Colour-block Acting Headshots

I love colour! If you have seen my work, you will probably have figured this out by now. I absolutely loved the colours of houses across, Italy, Greece and Cyprus. Even the coordinated colours across the streets of Spain. Colours and texture were everywhere on my travels, and it is something I try and really think about in my headshot photography. Influenced by my trip overseas, a lot of my actor headshots incorporate block colour in a studio look.

Cinque Terra in Italy during stormy weather

Umbrellas in Israel by Julia Nance

Street photography in Bologna Italy, yellow houses.

Acting Headshots: that studio look:

Actor headshots are so important, but of course not every actor enjoys the process of ticking this ‘must’ off their to-do list. It can be a little tedious or daunting figuring out what to do with headshots. There is that question of ‘studio or outdoors?’, and then things to consider like ‘what to wear?‘, ‘do I shave or not?’, ‘how do I wear my hair?’ and ‘how do I not look awkward?’.

The classic studio look is usually very simple. There is nothing wrong with a neutral background: white, grey or black. These are the classics. They are clean, keep the focus on you, and tie in well with most outfit choices. They create that strong classic headshot look, and works well in a professional environment too. See the below examples:

A different studio look:

But as I mentioned earlier, it was my exploration of Europe that I believe has influenced the use of colourful backdrops in my actor headshots work. I also just personally find colour really fun. It pops, it draws attention, and it can tie a headshot together by linking outfits, skin tone, hair colour, eye colour – the works.

Aponi - Melbourne Headshots _ Actor Headshot photography in Melbourne

After I launched my studio, I set myself out to create some colour block backdrops. Something that I could easily prop up in the studio, with a bit of texture, light and easy to move, and safe to be around. Paper backdrops are common, but I wanted something that was my own. I also wanted something sturdy and textured. The boards I use are insulation – easy to paint, safe, and sturdy.

I went to bunnings and picked out some colours that I felt were both fun, versatile, and would work for bright headshot backdrops. Orange, being one of my favourite colours, was a must. I picked pink because it pops. Blue because it is versatile. Green to have both a pastel or vivid option available. Tan, because it can be so soft and flattering. And Black – because it was practical from a photography standpoint (not just for backdrops, but for cutting light when needed).

Actor Headshots to stand out:

I love incorporating these backdrops into my actor headshot studio sessions. Even when doing an outdoor shoot, I often will set up a quick natural light look in the studio with one of these backdrops. It can be something different, and provides an additional option for if something clean and classy is needed. These two were natural light shoots in the studio – the simple backdrop creates colour to compliment and bring life into the image.

Utilising different lighting also does the job nicely. A look can be easily varied with simple lighting changes. In particular for actor headshots, conveying emotions and characters can be enhanced by lighting. The influence of clothes and overall style is important to consider too.

If you know your type, it can be helpful to consider how your headshot can convey this type. Going along with this, as a photographer I need to keep this in mind too. An example would be setting the lighting for a classy, motherly character, which might be soft, have a bit of a glow to it. This would be completely different than lighting for a dramatic cop drama character, which would have harsher shadows, and could work with quite a theatrical fee.

A different approach:

While I love my painted backdrops, sometimes I utilise a different technique in my work. When shooting against a clean, pale wall, often I can switch that colour into something that pops. It means the image can become more versatile, and I can tweak the exact colours and shades to something that really works for the image.

That could be pulling a colour out of clothing, or picking a colour to compliment eye, skin and hair colour. The key is to make sure realism is maintained. That is, not creating a cut-out effect. Realism means refined edge detection – not losing the edges of the hair, the stubble of facial hair, the frills of clothing. The colour should effectively just replace what was there. It takes a bit of technique in both the shooting and editing process to get this right, but it can create a lovely effect:

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Julia Nance Melbourne Corporate Headshot

Julia Nance is a headshot and portrait photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. Her vibrant creativity is inspired by her experiences. From photographing whales underwater to travelling in Europe. With a vast background in a range of photographic areas, it is Julia’s natural ability to connect with her subjects that ultimately drew her to the art of portraiture.
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