As an actor, your headshots are your most important marketing tool. Like, MOST important. Your resume is good, but people need to know how you look and if you will fit into the world of the project.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of headshots taken. Hell, I’ve even been a head shot photographer. The last few years I’ve needed quite a few new pictures because my hair has changed so much. This is because the golden rule of headshots is that they HAVE to look like you. Right now. If you walked in off the street today you would look like your headshot (minus some makeup and hair styling). And as the industry is changing, the image has to look good as a thumbnail because most submissions are online now. When casting directors are looking at hundreds of thumbnails, you want yours to be interesting enough for them to click on it.
If you have never had headshots taken, or hate doing it, here are my tips for getting the winning shot:
- Find a photographer with whom you can work well. First start by asking for referrals from friends, teachers, agents, or strangers. Or a simple Google will do. Next, go to that photographer’s website. What is your first impression? I think web design says a lot about a person (you’re judging me right now, I know). And of course, look at their galleries. Do you like the work? Does it affect you in any way? What are their prices, etc? You may want to call them or meet with them to talk about your needs and wants before you commit to spending a lot of money. You need to be comfortable with this person. After all, you have to show them your soul.
- Does that photographer have a make up artist? I’ve lucked out in this department because my best friend is a professional make up artist and I have done plenty of it myself. If you are not comfortable doing your own make up ask the photographer if they have any artists they work with and could suggest. Just like the photographer, you have to like the artist’s work and they need to understand you. Are you a natural kind of gal? Then don’t pick a make up artist that loves false eyelashes and glitter. I’m strongly of the opinion that actors need to know how to do make up for their own faces. Take some time to learn and practice. After all, you’re going to be doing it before you walk into the audition room…
- Play some music during your session! Music helps break the ice, generate a mood, and create a fun environment. So bring your phone with some songs lined up, or your favorite Pandora station. It’s a small detail, but it makes a huge difference!
- What will you wear? Solid colors are best. V-necks are good because they open up your neck and your face. Also, think about how you are/want to be cast. Are you the girl next door? A middle class dad? High powered attorney? Dress the part. Don’t actually wear scrubs or a cowboy hat, but suggest the part. For an everyday working man, a flannel shirt or simple t would work. For a teen, a hoodie is always solid. And white-collar? Wear a button down and a blazer. It’s always a good idea to bring options and talk with your photographer about what would work best with the back grounds they have and with your skin tone, etc. I’ve done this so much I bring the exact looks I want and tell the photographer what I’m going for. Oh, and don’t wear any logos or branded images.
- Communicate something with your eyes. No deer in headlights here, people. Smile, but show it in your eyes. Want a dramatic look? Think something serious that your character would think. Maybe, I’m going to win this election. Or, I really hope he knows how much I love him. You get the idea. Just like with your acting, draw the viewer in. Bare your soul. That’s why you’re an actor- it’s your job.
Hopefully this is all helpful! If you have questions or comments please post them here. And remember, you are going to take a lot of pictures during your headshot session. A lot of them will be bad, (I make a point of taking purposefully bad shots to lighten the mood) but there will be a handful that will knock your socks off. So, go out there and have fun!