Your headshot is your best marketing tool. The most important thing to remember is it must look like you. What walks into the room matches what is on your photo! Your headshot should showcase you on your best day and should convey your type, your essence, and your personality.
There are a lot of variables when talking about headshots. So for the sake of argument, and to keep me from rattling on for pages and pages, I will be talking about your basic headshot, from the shoulders and up, though some of the information below can be applied to all photo shoots.
Before you go:
Be prepared and do your research.
*Find a photographer you are comfortable with! This is so important! You need to be able to relax in front of the camera and if your energy doesn’t mesh well with the person taking the pictures, it will read all over your face and will create an unusable photo.
*Research them well. Look at their website or their book. Have they shot actors similar to you? If you are a short, Hispanic, character musical theatre actor, it’s probably not the best idea to choose a photographer who is used to shooting models full time and actors part-time, even if their photos are amazing. Are they really good at honing in on an actor’s essence? When looking at their other work, do you get a feeling of who that actor is? Does the photo express something?
*Call up several different photographers and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do they shoot in a studio? Or do they shoot outdoors in natural light? Are touch-ups included? Do you get a disk of all your photos?
*You want to portray your most dominant or playable type, but you don’t want to dress in “costume”. It is a better idea to reflect your character traits and personal essence.
*Plan your clothing choices ahead of time. Make sure they are clean and ironed. Try on your clothing choices and play around with different colors.
*Stay away from crazy patterns. You don’t want to pull focus away from your beautiful face.
*You want to pick clothes you like and are comfortable in.
*Bring options. A good photographer will know what works and what doesn’t.
Drink lots of water a couple days before and get a good night’s sleep.
During the Shoot:
Hair and Make-Up
If you are having someone do your hair and make-up, it is very important that it is not overdone. You still have to look like you (on a nice day) and not the glamor shot version of yourself. You have to be able to recreate the look at your auditions.
Before the shoot make sure you have communicated with your photographer about what kind of photos you are looking for … i.e. Commercial, Film/Television, or Theatrical. Depending on the type of photography package you get and how the photographer works, you may be able to shoot multiple types.
You want your headshot to focus anywhere from mid-chest to shoulders and up and it’s usually a good idea if your head is not cut off.
The main focus is your beautiful smiling face. If you are going for a Commercial look, the industry likes to see your teeth! Show off those pearly whites!
There is nothing wrong with a full body photo or with a ¾ shot, in fact it is good to have in your book, but these types of photos usually work best on casting sites like Casting Networks, 800 Casting, or actorsaccess. For your typical audition it’s best to stick with the close up.
Your eyes should be going through the lens, not to the lens. There should be something going on behind your eyes. Allow yourself to play! Have Fun! Some photographers let you bring music (if you are shooting in a studio), so bring your favorite tunes and let yourself go.
If you have certain statements or phrases about yourself you like, don’t be afraid to say them out loud. I used my Sam Christensen essence statements and ended up with some very dynamic photographs. You want to fill the photo not just with your face, but with your energy.
After the Shoot
Touch-ups: Don’t overdo it! If it’s noticeable it just won’t work. They don’t want to see an airbrushed version of yourself, just the awesomeness that is you!
Printing: Matte finish is preferred to Glossy.
It goes without saying that they should be in color.
Get feedback! Narrow it down and eliminate the obvious ones that just don’t work. Whether it’s something weird in the background or your eyes are half closed or what have you. Then show them to a variety of people…i.e. Your agent, manager, teachers, industry professionals, friends (though be careful if they are not in the industry. A good question you can ask your friends is “Does this look and feel like me?”)
Written by Helen Abell
With interview by Vince Pisani, A-List Atlanta Actor