Preparation is crucial to having a successful headshot session. I can’t stress this enough. Here are some things to consider while preparing for your session.
Dwayne suggests you consult with your agent or manager. It is incredibly important that you talk with your agent or manager before the shoot. Most likely they have a very specific way in which they want to market you. I may see you differently than you see yourself, or maybe they see a trend in the breakdowns and want you to get a shot that would accommodate the trend. Some agencies have pet peeves about the clothing you wear, and others might like to say certain style in the photography. Some love fun & designs on shirts, some hate them. So make sure you get the opinions of your representation before you shoot.
Our hair and make up artist are outstanding. Always go for a natural style, our makeup artist will stay with you the entire shoot. If you hire your own, please come with no makeup on and have your hair as close as possible to show how you would wear it at an audition. Hair and make up is not mandatory, and you’re even welcome to do your own.
What I and industry love in a headshot is:
1: It looks like you!
2: Your eyes radiate life.
3. Your make-up is light and clean (for females), minimal (for males).
4. Less is more. Simplicity.
5. Proper lighting.
6. Proper cropping. Have your photo lab where you have your shots reproduced aid you in the proper positioning of your image within the photograph.
7. You’re the star of your shot, not the background that you’re positioned before.
8. High grade, photographic prints on quality paper (No home computer print outs).
9. Natural positioning– (No riding of a motorcycle or feeding-of-animals-at-the-zoo shots! I know of casting directors and agents who have several of those side-show headshots from actors in their ‘Freak File’.)
10. You look like someone who I feel like I want to get to know as a person just from seeing your picture!!!!
11. Your picture exemplifies you both in personality and in type/branding. A good photographer will work hard to bring out the best qualities of each actor before their lens. Unfortunately some photographers, in a hurry to get to the next actor, rush photo sessions and treat the actor like a product on an assembly line. And often the rushed results show in a poor, end product.
12. Your headshot does not look exactly like the 5,000 other actors who’ve just gone to the same photographer. (My least favorites are the headshots where one photographer has every actor sitting and/or squatting on a cobblestone SoHo street in New York. And then there’s the horizontal-headshot-before-a-white background-photographer who charges over a grand for repeating the same look and shot. Every actor looks the same. There’s no individuality.)
What you can do to make your headshot session the best:
1. Make every minute count and savor your experience of having your likeness captured proudly for all within the industry to see.
2. Try to set aside the day of your shoot entirely to positive activities.
3. Get rest the night prior to your shoot to catch as much sleep as possible.
4. As far as make-up goes…
LADIES: Natural and minimal. You don’t want to look too made up–it’s distracting, and the industry will be wondering what you are hiding. Most photographers have make-up artists on hand…however, many photographers, like myself are make-up artists as well and prepare you for your shoot. You should have full input on your make-up colors and glosses, as you will be expected to look like the person in the headshot when showing up for auditions–plus, you want to feel both beautiful and comfortable.
MEN: Little to no make-up is always a good rule of thumb…nothing is more unattractive in a male headshot than heavy base, painted eyebrows and lipstick. Rather, if you sport various looks in your real-life and auditions both with and without facial hair, you might want to consider photographing with some facial hair, and then doing a mid-photo-shoot clean-shave.
I can’t stress enough to you how important it is to have a photo that not only shows who you are as a performer, but ‘speaks’ for who you are as a business person.
In our industry, those who hire or represent performing artists seek to work with artists who demonstrate qualities which reflect success. After my spending a lifetime in entertainment I can honestly say that at the first glance of a headshot most seasoned industry professionals behind the casting/representation table can judge with certainty whether or not an actor has wisely invested time, education and money into an acting career.
The frustrating truth is that for most of an actor’s career the headshot is often your only calling card. Your ad. Your representative. Your brand. Don’t waste time using a headshot that doesn’t do you the justice you deserve. Set yourself apart. Stand out by using a headshot that works for you. Carefully evaluate the feedback that you’ve gotten on your current picture.
All in all, if you feel that a new headshot is in order, then you might just be on the road to opening up many doors that you could not jar before.
Jack Menashe’s history as a talent representative includes being the owner of Independent Artists Agency.
7 Tips for a Successful Headshot Session
How do you make taking headshots less like going to the dentist to get a root canal? Here are seven tips on how to take the pressure off of your next headshot session.
1. Mentally prepare. Approach your headshot session as you would any character or script study. Photographs, like film and television, are meant to tell a story. A skilled photographer will direct that story, but you want to give them something to direct. What are the types of parts you want to audition for? Prepare a few monologues to help you get into character. Write down situations in your life that trigger the emotional vibe you are going for. Bring music that puts you in the right headspace. You want to give your mind things to think about—other than the giant lens staring at you.
2. Rest the night before. When you are tired, it’s harder to focus, and you’ll be wondering if you look tired during the session. Because of this, your energy and personality won’t be an accurate depiction of you at 100 percent.
3. Be on time to your session. When you are late to meet with someone, you are basically telling the person that your time is more important. It’s a photographer’s job to see and pull out the best in you, so this isn’t the initial impression you want them to have of you. There is always traffic, construction, parking or subway issues. Give yourself a buffer and leave 20 minutes earlier than you normally would. Call at least 15 minutes before your session if you think you might be even two minutes late.
4. Don’t become a statue. Headshots are meant to tell a story about you and your personality. Remember to breathe and look away from the lens every few shots to help you authentically reconnect. You don’t want to look like you are a deer caught in headlights in your headshot. If you are nervous, acknowledge it. Nervousness is a human emotion, and like all emotions, repressing won’t serve you.
While being photographed, some tend to get caught up in thoughts about looking a certain way or pleasing their agent. Yes, you want to look your best and impress your agent, but these thoughtswhile being photographed cause people to freeze and nervously stare at the camera. They stop breathing. You can almost hear their thoughts while they wait for the camera to click. “Am I doing this right?” “I hope my agent likes these pictures!” “Am I the worst headshot client ever?” It is difficult to get a photograph full of life, expression, and confidence with this way of thinking. A great photograph will have a sense of movement. Tap into the mental preparation you did for the headshot session. Discuss it with your photographer so you feel more connected.
5. Be open and honest about your needs and expectations during the photoshoot. You will be happier. Your photographer will be happier. You won’t be wasting your already busy schedule with expensive reshoots. The entertainment business is way too competitive to have marketing tools you aren’t confident about. If you are unhappy at your photo session, it will read on your face while you are taking pictures. It is really important to respectfully acknowledge what would make a successful headshot session for you during the photo session. Service providers want you to be happy and spread the word about a great job. Ask your photographer to see the photos on a computer screen so you can make any needed adjustments. Some photographers won’t allow this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
6. Go easy on yourself. Nine out of 10 actors hate taking headshots and feel they are awful at it. It makes sense. As an actor, most of the time you are given character and a backstory to work with. It can be challenging to act like you. Don’t get into your head about it. Focus on what is in front of you, any character work you did, and trust the photographer.
7. Have fun! After you have done all of the preparation for your session, there is nothing left to do but have fun. People turn to actors for escape and to get lost in watching them create a world. If you are having fun in your headshot (whether you are playing the girl next door or a villain), people will have fun looking at your headshot, which increases the chance that they will want to meet you.