A few months back my good friend Cory asked me to come take shot shots at his studio, to use in an announcement for an open studio showing that he was having. If you’ve been around DC you’ve seen Cory’s work, and probably had your photo taken in front of it — everyone loves getting their photo taken in front of Cory’s art. The popsicle art in these photos are 5 feet tall, spray paint on canvas. Awesome. More can be seen on his website.
It was a lot of fun shooting this — setup was pretty simple, just mimic the natural light. Cory’s studio has a lot of good quality window light, just not the quantity I wanted for the shoot. So a few speedlights shooting thru umbrellas, right in front of each window — dial in the ratio that I liked, and that’s all there was to it. A natural looking setup, at the power level I wanted. Then you just give Cory a popsicle and find the angle.
One of the things I really enjoy photographing is actor’s headshots. Having worked as a producer/director for over 15 years, I’ve seen a lot of headshots, and sat through more casting calls than I can remember.
When looking at headshots, the first thing you notice is the amateur photograph. It tells me right away that you’re not serious about your craft. If you want to be a professional actor, you need a professional headshot.
Let’s face it: the headshot is an actor’s most important marketing tool. It’s your calling card, and most of the time it’s the first impression that anyone has of you. So it’s important that your headshot shows you at your best, and is also an accurate representation of what you will look like when you come to a casting session. So how do you do that? Like any other role you want to get, you prepare. Here are a few things to think about when preparing for your headshot session.
Choose colors that work well with your eyes and hair. Texture is great, but stay away from bright and complicated patterns. Stick with solid colors, something that goes well with your skin tone and brings out your eyes.
Simple is always better — the shot is about you, not what you’re wearing. Pick clothes that you might wear to an audition. Classic styles are the best. A simple, well-fitted black t-shirt is always a good option.
Bring more clothes than you need! Photographers love options. Your photographer will have an opinion, and help you decide what looks best. Pick from your favorite clothing, it will give you confidence. Choose clothes that hang well, and show off your physique.
Your clothes should be pressed, and look like new. If you are bringing clothing that wrinkles easily, make sure it is ironed and camera ready! Don’t count on being able to iron it at your photo session.
Hair and Makeup
I always recommend that you have a makeup artist for your photo session. This is your calling card, you want to look your best, and a professional makeup artist will help greatly.
If you take my advice and hire a makeup artist, come to the shoot with a clean face, without wearing any makeup. The makeup artist might want you to bring your own base, or discuss skin tones with your before your shoot.
Your makeup should be clean and natural. The photo should be the best representation of you as you look on a daily basis. Don’t try any new products on your face or body a few days before your shoot – the last thing you need is to break out because you tried a new conditioner or makeup line that caused you to break out.
I always suggest that you come with your hair styled and ready to go. Your makeup artist can help you put the finishing touches on it, but you know best how your wear your hair, so have it ready for the shoot. You should wear your hair in your shot the same way you will wear it when you got to auditions, and your makeup artist isn’t going to be around for every audition! Don’t get a new haircut right before your shoot. If you do need a haircut, get it a week or so before your shoot, giving it time to grow in and for you to get used to your new style.
Here are a few more suggestions to help you prepare for your session:
Rehearse at home, in front of a mirror. Practice your expressions. You want your eyes to be expressive, your expression sincere. You want to communicate emotion and depth, and grab people with your eyes. You want to let your personality shine through in your photograph, so be prepared to do that. This is an audition, the one that will lead you to many others.
Don’t get hammered the night before your photo shoot. You need to come in looking and feeling your best. Bloodshot, baggy eyes do not make for a good photo. Drink lots of water and be well rested.
Arrive on time – be a little early! It will help you relax.
Bring your old headshots to your photo shoot. Discuss what you like or don’t like about them with your photographer and makeup artist. We’re there to make you a star – the more information we have, the better we can help you.
Bring your iPod with you to the shoot – make your own playlist. Anything that will help you feel relaxed and confident will make your shoot better.
You should update your headshots once a year, or as often as your look changes. Some actors may find it necessary to have at least two different headshots showing contrasting emotions or looks. Some like to have one for corporate and commercial work, another for theater and television.
In my opinion, you only need one headshot. A director doesn’t need to see you in a business suit to know that you can wear a business suit. But a director does need to see exactly what you look like, and the emotion and energy that you can bring to the role that he/she is looking to cast. So prepare for your headshot, and come ready to take that first shot that will open many doors and many more successful casting calls.
I was recently hired to photograph executive portraits for a local DC company during their annual meeting. The client asked for modern headshots on a white background, to be converted to black and white. I’m pretty happy with the end result: a corporate headshot that doesn’t look like your high school yearbook photo. Here are a few of the final images.