1 – Your headshot is your own personal brand; you are unique so it’s vital to get some amazing headshots to show that uniqueness and promote yourself. I know it sounds a cliché, but if you’re not regularly on TV, on stage or in films then your headshot is pretty much the only thing that’s going to get you noticed and get you a call. Even if you’re regularly working then it’s vital that a casting director can put a name to the face. This is why it’s important not just to choose an experienced photographer but to choose an experienced headshot photographer.
2 – Look through the photographer’s portfolio and make sure you like the style of their headshots. Are they eye-catching and compelling? Do the actors look genuine and interesting – and not stiff or uncomfortable in front of the camera? How is their smile or sneer or thoughtful glance – does it look honest? Do they look like all they want to do is run as fast as they can from their shoot, screaming and crying? How is the retouching – is it natural or is it too much or too little? We all need help with tired eyes and zits that pop up the night before a shoot but the retouching should look real and not as if the photographer used Photoshop on volume 11. Does the photographer have testimonials on their website with great reviews from actors they have photographed? Would you go to see a film or play without reading the reviews first?
3 – Chose your headshot photographer carefully and don’t underestimate how much value they can bring to your photoshoot in terms of directing you, coaching you and getting the absolute best out of you – much like a film or theatre director can. Your headshot photographer will study your face, listen to where you want to go with your career, help you choose tops, and work with you to get exactly the best looks to help you get castings.
4 – When you walk through the door for a casting you should look like your headshot or the casting director is going to be miffed to say the least. So your headshot should represent you and your middle/average range. They’ll find out pretty quickly if you can or can’t act, but for the first impression your headshot needs to look like you – let’s face it, that’s why they called for you. Shrek didn’t get cast as Shrek by sending in a headshot where he looked like Tom Cruise. I’d recommend to also get some shots with you looking like a nice guy/girl – people in this industry want to have fun and enjoy their work, so include shots on your Spotlight profile where you are smiling/or at the very least not grumpy.
5 – Bring along a wide variety of tops to your shoot, at least 6-8. Your photographer will (or at least they should) help you to choose the clothes that work best for you. Only bring along clothes you like to wear (the psychological effect of wearing clothes we think make us look good can be quite powerful on how you look in front of the camera), and try to bring along tops/shirts/dresses/hoodies/jackets with a variety of necklines and colours/styles. Colours that compliment your eyes, and natural ‘earth’ colours work really well. Are you looking for more ‘period’ or ‘edgy’ work – then bring along something that hints at that.
6 – Don’t get too hung up on whether the shoot will be studio or natural light or a bit of both. Any good headshot photographer will make sure your headshot brings out your best looks and they should be able to work in any situation to get you a great set of images. Studio shoots are not weather or light dependent and it’s easy to change clothes, sort out your hair, get some music on, and review the images on the screen. Outdoor shoots tend to have more gentle lighting, but obviously are very weather dependent and pretty rubbish if the rain is lashing horizontal.
7 – Think about the types of headshots you want. I don’t mean you should run through a list of looks such as ‘happy’, ‘bad’, ‘crazy’ but rather what character are you often cast as and do you want more of those parts. Do you want to push yourself into new areas and take on more ‘period’ or ‘classical’ roles for example. A pre-shoot chat with your photographer can often help you to bring along the correct clothes and give some direction to the shoot. Take along some shots of other actors or styles of headshots you like (from magazines. on your phone or iPad etc), so you can see if the photographer can do something similar for you.
8 – Try to get a few nights proper sleep before your shoot, and reduce/avoid alcohol a couple of days beforehand. Drink plenty of water. All this helps your skin colour and tone, and adds sparkle in your eyes. Don’t do as one of my clients did a while ago and arrive completely helpless after a long boozy lunch.
9 – Guys, if you are getting your haircut then do it a few days before the shoot so it looks more natural, and think about whether you want to arrive with stubble and shave part way through. Bring hair gel if you use it. Girls, take care with your hair – it does make such a difference to your headshot. Bring along hair products (hairspray is essential), bands, clips, so you can change your hair, put it up etc. And bring make-up to top up as you go.
10 – Try to avoid falling into the trap of saying you hate having your photograph taken – come to the shoot with a positive mental approach that it’s a vital part of promoting yourself and getting on in this industry. Arrive with the attitude that you’re going to enjoy it and get some amazing shots. Any decent headshot photographer should have great people skills and be able to make you feel relaxed and have fun while all the time getting brilliant headshots.