As an headshot photographer and as an actor/director/teacher, I believe your headshot is your most important marketing tool – it is your calling card. The right headshot will get you called in for a variety of roles for Theatre, as well as for TV and Film projects you’re right for. A former casting director for NBC Primetime and now producer/co-creator for High Maintenance, Katja Blichfield, would say “I need you to be the ‘go to’ person for that type of role. So branding is essential in your work and from your headshot.”
And with that, remember, I always give FREE headshot consultations! Just click here to register.
So without further delay, below are a few of headshot tips I recommend, make sure to see them all, in text or video.
Choosing a photographer
- Remember “cheap” can be expensive so choose wisely.
If you want CD’s and agents to take you seriously, you need to represent yourself seriously and shoot with a professional headshot photographer. Make the investment to have a good, high quality Headshots. If you do not have an agent or manager you will be sending out and emailing to tons of casting directors who see hundreds of these every day. If your headshot is not strong or does not look professional, you can come off like an amateur or someone who is “not ready”.
- Have a consultation first.
You should have a consultation beforehand to make sure you vibe with the photographer. I personally have a branding consultation before I shoot with a client to discuss type, brand, wardrobe and their story. Every actor has a different story to tell.
- What to look for in a good photo.
As a photographer I try and capture my client’s voice in the photo. Best compliment ever given about my photographs was when someone who knew one of my clients and said “you can hear what they sound like.” Composition, light source and positioning are also key elements.
- When searching for a photographer, do your homework.
Take note if their portfolio has a variety of types and they are not just all young, or glamour photos of actors. Look to see diversity. Especially if you are a character actor. One of the things I ask my prospective clients is to have them send me a previous headshot and candid one of themselves so I can see what they look like aside from a professional photograph. It should look like you on your best day and representing your correct age range.
- Ask if they shoot outdoors or indoors.
I opt for outside shots because it puts you in a place and feels like a movie or TV “screenshot” and usually is the closest to what a client will look like in person, but go what feels right for you. I shoot only outdoors but some photographers do both. Each offers a different look and feel. Natural light gives a very real, “film quality” look, which I prefer. Studio lighting tends to be more polished and dramatic but both can work if the shots are strong.
If you are more of a theatre actor, perhaps a dramatic studio headshot is more suited for you. If you want film and TV and look like you are on “Law & Order” or “Blue Bloods,” go for the outdoor look. It’s grittier and places you somewhere.
- Selecting Wardrobe
You want to imply a character if you are going for multiple specific looks. For one example: for a male looking to play a cop, do not wear a uniform but perhaps a blue button down shirt with a tie with no jacket or a leather jacket with a Henley shirt for an undercover look. For a female cop a blazer over a open a light gray or light blue collar shirt with slacks with a belt.
- You should vibe with your photographer.
And he or she has to make you feel very comfortable. I prefer if someone says to me I researched photographers. And looked at my portfolios and ask me questions about type and branding.
- To use a makeup person or To not use make up person.
For woman I asked them to bring their own colors so the MU person can match it and to bring photos of their hair on a normal day so they can look like when they go to an audition. Some men opt for a MU person but many choose to do themselves.
- All in the eyes : Squinch and a Smize
I heard these terms over the years. Something that actors can do to help with an arresting image is to look like you are thinking about something rather than waiting to be clicked. So to smize or squinching is to pull bottom lids up but not the top because then that would be a a squint and you don’t want that. Think of it as a half squint. And then say “ha huh” to yourself.