How To Take Perfect Headshots
The headshot is the most critical marketing tool for an actor, and it’s incredible how many people do it wrong just to do it cheaper or quicker. We say it’s time to take it more seriously.
Your headshot is your calling card. A lovely 8x10 shot of your face - could be either color or black and white -, from which people will hire you, and you will make lots of money for them. It will be sent out and emailed to dozens of casting directors and agents, who see loads of these every day, on their desk and their computer. If your headshot is bad, you look bad. If you want people to take you seriously, you must have a good, high-quality headshot. Not a smartphone snap, not a Facebook photo of you by your house with the sun and wind playing around your face and hair, and not a glamour shot with palm trees in the background that you shot in a mall on a cardboard background.
HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR HEADSHOTS:
Spend the money. Go pro. It’s worth it. Find a trained professional, who understands lighting, and takes headshots for a living. Good headshots range from $400-$1200. Anything less is just a glorified passport photo. If the headshots look cheap, they probably are. And they will make you look like somebody who doesn't take their acting career seriously. Of course, one might get lucky and find a low-cost professional in which case, do share their contacts with your friends and other talents. Feel free to email us their details so we can add them to our database of affordable professionals.
Make sure it looks like you. Personality over glamour. And take it easy with the airbrushing! Casting directors expect you to look just like your headshot, and will not be happy when you show up looking like a different person. It’s not about looking pretty, it’s about representing your type, scars, age wrinkles, and moles included. It’s not about the type you want to be; it’s the type you are - you on your best day, showing your features and age.
Just like with on-screen acting, taking your headshot is all about the eyes, and what’s happening behind them. It’s your closeup. Your eyes should be in focus and alive. A slight squint and piercing look will bring a picture to life; it will stand out in a pile of hundreds.
A good headshot is a chest up with proper lighting on your face, and no sharp dramatic shadows, sharp contrast, etc. Look directly into the camera; the focus should be on the center of your eyes. Don't make funny faces, or put a hand on your face - you don't want this to look like a generic stock photo. Be sure the background is blurred, which means it’s shot with a good, HQ camera with a high-depth of field. It’s about you, not the environment, so it doesn't matter that there's the Eiffel tower or Times Square behind you.
Some photographers do both - studio and natural lighting, as they offer a different look and feel. Natural light gives an authentic film-like look; studio lighting tends to be a little more polished, with a more neutral backdrop. If you consider yourself more of a sitcom actor, perhaps an excellent well-lit studio headshot is more suited for you. If you want to look like you are on darker Netflix series, then go for the outdoor look.
Let’s not get crazy with clothing and props - keep it simple and classy. Trying to attract attention using crazy accessories and clothes will make you look desperate. A simple shirt with a little texture that fits you well and matches your eyes should do the trick. No whites and no graphics or anything you think might distract from your face. And no props. If you think you are going to play a doctor, there's no need wear the outfit in the headshot.
A lot can be done with retouching. So, there is no need to go crazy with makeup. You want to look like yourself. Girls, be yourself, do your hair the way you would for every audition. Guys, bring some oil sheets to take down the shine, and maybe use a lightly tinted moisturizer to take out the redness and even your skin tone. Some people spend way too much on makeup, only to have to get their headshots redone afterward because they look fake in all the photos.
So, to sum it all up:
Find a photographer that gets you. You have to vibe with the photographer, and that person has to make you feel very comfortable, as you will hopefully be using this headshot for a couple of years and sending it to everyone in town. A good headshot:
- Is framed from the chest up.
- Captures you looking directly at the camera. Eye contact is one of the most important elements of a great headshot.
- Has good lighting on your face. Beware of weird shadowing.
- Showcases the personality and aura you want to give off. This is what makes it memorable.
- Is easy to see and notice even when it's small.