Getting The Perfect Headshot
Every actor needs a good headshot, without this, your career will be going nowhere! Some actors are lucky enough to be instantly photogenic, but unfortunately for most of us it needs some preparation and hard work to get that ideal shot.
“Your headshot is always the first stage of any casting process”
Your headshot is always going to be the ‘first stage’
of any casting process. If you don’t get it right, there aren’t going to be many auditions coming your way. As actors, we have to rely on our headshot. Like your Actor Design website, your headshot is a vital ‘business card’
, which should sum you up instantly.
Before we go any further, we need to advise you that your headshot needs to be taken by a professional photographer. Some casting directors and agents have told us that they have received all manner of unsuitable headshots including: holiday photographs, wedding photos, fancy dress poses, passport pictures and amateur headshot photographs which have obviously been taken by friends.
Don’t cut corners with your headshot – pay a professional to do it!
So how do you get that perfect headshot? The one photograph that sums you up in a second. Actor Design have put their heads together, done some research and created the following list of useful top tips for getting the perfect headshot. These tips will take you through the whole process, from start to finish, so that you end up with best possible headshot.
You need to start by thinking about the type of headshot you want to create. What do you want to show? How do you want to look? What have your recent headshots lacked, or what needs to be improved on? If this is your first ever professional headshot, what are you looking for?
As an actor you should be used to doing research – choosing your photographer is no exception. Get recommendations from your friends, but what works for them may not work for you. We are all different after all, and your headshot taken by the same photographer may not look as good as your friend’s does. It has to be a personal choice, that only you can make yourself.
Like their work
The internet is a fantastic tool for finding a great photographer. Most good photographers should have a website that will include all you need to know about the style of photography they produce and their costs. Look at as many as possible and make a list of all the photographers whose work you like. Some may only offer outside photography, which only works for some actors. Some may do just studio shots. Have a think about what would suit you more. Some photographers are happy to do both outside and studio shots within the same session.
Take a look on the internet and see what ‘headshot style’ the big actors you respect and aspire to are using. Remember you are planning to become like them one day, so you should start to think and act like them now! You will also notice that most celebrity headshots are cheerful, happy, smiling shots. No glum faces and ‘serial killer’ expressions for them.
When you have made a short list of photographers whose work you like, you then need to think of which photographer you would like to work with. This is very important as you have got to like them as a person as well as an artist. We heard of an actor going to a photographer who came across as very arrogant and a little too rude and personal about the actors features. Obviously the actor felt uncomfortable and therefore the headshots didn’t look very good. It’s really important to chat with them before booking a session.
You can find out about your chosen photographer on their website, but a great tip is to telephone them for a discussion. You will find a lot more about them as a person. You should also get an idea of whether you are going to like working with them or not.
It’s important that you have a good nights rest before your photo shoot. Turning up to a photo shoot after ‘a night out on the tiles’ is not a good idea! As well as looking good, you need to be focused and ready for direction. And don’t go to your shoot sunburnt, it has been known that some actors want a good healthy tan before their shoot and therefore choose to get their photos done after a holiday or spend a couple of days on the sunbed beforehand – not a good idea. Healthy looking and natural is always the best policy.
Your style of hair in the headshot is crucial. It’s best to have your natural hairstyle. You also need to consider that this headshot is going to last you a couple of years or more, so best not to photograph your flowing locks if you plan to cut it all off the following week. If you have long hair it’s a good idea to style it so it doesn’t cover the face. Men need to consider their facial hair. If you are normally clean shaven it’s not a good idea to turn up with a beard or designer stubble, some photographers might let you shave midway through a session to get the best of both, ask before the shoot. And guys, if you are losing your hair, be proud of it, don’t mask your thinning hair or get your photos ‘cropped’. A lot of castings require guys who are thinning or balding.
It’s a good idea to use minimum make up on a shoot, because it’s important that you look as natural as possible, so keep the make up to a minimum and don’t over do it. And don’t cover up any birthmarks, we need to see YOU in those headshots. Leave the false eyelashes and glitter spray at home! It is a good idea to take your make up bag with you, in case you need to touch up during the shoot.
Wear what you love. You need to feel good in it, and if you feel good, it will show in your headshots. We have spoken to numerous photographers and they suggest that you wear dark or light block coloured clothing. Patterns, plaids and busy fabrics are a ‘no-no’. They can look awful and steal focus from the most important aspect of the photo, your face. It’s also a good idea to take a number of different looks with you as some fabrics can look different under the studio lights. Around six different tops are sufficient. You may also end up with some different looking headshots.
A little jewellery is fine, but don’t overdo it. Stud type earrings are more subtle than huge drop diamanté ones, as they are less likely to steal focus. It’s also a good idea to remove any facial piercings if you have them. And if you wear glasses and plan to have your photo’s taken without them, its wise to take them off a good few hours before the shoot so you don’t have creases or lines from your spec’s arms across your upper cheeks!
It’s a good idea to treat the forthcoming shoot like any acting job. Not only do you have to be physically and emotionally prepared, you need to practise your looks and expressions. So try some poses out in a mirror, or practise with a friend and a digital camera, the more prepared you are the better the photo shoot.
Have a cuppa!
The best way to get the most out of a photography session is to feel nice and relaxed with the photographer. Many professional photographers suggest having a chat over a coffee before they photograph you. It’s a great idea as they actually get to know you a bit better and you are a lot more relaxed when it comes to the shoot.
Play, relax and have fun
It’s very important to enjoy the shoot. Have fun with it and enjoy the experience, it should then be evident in your face and get you good headshots. Most photographers now use digital cameras, so it’s okay to experiment with various expressions. Not so long ago, you went to a photographer and he used one roll of film, 36 shots, and thats all you got. With digital, this is not the case, you can experiment and the bad shots can be simply deleted.
Listen and work with your photographer
It’s important to listen to your photographer. They can coach you and help you with your expressions. They know what they are doing so trust them. You need to be flexible and coach-able.
You may get the impression that the photographer will lead the shoot and take 100% control over you and the shoot. That’s not the case. You need to work with the photographer as a team. Tell them if it’s not feeling right or you want to try something else. They will listen, they want you to be happy.
Get the most out of it
Use your time with the photographer wisely. Get as much out of the session as possible. Try and get a different range of looks and expressions. Don’t concentrate on one look. And try to keep them upbeat and smiley. No one wants to see a grumpy, moody, stone faced actor looking up at them in a photo. It gives out a bad vibe.
Colour or Black and White?
Try and get both. In the ‘old days’ you went to do a shoot and they were all usually in black and white, this was purely due to printing costs for the Spotlight Book. Black and white do look good and are the norm, but a selection of colour shots are a bonus too, and more and more people are having colour headshots on Spotlight nowadays.
A good photographer should know this, but you shouldn’t have your hands in the headshot. Some ‘old school’ photographers may make you use hands, to rest your face or chin upon. It doesn’t look good and it’s a bit out of date, so don’t be afraid to tell them you’d rather not
Getting your shots back is exciting but also daunting. Most photographers show you the shots during the shooting process or at the end of the session. Some will even give you the shots on a memory stick or disc. Long gone are the days that you waited to get your ‘contacts’ mailed through the post and then you wept because you looked wrong and you had your eyes closed in most of them!
Take your time
It’s very important to take your time in choosing your headshot. Don’t rush it. Some photographers will offer you three to four photographs which they can professionally touch up for you, ready for the website and the printers.
Ask for feedback
When you finally decide to choose ‘the’ headshot, don’t do this alone. Send your shortlisted favourites to your close friends, family, and agent. You may be surprised by their responses. If there is one clear winner, go with that one. As an actor it’s usually wise to have three or four headshots, all having different expressions. You can then send out the appropriate one accordingly. I remember my agent once telling me that my chosen headshot was great for my mothers mantlepiece but not for my casting, so remember to think of how you want to be cast not how great you might look when choosing your headshot.