How to get a Great Headshot
A lot of people will spend their hard earned money on a Photographer without having the vital knowledge they need to know in order to make sure they are picking the right Photographer for their Headshots. I am exhausted seeing Headshots that break the rules of a Headshot done by Photographers who don't know what a Headshot should look like. And the Actor has waisted $100, $200 or $300. So below is a list of things to be aware of when looking for a Headshot Photographer. I've also included some tips on things you should do to get ready for a Photoshoot and things to keep you in the right mental state during your Photoshoot.
What your Headshot should look like:
1. Your Headshot should look like you on a regular day. How can you tell? Get your Headshot right now, go to a mirror and put it beside your head. Look at those two people. Do they look EXACTLY alike? Be honest. Most Actors want a Headshot that makes them look like the best "them" possible. That is misleading because unless you get your hair and makeup done before every Audition, it won't work. And you are actually sabotaging yourself. Producers and Directors want to see what you look like normally so they can see how much more beautiful or less beautiful they can make you. If you have a Headshot that shows you on a regular day, they have a good, HONEST, starting point. And nothing is more embarrassing in a casting session than seeing a Headshot that doesn't look like that person in the room.
2. Show your body. A Headshot isn't just a Headshot anymore. We need to see what your figure looks like. It shouldn't be a Head to Toe shot. Make it waist to Head. Or have it even closer but make sure we can see an arm or a hint at your body frame that tells us what your size is. And don't be afraid of your size. Every "body type" sells. There is a role for everyone. So love your body no matter what "type" it is and show it off :).
3. No Black and White Headshots. Everyone loves colour. That's it.
4. Wear solid colours. No patterns. And don't wear the brightest shirt you can find. I also choose clothes that look good on me but aren't distracting. That great shirt or dress that everyone says is stunning? Don't wear it. Because everyone will be looking at that and not YOU. So wear great clothes but not clothes that distract from you. And no whites or blacks UNLESS you layer them with other colours.
5. Wear something that suits you and your "type." If you are a petite woman who is always hired in sweet girl type of roles, don't wear a dark black leather jacket. Wear something you would be cast in. But of course be careful about being pigeonholed. The more generic the clothes, the better. If you aren't sure, take some photos and e-mail them to your Agent or someone in the industry.
6. Don't wear a lot of make-up and make sure you have your hair style the same as it is on a regular day basis. You may get asked to go to an audition at the last minute. So your hair and makeup need to be minimal because most people have their hair and makeup minimal on a normal day. For women, if you go from curly to straight hair all the time, get ready to spend money on two different Headshots. One curly, one straight. Or have a hair style that is straight and curly or finally pick your "look". These are your options.
7. Your background is important. Don't dismiss it. Some Photographers will actually use the same backdrop for every Actor. Don't let that happen to you. The background in your Headshot should be unique to you. It doesn't have to be anything special. But should reflect an environment you would be placed in. Backgrounds should, in general, be blurred out (for photographers thats Depth of Focus). I'm not a fan of being shot in a studio. I like going around the town with a Photographer to find that unique background. BUT I have seen amazing studio Headshots as well.
8. When printed, your Headshot should have your name in black or white text. Don't choose colour text (its unprofessional). And don't pick a strange font either. Keep it simple and professional.
How to find a good Headshot Photographer:
1. Check out their website. If the Headshots section doesn't have at least 4-5 examples that meet all the criteria...give some serious thought as to whether or not you want them to be your Photographer. If they don't have a Headshots section, I generally move on and don't call that Photographer. If they have a Portraits section and I see just two Headshots, it tells me they don't put a lot of focus and energy into Headshots and I should be skeptical. But if those Headshots fit all the rules, I might call them and have a conversation with that Photographer.
2. If they don't have examples of Headshots, contact them and ask them to e-mail you examples.
3. Ask around. Go online and check out local Actors Headshots. Facesforfilms is a great place to see other Actors photographs. So ask everyone. If you see a Headshot that looks great and looks like that person on a regular day basis, ask them who did it.
Cost of a Headshot
Just to give you some perspective, in cities like Toronto, or Vancouver, Headshots can range from $300 - $1000. In California its not unusual to spend $1,200 and more on a Headshot. In Halifax you can spend anywhere between $150 - $300 which is great!
What to Ask a Photographer
Many Actors book a session with a Photographer too quickly. They forget to ask some very important questions. The most important being, "How do I get copies of my Headshot?" Some Photographers will send you the original file through e-mail. Then you can do all the printing yourself. I love that method as I'm sure you do too.
Other Photographers want to keep the originals and send you copies when you need more. This can cause problems if you are a slacker and forgot to get copies and have an audition in a day or so. One of the reasons Photographers do this is quality control. I understand why they do it because there are some Actors who don't like how they look. So when they get the original, digital file, they start changing the Photograph in Photoshop to make them look, what they think is better. To a Photographer, that's like taking a Painters painting and adding your own paint to it after they are finished. It should never be done basically. And it is misleading to how you actually look. So ask the Photographer before you book a session, "Will I get the original Headshot digitally? Or do you go through a printing company and send copies when I need it?" I personally won't work with a Photographer who doesn't send me the files digitally. But that is because I know I won't change the Headshot and I want to control how many Headshots I have at any given time.
How to have a GREAT Headshot session:
1. Practice the night before! If you are worried about looking "stiff" or whatnot, then practice the night before with your own camera. Get a friend over. Rehearse the Photoshoot. Who knows, you might find the right pose that works best for you and will want to show that to the Photographer the next day.
2. Get a lot of rest the night before. Don't go out with your friends or stare at a computer screen for hours on end. Go for a nature walk, workout, then read a book and go to bed early.
3. When getting your Headshot done, have your favourite song playing in the background. This is one of the best tips! Choose the cheesiest song that puts you in the best mood possible. And when the Photographer is taking pictures, just put your focus on that song while looking at the camera. A pleasant confidence is the general mood Actors want to portray in a Headshot.
4. No big smiles and no big frowns. We want a "middle of the road" expression. But happy or pleasant confidence is always a big win in a Headshot. And don't show a lot of teeth. I'm not a fan of showing teeth at all personally.
5. Tell the Photographer NOT to use shadows on your face. Your face should be perfectly lit and not have anything blocking it. Make sure the Photographer isn't taking Photos of the side of your face while you are looking at the camera. The camera should be in front of you "head on". It is okay for the Photographer to be up on a chair or whatnot, looking down onto you. But they should be taking a shot of your face straight on. Never take photos where you are turning your head in awkward positions. Your Headshot should look like how we look at a person when they walk into the room. Straight on.
6. Last but not least, NEVER CHOOSE YOUR HEADSHOT. In the past five years, I have not once been the person who decided what my Headshot will be. I have industry professionals and friends who are 100% honest and know the rules to a proper Headshot, who will choose the final Headshot. Why? Because you are THE WORST judge of your own photographs. When you look at a Photographer of yourself, what are you looking for? The bad qualities, the flaws. But when you look at a Photograph of someone else, what are you looking for? The best features of that person. We are genetically designed to look for attractive features in a another person. So no one can see the flaws you see. Take yourself out of the decision making of your Headshot and let professionals do this part of the job.
Hope this helped! For more freebies and information go to: www.youractingcoach.ca