- Don’t underestimate the importance of good preparation. First of all – do your research. There’s now hundreds of headshot photographers around the UK so you need to find the right one for you. All the members of The Association of Professional Headshot Photographers are professional, experienced headshot photographers so that’s a great place to start your search (but keep in mind there are also lots of excellent photographers who aren’t members of this association) and look for photographers whose photos speak to you. Are you connecting with their images? Is the actor looking out of the photo at you? Take the time to go through their websites to have a full understanding of how they work and keeping an eye on their social media is also a good idea.
- A good brief can be helpful for a photographer, so you could spend some time thinking about what you want from the session and what you want your headshots to say. Be flexible and be prepared to be guided by your photographer.
What kind of tops should you bring? I can’t imagine any headshot photographer worth their salt would say to you “one or two is fine”. You really need to bring a good selection – 10 at the least. Spend some time thinking about your casting, the kind of parts you’re good at and the work you want to do. This should help you choose tops. For example if part of your range is classical or period work then a soft lacy top or collarless shirt can work really well. T-shirts and hoodies give you a more contemporary feel. Try to think of some words that describe you as an actor and all the things that make up your range. What kind of parts are you good at? Strong, delicate, manipulative, girl next door, thug, warm, professional etc. Being objective is important here – if you’re struggling speak to people that know you as an actor and will be honest with you: people you’ve worked with or are training with, and your agent is a great person to ask. Bring tops that will help us get those looks. Look at other actors with similar casting to you – what are they wearing in their headshots that tells the story of who they are?
Have a look at the pictures on this page. See how their choice of top or what they’ve done with their hair, and importantly how they’ve changed their intention or thought, can subtly communicate a different mood or feel.
- Try to be on time, so plan for potential travel problems. You don’t want to arrive rushed or flustered. If you’re early grab a coffee – there’s a nice vintage coffee shop 2 mins from my studio here.
- Try to arrive rested and relaxed. Photoshop can work wonders removing bags under the eyes etc but there’s no substitute for being refreshed and energised. So in the days leading up to the session get lots of sleep, eat well and drink lots of water. Alcohol dries you out which can show. Give yourself a week off in the run up to the session.
- If you’re getting your hair cut for the shoot, you’ll know what’s best for your hair but I’d suggest getting it done around a week before the session to give it time to settle in.
Bring your own styling products with you – make up, hair spray, hair brushes etc. I do have some in my studio but not every photographer will. Plus it’s much better to have the products and items that you know work best for you.
- The best advice is to treat a headshot session like you would an audition – arrive on time and prepared.
- Here’s the trick: headshots are all about communication. It’s about finding a connection between you and the viewer of the photo ie a casting director, agent, producer etc. It’s worth thinking about this. How do you project your thoughts in a still image? How do you make eye contact with the person that’s looking at your headshot? The answer of course is in the eyes – I have lots of tricks to help you with this and any decent photographer will do too, but keep this in mind when shooting.
Communicate your thoughts about what you want from the session to your photographer so they can help you communicate them in your headshots.
- Confidence is key. Why not make a playlist to play in the session to help you relax and get in to it?
- Be committed – make the most of your time with your photographer. Whatever look you’re going for at any moment of the shoot, whatever thought you want to communicate, commit to the moment – just as you would on stage.
- Be energized – it might be an idea to bring a few snacks and water with you to keep your energy up. A session shouldn’t be physically tiring but it requires a lot of focus from you and you might be surprised how tired you get. Check with your photographer that they don’t mind you bringing food first (it’s fine with me).
- Be flexible – you’ve booked with your photographer for a reason, so trust their direction in the shoot!
- And enjoy it! I hear from clients all the time that they don’t like having their picture taken before they come in, but it’s a completely pain free experience. In fact I always go out the way to make sure it’s fun. So turn up looking forward to the session and with a positive attitude. It really shows in the pictures.
- When you’re going through your photos to make your choices, don’t do it on your own. You can’t see yourself as the rest of the world sees you, so get some help. It’s almost impossible to be entirely impartial when looking at photos of yourself so canvas as many opinions as you can. But ask people who know you as an actor and know purpose of headshots. Fellow theatre practitioners are much more likely to spot a great casting portrait of you – very different from a flattering photo of you. If you’re with an agent they’ll be the best person to help you go through them as they’ll know exactly how they want to market you and which photos will help them do that.
- The better you know your face and accept any imperfections, the easier (and more pleasurable!) it’ll be going through your photos and choosing the winners. Accept your face for what it is. Nobody else in the world has the same face as you and it’s one of the things that makes you entirely unique. My face is far rounder than I’d like it to be but when I was an actor, the second I accepted that was my face shape, I stopped being disappointed with how I looked in photos and actually found it easier to relax in front of the camera and produce much more striking images.
- Take your time. There shouldn’t be any rush from your photographer for you to make your choices.