Backgrounds – How They Can Make or Break Your Actor Headshot.
A Great Background:
Most actor headshots go for backgrounds that don’t pull the audience away from the subject. To achieve this, bokeh from using a low depth of field is a great way to create a complimentary background. A professional photographer will have high quality lenses which will help achieve this. Using basic gear and kit lenses can sometimes prevent being able to achieve this lovely effect.
A strong background choice:
- Compliments the image with colour.
Consideration to what the subject is wearing, their eye colour, skintone, and hair colour goes a long way. Little links can vastly improve how the background completes the image.
- Does not distract from the subject of the photograph.
Casting directors want to see you! The background of your actor headshot needs to compliment your image, but cannot take focus away from you. Things like badly placed branches of a tree, distinguishable people, cars and objects (especially if no shallow depth of field was used), can be really distracting. Overly bright patches can draw the eye away from the subject too.
- Sets the mood for the image.
What character are you going for? If you’re wanting to show the serious characters you play, a soft, bright, meadow of yellow flowers may not suit. Think about the scenes your character is likely to be in, and communicate that to your photographer. For your strong, serious character, they may find the perfect background that sets the scene and mood.
A Not So Great Background:
- Is distracting against the subject, and does not allow them to stand out.
Anything that draws the viewer’s eye (aka: casting directors and agents) away from you as the subject, creates an ineffective headshot.
- Has unwanted people or objects in it.
You’re the star, you’re the subject. Look professional and make sure your background is clean. Own the scene.
- Includes unflattering and unprofessional shadows.
Improper consideration of shadows could be associated with someone who isn’t a professional photographer. Having their shadow in the shot, or being too close to a studio wall and having an unintentional deep, dark black shadow of your body, comes off as clunky and not very thought out.
- Uses a jarring colour scheme.
Some colours don’t work too well together. Colour brings a shoot together, so using the wrong colour combinations can tear it apart. It can come off looking….well, ‘off’.
Discuss and Trust:
Your photographer is the key to finding great backgrounds. They understand the way the background will look through various aperture changes, as well as time of day. Communicate the looks you want to achieve, the roles you want to portray yourself for, and ask them to consider background choices to compliment those things.
Have a look at some of the backgrounds below – they all make sure the subject stands out, and in one way or another compliment the image with colour, or create some mood or a scene.