Headshots, The Most Important Thing You Should Know!
The headshot Is said to be "the single most important marketing tool for an actor. When that little headshot jpeg pops up on a casting director’s computer, you want them to say, “Yes, bring that person in!” Not “Yikes, that guy kinda scares me.”.
According to Christina N Dickson of "Digital Photography School" your PHOTOGRAPHER should know these 6 things:
1.) Focus on the Eyes (they are the window to the soul)
2.) Watch your Angles (Shoot down on women and Up on men)
3.) Use Diffused Light (it brings out the skin)
4.) Add a hair Light (provides the depth needed to make the shot)
5.) Use of Lens (Typically 90mm or more)
6.) Guide Expressions (You want to get the most natural expressions).
According Matt Newton of casting website "Backstage.com" there are 7 things ACTORS should know about getting "the best" headshot:
1.) Go Pro (Pay a professional to do them! Sorry amateur doing it yourself)
2.) It's all about the Eyes (OK so now you and the photographer know)
3.) Pay attention to the framing, lighting, background. (Angles from chest up face lit)
4.) Natural Light vs Studio (real film feel vs polished glamour)
5.) Clothing and Porps (Solid colors maybe simple texture to accent the eyes, NO PROPS)
6.) Don't go crazy with the makeup ( We want to see your natural beauty)
7.) Go for PERSONALITY over glamour (We should see the REAL YOU not your photoshopped stepford wife/husband you)
There is no shortage of guidelines, rules, tips, or do's and don'ts when it comes to headshots. This information overload can become quite overwhelming and have you spend a lot of money for a shoot you didn't enjoy, for photos that aren't the greatest for you to use, even though you and the photographer followed all the steps and tips. This stress and financial strain for many can lead us all to the point of NOT WANTING TO DO IT AT ALL!
Let me tell you about MY experience! I moved to NYC for work and stopped chasing the dream for a number of reasons, but once I was back in pursuit I realized I had everything I needed except Monologues and Headshots. I personally find these both to be two of the MOST CHALLENGING, things to perfect as an actor. Memorizing a monologue is simple especially if you have been acting for some time, but delivering it with the right FINESSE is the challenge. Just as with a monologue, taking a picture is simple these days, especially if you are the owner of a smartphone, but mastering a Headshot with the right FINESSE is the challenge. So How did I rise to the Challenge?
The mental process wasn't easy, my biggest hurdle for was GETTING OVER MY OWN INSECURITIES about MY IMAGE. I could not see past my flaws. I felt I would not be accepted as an actor until I fixed everything physically wrong with my image, a thought process fueled by my not seeing many mainstream actors with the imperfections I had. The main imperfection which bothered me most were my teeth, no not my smile but my TEETH! You see, as odd as it may sound, my mother had a horrible experience with the dentist after a major procedure and it caused here to not like nor trust the dentist, in turn, as a child my dental care extended as far as ensuring I brushed my teeth before bed and in the morning when I woke (yeah all kids do THAT consistently without being told, right). Well this lack of dental visits just became the way I did life, and it has left my teeth in the condition they are currently in. (NOW you will scroll back up to take notice)
Some may think, WOW your teeth, that's a simple fix, just go to the dentist/ortho or get work done... yes that all sounds great if one can afford it, at least that's what I always said, but I now have free dental coverage which pays up almost everything, yet I have not found time to visit the dentist as needed, which also contributed to my procrastination of getting my headshots done. I knew with my schedule making an appointment could take forever, but I was still putting it off, until I was reminded of something an acting coach once told me, "When a director or casting director chooses you in an audition, it is not simply because you have the look, or because your performance was so brilliant, it is also because they liked the YOU which YOU BROUGHT INTO THE ROOM, so always be YOU."
"BE YOU, NO ONE can tell you YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG, this is something I have been told growing into manhood, it is also basically my personal mantra, "EMBRACE YOUR AUTHENTIC YOU!" But I never thought to bring that into auditions, and I for SURE never though it would be the KEY to FINDING MY FAVORITE and MOST EFFECTIVE HEADSHOT!
This long drawn out story just to tell you this, we spend so much time trying to perfect the outfit the lighting the back ground the makeup the pose the angles and such, when the ONE THING they are looking for when "they" look at a headshot is YOU. Think about it, as actors we often get offended by or spend time fighting against being "Type Cast," yet we constantly send in "PHOTOS" hoping to be picked simply by the way we LOOK....hmm that's odd. In the absence of your Great unmatched skill, your headshot is often what gets your resume the once-over. When a casting is taking place, even if you have dazzled them with your acting, more times than not, its your HEADSHOT that is placed up on the board during the decision making process, not your resume. That being said, whatever they feel and or see when they look at your headshot, is what they are going to want to see and or feel when they invite you into the room. So if you are a bubbly personality Make sure your headshot, in the most professional way possible, conveys Bubbly Personality. If you are straight laced all business, (probably wont be hard but..) make sure your Headshot conveys Straight Laced all Business. If you are 17 But can portray anyone from 14-19, make sure your headshot shows that range, but if you are 30 and can pass for mid-twenties to early 30's make sure it's there.
In closing I will say, read the articles in those links, find out what the industry is looking for in headshots, and find out how to pick the best photographer, but remember this simple fact:
YOUR HEADSHOT SHOULD BE A PROFESSIONALLY ACCEPTABLE PHOTO THAT TELLS THE STORY OF WHO YOU TRULY ARE!
Nathan L Henderson
"Embrace Your Authentic You"