How to make sure your Acting Headshots stand out.
There are a lot of Actors out there, and a lot of competition for the roles you want. Everyone has acting headshots, and it is the tool that catches the attention of the right people to land you that role.
1 – Use A Professional Photographer.
It is important to find a photographer who specialises in headshots – even better when they are experienced with acting headshots. You might have a friend who is a professional landscape photographer, but they don’t have any clue on how to light, pose and frame a portrait. Even worse, a friend who isn’t even a professional photographer, but was given a nice new camera for Christmas.
You need a photographer who is not only a professional, but understands:
– How to Light for portraits, either in the studio or outdoors
– Has a professional website, with a folio of work. If they don’t have a professional website, how seriously can you take them?
– Is friendly and approachable. Make sure you can get along with them. A phone chat, consultation, or email can really help you get a feel for what they are like, and how you will get along with them (you can contact me here).
2 – Find a Photographer with great experience, folio and style.
Once you have found a photographer who captures professional headshots and portraits, make sure you actually like their folio of work. Do they specialise in headshots and portraits suitable for Actors? Make sure their work stands out. If their current work doesn’t bring you any emotion or feeling, you might find your shots land in the same category.
Does their folio of work have similar images and lighting to what you want? If they are a studio photographer, and you want an outdoor portrait with natural light, it might be best to contact them and ask if they have a portfolio of outdoor headshots that you can see first. Remember, acting headshots are an investment, and you need to know what you are investing in.
3 – Take steps to prepare for your headshot session, before you get there.
Understand what you want:
Preparing for your headshot in advance, is only going to benefit you and get you a better result to make your headshot stand out. It is important to know what you want to get out of your headshot. Do you want something serious? Something fun?
Do you have a particular character you need to portray, in order to land a specific role? Research, understand and communicate this to your photographer.
I’ve written a little blog post where you can read more about what to wear to a headshot session.
Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before. Being well rested and alert on the day of your shoot will help you engage with your photographer and get the most out of the shoot. Research has found sleep deprivation causes your brain cells to not function properly (see the study by Dr Itzhak Fried). You want to make sure you give your best performance at your headshot session, and being awake and alert will greatly aide that performance.
Eat well beforehand. Nothing like being stuck in a shoot while hungry, irritable and restless. Eat a well balanced meal before your shoot. Stay away from foods that will bloat you and make you feel self conscious, but eat something that will give you energy and make you feel alert and satisfied.
4 – Know your character.
How do you want your industry to see you? If you know you’re more suited to a villain role, then make sure your headshot captures this. It is important to have a clear understanding of what characters you want to capture in your headshot. This can be as simple as a certain look in your eye, to the colours and style of your fashion choices.
You can achieve more than one type of character in a session. A few different outfits that are relevant to your role will help achieve this. You don’t want to bring full on costumes though. It’s not always necessary for you to play dress ups! A simple change from button up shirt to relaxed tshirt can change a character from business to street while in a way that won’t look like you’re dressing up in costume too much.
Be that character in your headshot session. A headshot isn’t as simple as ‘stand and smile’, or doing a blank and serious expression in front of the camera. Bring a little of your character in the way you conduct yourself, so it can be captured and shown to casting directors.
It is a good idea to find a range of images that inspire you, and create a bit of a mood board that you can reference before and during your shoot.
5 – Make sure you have life in your eyes.
Eyes are the focus point of your headshot. They are incredibly important to make your headshot stand out. Make sure your eyes have emotion and life, and most of all, smile with your eyes – not just your mouth.
Watch yourself in the mirror, or look at old photos, and you will notice the bottom lids of your eyes raise slightly with your smile. When you smile with just your mouth, your eyes look lifeless, and it takes a lot away from the shot. Even if you’re not aiming to achieve a super happy shot, a little life in the eyes goes a long way, and furthermore it can really capture attention.
6 – Understand Light.
What do you want your image to look like? A photographer understands the important of light, and also how to light for different face shapes. It is always helpful if you know what you want your image to look like in terms of lighting. Differences between studio and natural light is one step. Do you want it interesting and shapely or do you prefer bright and soft?
Does your agent have a specific style of lighting they want for their talent? All of these things should be considered and communicated to your photographer. After all, light is what creates the image.
For outdoor shoots, it is good to consider the time of day in relation to what you are after too. Discuss all this with your photographer when you are planning your session.
7 – Keep it updated.
Casting agents hate it when an actor looks nothing like their headshot. Therefore, you must keep your headshots updated and relevant.
8 – Make it Realistic – stay recognisable.
As above, you need to make sure you look like your headshot in real life. There are several factors in this one, other than keeping it updated.
– Make sure the photographer captures a true you.
You need to be comfortable, confident, and true to yourself. If you’re not happy with what the photographer is doing with both lighting and pose, speak up. Don’t walk away from a shoot knowing they captured nothing about you. A headshot can tell a story about the actor, their talent and their characters. Make sure yours does.
– No dramatic, plastic skin retouching.
Look at the photographer’s work, and look at their retouching. If necessary, ask to see before and afters, and what their retouching process is. You don’t want to find your acting headshots look nothing like you. It is dishonest, and will really tick off the casting agents.
– Wear clothes that speak about you.
It is important to reflect characters, but stick to the ones you know you can perform and are suited to you. Don’t wear a super tight dress if you’ve never worn one before. Therefore, find an alternative, and make sure you’re happy and comfortable.
9 – Talk to your Agent (if you have one).
Sometimes agents have really specific ideas on what your acting headshots should capture. Speak to them and see if they can help find a photographer that suits your needs. Some agents want their actors in a studio, others outdoors. Things like specific lighting, eye catchlights, and mood can all change the overall look of a photograph. Know what your agent expects, and most importantly before walking into the shoot.
10 – Enjoy yourself.
When you’re happy, comfortable and confident, it will really show in your final shots. On the other side, if you’re feeling stressed or on edge, nervous or self conscious this will also be visible in the outcome. It makes a big difference when you’re comfortable with the photographer.
A photoshoot is meant to be enjoyable! Rather than focusing on your imperfections, focus on what makes you different, brilliant and most of all: hirable. After all, you cannot convince someone to give you the part, especially if you don’t think you deserve the part yourself.
Go out and achieve great Acting Headshots!
It is possible to achieve acting headshots that stand out, and furthermore, this is an incredibly important tool for an actor hoping to score new work. If you find your current headshots aren’t giving you any work, book a new headshot, and consequently consider the above. Your headshot should showcase the real you while showing off the amazing talent you have. Check out my folio and my sessions, and let’s create something great! Read my tips for better headshots here.