterloo studio. And I never book more than two actors a day, so you’ll never be shoved out for the next client.

I work indoors and outdoors, so during a session we might pop onto the site to get some shots that give you a truly varied portfolio.

Actors Headshots session timings

(nb. based on a Classic session, see packages here)

10.30am, Arrive:

We’ll have a coffee/tea/herbal tea and a chat to get to know each other, but also to help me understand what you want from the session. Maybe you’ll have examples of photos from previous sessions to show me. Maybe you’ll have very specific ideas about the sorts of photos you need and maybe you won’t. Either way, I’ll offer you my insights, expertise and perspective. We’ll also discuss your casting types, the sorts of roles you’ve had and the sort of work you want to get in the future.

This all helps set our priorities for the session; not that there isn’t the space and time to make organic discoveries of course.


We’ll take a look at the different clothing options  to make a plan for the session, then start shooting. I’ll take a few photos to get the lighting set up right and suited to you, which will also help to make you feel relaxed in front of camera., and we’ll work of simple posing techniques too.

Then we’ll start in earnest.

I tend not to shoot staged or posed shots. Instead, I prefer to talk and take photos, perhaps pausing or asking you to hold a look or to refine a set up when it emerges. The beauty of digital is that I can take as many shots as we need, then filter them down.

11am-ish, Clothing Change and Photo Review:

After getting a variety of shots in one outfit, we’ll look over them briefly and make sure you’re happy with the sort of look we’re getting. Then you’ll have the chance to change outfit, shave, change your hairstyle or simply check that all is still looking good. There’s a mirror in the studio, but you’ll also have access to a bathroom and all the privacy you need.

11am-ish, More Photos:

We’ll carry on shooting, and I’ll use a mixture of studio and natural light to create the right blend to suit your complexion, facial structure and priorities for the session. There’s the time and creative space for a lot of different looks this way.


11.30, Tea and a change:

Being photographed is quite demanding, so it’s often time for a quick recharge at this point.

As we have another tea or coffee, we’ll review the headshots taken, which will help us to choose exactly which outfit and setups will work best to give a really rounded portfolio in contrast to what we’ve already taken.

I really do try to make my actors headshot sessions like 3-4 mini-sessions in one, so the photos will have very different feels and energies.

12.30-1pm, Finish.

We shoot for the time it takes to get he looks we need, up to two and a half hours. Any longer than that, and I’ve found people tend to go off the boil a bit, posing-wise.

Within 1 working day, Online Contact Sheet:

I’ll send you a link to an online album containing the filtered photos from your shoot. I’ll have deleted all the eyes-closed, laughing (there are always a lot of those) photos, so each one in the album would be able to be made into a perfect headshot. It’s simply up to you and your agent to choose the killer shots that will make up your portfolio. If you do want my advice, I’m happy to make suggestions as well.

Within one working weeks of you making your choices:

Within two working weeks of you making your choices and giving me any specific instructions for photoshopping, I will supply you with files of your final shots. These will be in two formats: a resolution for any professional print purpose and a resolution for internet use.

You can opt for 24 turnaround on editing for a fee of £50, but it’s not often needed, so I’d save your money and my late night!

Et voilà: headshot perfection and hopefully many auditions to follow from your new shots.

Now all you have to do is get the job…

FAQ – How should I prepare for my actors headshot session?

© Michael Wharley Photography 2014

In a word, carefully!

I find a little bit of prep goes a very long way in actors headshot sessions.

Just as you wouldn’t tell a hairdresser to cut your hair, you’d have a few ideas yourself, so it’s fine to brief me. In fact, I like it if you do. Not over prepare, because sometimes  a surprise top or idea makes all the difference, but something to get out creative juices flowing at the start of the session.

So, when we agree a headshot sesson time and date, I send you a Welcome Pack with my advice on preparing for and making the most the session.

That encourages you to think about the sorts of castings you get and want, and to make clear choices about hair, makeup and clothing that will really help you get the range of headshots to create a dynamic portfolio fit for the modern casting environment.

Of course you can rely on me to do my job, but the more front-footed you are the better!

FAQ – How do I get to the session?

I am based in Waterloo, Central London, very close to the South Bank and the heart of TheatreLand, readily accessible from both sides of the river and from outside London.

By tube & train:
I am 30 seconds from the Lambeth North tube station on the underground (the Brown Line, change at Waterloo or Oxford Circus, for example). I’m also just a few minutes walk from the tube and overground lines at Waterloo mainline station. I’m only about 5 minute’s walk from the South Bank, and the Cut/The Old Vic are also less than five minute’s walk away.

By bus:
Waterloo, The Cut, Lambeth North, The Old Vic and The Imperial War Museum are all served by multiple buses from North and South of the river, and are a short walk away.

By car: there is limited fee-paying parking on a number of roads very close by, including Hercules Road.


– The exact address for Google maps is Makespace Studios, Newnham Terrace, SE1 7DR

– If walking from Waterloo either a) hop on the Bakerloo one stop south to Lambeth North, and you’re 30 secs away, OR b) exit the station onto Waterloo Road, heading towards signs for the Old Vic and the Cut, but then turn right at the junction with the Old Vic on it, onto Baylis Road. Follow Baylis Road until you reach the junction with Lambeth North Tube station on the left and Costa Coffee on the right.

– Directions: with your back to Lambeth North underground station entrance, cross over the road (careful, there  are quite a few crossings, so don’t get knocked over) and head straight for Hercules Road. There is a right turning onto Newnham Terrace almost immediately, and you’ll see the signs for Makespace Studios and the stairs up to it straight away.

– Head up the stairs, then take a sharp left, along the walk way, following the signs to studios 36-40, and you will shortly see a black gallery space called Creation Box. Michael’s studio is the blue block right next to it, studio 36.

– It’s really easy and does genuinely take 30 seconds, but do call us if you get stuck.

FAQ – How much Photoshop do my Headshots need?

Headshots and Photoshop sit in a Goldilocks relationship – just enough, not too much…

Just because you can see a photo on a digital camera a millisecond after it is taken doesn’t mean that that is the final shot.

In many ways, the relationship between a shot from the day and the final version you’ll use is the same as between a film negative and a final print. And the sorts of things photographers do on a computer are similar to what we used to do in a darkroom.

Put simply, there is an awful lot than can be done to digitally master or photoshop a photo, but as to how much we do – well for headshots, always as little as possible.

It might be cropping to achieve the best composition, changing the colour contrast, converting to black and white or achieving the right resolution for the right purpose.

It can also be what you probably first think of when you think of photoshopping: airbrushing out blemishes or lines, removing stray hairs and etc.. This is basically tidying the image so that the eye of the viewer isn’t distracted by anything non-essential.

But it can also mean applying filters to refine the look of the photo or using techniques to make the eyes in the shot truly arresting.

In other words, it is all about heightening the impact of the photo, not making it a false representation. My preference is always to achieve the best results possible with the initial photo, then judiciously edit in photoshop to refine the look.

Personally, it is about taking to eye of the viewer (for headshots most often a casting director) where we want it. In a modern headshot that’s your eyes first, and everything else second.

NB. When I edit photos, I’m always delighted to have detailed instructions from a client, but if you don’t have such thoughts, you can rely on me to produce the best photo according to my judgement and expertise.

FAQ – Do You Offer Joint Headshots Sessions?

If you are an individual actor thinking coming along with a friend who also wants headshots, I am generally happy to consider a joint session.

However, do bear in mind that while having a friend there can be relaxing for some, others find it makes them self-conscious in front of the camera.

If you want to fit into a Basic  session, the adjusted rate is £200 per person, if you want to both come to a Classic hour session, then the adjusted rate is £300 per person.

If you represent an institution like a drama school or a youth theatre group, I’d be happy to provide a quote for an on-site session at which I’d take photos of a number of your students/members. Such sessions work out substantially cheaper per person than my individual rates, but exact figures depend on the number of people requiring photos. Please get in touch if you’d like a quote.

FAQ – Online Contact Sheet

Viewing and proofing your photos before making final selections for editing couldn’t be easier.

Simply visit the CLIENT LOGIN area, enter the unique code I emailed you and away you go.

A sample contact sheet

Click on a photo thumbnail to view it full size, then if it makes the grade, hit ‘favourite’ (above the photo). Use the keyboard left and right keys to scroll through the album, favouriting as you go.

Any favourited photos, will be added into ‘My Selection’ which you’ll find top left of the screen. In there, you can can drag photos around, compare easily, view a slideshow etc.. You can also email out a non-editable album of selected shots from in there – useful if you want to run selected photos by friends or your agent perhaps)

You can give the code and link to your agent, friends or industry contacts too.

Many minds makes light work after all…