“What’s a Headshot?” I asked my friend Rob. He explained that it’s a picture of your head. Oh, makes sense and sounds straight forward.

We had both started out in comedy together and we were learning all the lingo and terms so we could be real comedians, and we kept hearing the word “headshot.”

Nowadays you can take a headshot with your phone, but in the 90’s

a headshot was a BIG DEAL. You slap on make-up (no app filters), find a photographer, bring 4 – 5 different outfits, and then once you saw the proofs, you had decide on which one to buy to make copies of. It was expensive and lots of work.

Rob found us a professional photographer, I’ll call Steve, who lived nearby. This guy had never photographed comedians, but he had traveled on USO tours shooting rock stars. Perfect! We figured we’d soon be rock star comedians!

My shoot went great – aside from the fact that it was the 90’s and my hairstyle looked it, plus I wore a turtleneck for the shoot. But luckily I went with a picture of me smiling as opposed to other comics who got all fancy by cocking their heads and pointing at the camera (Rob and I called it the “I’m gonna make you laugh” look), or doing something else whacky with their hands.

After picking the perfect picture and paying for 100 prints of it, we found a snag. Steve had put his copyright on the photo, and, as it turned out, most of the clubs couldn’t use it. Many newspapers wouldn’t run a copyrighted picture, and some clubs had a hard time using it in the promo kits. Ugh.

I figured out a solution by attaching a letter from Steve each time I sent the headshot out, saying that he gave his permission for it to be printed. It was a huge hassle and it didn’t work for many places, but it helped a little. I guess even newspapers knew that sometimes comics forged stuff. . . like a letter from the photographer (though mine was legit).

So after a year, back to Steve I went to do them again. I told Steve ahead of time that he was NOT to put his copyright on the photos. He agreed . . . until after he took them. That’s when he said, no. It’s his work, and he’s going to let people know it. We had a HUGE blowout argument in his studio. I finally said, ok, put your copyright on them. But the first time it gets refused by a newspaper or other media, then he has to pay for reprints without the copyright. That got his attention. Copies were expensive.

So, in a flurry of rage, Steve slammed the proofs down in front of me, screamed “fine! Have it your way!” and stormed off. He was shaking and so was I, but I got the non-copyrighted proofs from him and made my prints.

In retrospect he should have thanked me. Does he really want credit for the shot you see here? I doubt it would have gotten him work! LOL.

But lesson learned. Get agreements, like copyrighting, in writing. It would have saved me a big screaming match and lots of ill will.

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Enjoy your weekend!