If you’re not really into reading, here’s a short video I made about headshots:
I started writing my “headshot photographer” page this morning, it grew out of proportion as I squeezed my knowledge onto the page, but I realised I was talking to the wrong audience. I managed to turn my process around and bring it back to the essentials. It’s hard not to follow the pattern I see repeated over and over when I search “great headshots for actors”. I get lists of “five things to do” or “ten mistakes to avoid”. Bleh!
While writing I found myself going on about my past experience and what I look for when I decide on which photos to use as a headshot photo, when all you need to know as an actor is that you need to select the best photographer for the job and let them guide you.
If you wanted some insights into my understanding of the subject, this post should help you decide if I’m the right headshot photographer for you.
What I need from you
First of all, having a headshot photo taken is an acting job. You like acting, right? It may be the hardest job because the character you have to inhabit is you. Hopefully, you know who that is, but even if you don’t we can play with your imagination and see who you might be.
Preparing for your Photoshoot
What To Bring
You can help to ensure the best results by preparing for your headshots by having your hair cut and styled a couple of days before the shoot. You may not believe me, but a fresh haircut stands out like a sore thumb. Your headshot should represent what you’ll look like when you arrive for a casting.
That means minimal makeup, ladies. Don’t go full clown makeup, we’re looking for a natural look. In this case, what you think of as “no makeup” is probably the way to go. If you think you might need it, please bring your makeup with you.
Keep It Neutral
Try to avoid going extreme on any aspect of your appearance, unless you want to only work in stand-up comedy. Then bring the plaid jacket and striped shirt. <- It’s a joke. I will send you home if you do this!
But seriously, if you want to do something controversial to make your headshot stand out from the crowd, run it by me first. It’s my reputation as a photographer we’re talking about too.
Select clothing for the shoot that supports the character types that suit your normal appearance. Don’t worry about “being type-cast” unless you’re an A-lister, which you probably aren’t. In your position “playing to type” is appropriate.
Obviously, you’ll know the standard audition uniform. You can wear that if you like. I don’t want you to dress as a specific character, but I do want you to avoid clothes that might exclude you from certain roles. Dress like the actor you mean to be. If you bring me loud garments with distracting prints and details we may have to go shopping at your expense.
Don’t worry about shoes to match your outfit. We won’t see your feet in your headshot unless something goes seriously wrong.
Headshot Photoshoot – On The Day
Preparing The Ground
(In oil painting, “preparing the ground” refers to priming a canvas, ensuring it’s clean and stable and laying down a base colour to break the stark white of the raw canvas.)
In this story, you are the hero and the story is (tell yourself this): I am here. I’m strong enough to be vulnerable and I’m interested in you.
By focusing your attention beyond the camera, we can ensure that you appear open and available in the photos. This energy is going to illuminate your face from the inside – it’s inevitable.
To create some options for us to choose from I may ask you to imagine being character archetypes you might be suited to, but I don’t want you to put on the mask, just hold on to the idea. That’s where we’ll engage your imagination. I may throw some random words out to see what happens.
That is the essence of what I need from you on the day. It sounds simple, and it is, once you let go and let me do the fiddly bits and guide your performance. I’ll set up the camera and lights, prepare my studio studio, fiddle with camera settings and generally distract you and we’ll chat while we work.
What I don’t want you to do is bring a list of “characters I can play” like a box of cardboard masks to put on. You don’t need those. Whatever the director or producer or client wants for the character outline in their production, you won’t get there by showing them a stock image you draw from watching someone else in a similar role. Your subconscious mind knows what to do, just trust the process. I’ll make adjustments if I need to.
What I’m trying to achieve in a studio headshot is a photo that presents you as you are: a confident, competent actor while capturing aspects of our interaction – I will chat to you and direct you as we go, and I’ll often show you the results so you’re aware of what I’m doing and how your face reacts to your thoughts.
I frame your head and shoulders, technically a close-up, giving myself a little space around your head so I can crop in and improve my composition. I concentrate on keeping your eyes in focus as I chat to you. You’ll be free to react and interact. Such tight framing exposes every thought you have – and the camera doesn’t lie, so I’ll direct you and I might ask you to go through thought excersizes with me. I’ll show you the results. People are generally sceptical to begin with.
While setting up the frame I will exclude any distractions I can. We’ll be working in a room with a plain white, grey or black background and off camera flash for illumination. You’ll be wearing your own specially selected clothing and I will use my DSLR camera to take several photographs from about 4-5 feet away.
!! Please let me know if you have photo-sensitive epilepsy so I can arrange a different lighting scheme.
Using artificial lighting in a soft-box means that I have full control of the illumination and there are no harsh shadows to worry about. If I position the light correctly I can create a little spot of light in the iris of your eyes and illuminate your face to highlight your best features and minimise problem areas. I will probably move the light and reflector around to find the best angles for your features.
My f-stop is set to give an acceptable level of focus across your face with your eyes in sharp focus and my white-level is adjusted to give an accurate representation of your actual skin-tone.
After the shoot
After we finish shooting photos, we’ll sit down at my laptop and go through the images to select the best candidates for processing. I do minimal retouching, limited to balancing the light, do minor tweaks over-all, cleaning up any temporary blemishes or dirty marks. I might sharpen some features to direct the viewers attention but my intention is always to be true to your actual appearance. After all, if someone books you for a movie shoot, they probably won’t have the budget to photoshop their footage.
I supply the photos as digital downloads sent to you privately and will share these with your agent with your consent.
If you have any questions or would like to book a headshot session, please contact me on Whatsapp to discuss and book your headshot session.