7 things you should know before getting your headshot


I like this image of Colleen because it makes you want to meet her; its outgoing and friendly.

1) This is about marketing you.

Sorry, but its true. If you are an actor, you are now a product that you’re trying to sell to directors, casting agents, producers, and hopefully… network executives. The very first exposure that they have of you, is in your headshot. In most cases, they go through a stack of headshots before deciding which performers they want to see in person.

Its awful. Right?

Get comfortable with the idea of selling yourself. Not on a corner, but in a headshot. Its legit.

With this in mind, make your headshot work for the roles that you are most suited for. If you tend to audition for parts that call for a tough guy, don’t send them a headshot that makes you look sweet and innocent. You won’t even make it past the first cut of 8 x 10s. Similiarly, if you are a big guy, 220 lbs of raw muscle, you probably don’t want to market yourself towards Best Buy commercials.

Know who you are, what you look like, and what you’re auditioning for. It just improves your odds. Which leads me to…

2) Know your type.

What is your type? Are you suburban housewife, or vixen? Are you senior accountant or blue-collar? I’m not talking about what you do in ‘real life’, but what you look like on first glance. If you’re not familiar with your type, ask a few of your actor friends:
“What commercial would you put me in?”
You’ll get an immediate break down of your type. Don’t freak out. A friend of mine was told that she looked like she could do birth control commercials. The person who told her that could have also told her that she looked like a modern, all American, approachable woman. That’s her look. What her look means is that she can sell products to other women. The implicit message is that she’s trustworthy.
If you know your type, then you can tell your photographer what type of images you want.

Look at the two images of Aaron, below. We purposefully shot him two different ways… one for commercials, and the other for theater. What do you think he looks like in each shot? What is the meta message – the implied subtext – of who he is?

Aaron blue Aaron, red

Two versions of Aaron. Would you cast the guy on the left for the same part as the guy on the right?

I hope you get the point.

3) Its about being comfortable

The one thing that photographers love to hear from their clients is “I felt very comfortable shooting with you.”

That’s huge! HUGE!!

I recently shot a number of executives for a real estate company. One agent after another stopped to tell me that they were comfortable with me. I was walking on air for days after that shoot.
Another client wanted boudoir photos. When they sent me a note, afterwards, with the same compliment? I couldn’t have been happier.

If you’re comfortable with us, then the actual shooting part is easy. Then all we have to do is use all of that technical stuff that resides in the back of our heads to bring you into the best light. While that part is a lot of skill, what makes taking a headshot so different is that the actor has to be completely comfortable. We literally have to figure out ways to make you okay with us, so that you can be yourself.

Conversely, I hear horror stories from clients about their “previous” photographer. I think you know where this is going? “I just didn’t feel comfortable with him/ her.” Its no surprise that their previous shoot was a disaster, and that it showed up in the images.

Please, meet with your photographer ahead of time. If it doesn’t feel right, keep searching. You’re spending a lot of money on this.

4) You need clothes that fit

For some reason, a lot of thin people have clothes that are much larger then they are. They bring them to a shoot, and we have to use clamps on the loose fabric so that it doesn’t look so awkward.

Clothes that fit make a huge difference. I’m sure you’ve seen a photo of someone, and all you can think of is: what were they thinking when they chose that outfit? If you’ve gained/lost weight recently, check in with your photographer and then go out and buy something that conforms to your body.

5) Don’t get your hair cut the day before a shoot

You’d be amazed at how many people do this. -And then they get to the shoot, and they don’t know why they can’t get their hair to lay down. Most stylists suggest giving your hair a week between the time that you get it cut, and when you get your photo taken. Your hair tends to find its new natural resting spot during the week.

6) Get photographed during your “peak” time

Are you a morning person? No? Then why are we setting up your shoot in the morning?

Yeah, I get it. You’re an actor. You can “pretend” like you’re okay with it. But let’s not pretend like you’d rather be doing this when you’re more awake.

I had a friend who had agreed to pose for me. She was out the previous night. She arrived looking like she might have had 3 hours of sleep. Like I said, she’s a friend who had volunteered for the shoot. So I took a couple of frames, and then sent her back home.

If you’re a morning person, shoot in the morning. Night person? Set up a later shoot.

7) You should be hiring me

So you’ve been reading this – and it all makes sense to you – but you haven’t been given this advice before. Not from your agent, acting teacher, or your previous photographer?

This is why you should be hiring me.

Its what I do. I shoot people for a living, and they pay me to do it.

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