My (not so) secret recipe for the Perfect Headshot

I believe everyone should have the best possible chance at creating a winning headshot, which is why I coach my clients from the moment we book, right through to the end of their session. The whole process starts with one simple statement that I ask everyone to answer before we start to plan our session.

“I would hire (me), if I were looking for (…)”

Unless you know the answer to that statement, how can you be sure it’s what you will project in your headshots? This is where my whole process starts and once you know what ‘type’ you are we add my recipe for a successful session.

1. Add a good helping of Honesty

Your expression should be real, so we start by finding your neutral point and do small variations around that. Expression should be effortless, trying too hard can come across fake, or overzealous neither are qualities of a professional actor that has the skills and experience to deliver a believable performance.

I like to keep backgrounds simple this is to reduce the look of it being too much like a photo shoot. This, together with how I use light during a session produces a look like a still taken whilst on set.

Finally retouching is light, removing anything temporary like spots, a nik from shaving or something that would be removed with make up whilst on set.

2. Fold your ingredients Effortlessly

Once you have a grasp of your natural expression we find a rhythm and make small changes, by the end of the session you’re doing this without thinking.

We try to capture your image as if you are on set (a production still). These shots are invariably captured whilst you are working and you don’t really think too much about it at the time. In these images you’re not trying too hard in front of the camera and so it looks natural and effortless.

It’s plausible that the image wasn’t taken from an actual headshot session. This is what we hope to achieve during the session.

3. Finish with a Personal touch

It’s very important that you bring something into the shot, something of you that we can identify with, this will be different for everyone.

Perhaps its your charm or wit, your fragility, gravitas or warmth.

There’s no room for bland, safe, neutral headshots in this industry. They should be something that makes you stand out, competitive and should always relate to my initial question – ‘I would hire (me) if I were looking for a (…)’.

An Actors Life

You are a creative, on a wonderful journey. The life of an actor sounds like a wonderfully romantic and glamorous one but perhaps it’s often misunderstood.

My personal journey as a creative (in my case a photographer) has been one of ups and downs. And although I am wiser, more skillful and  greater experience, I am still learning. The way my friends, family and peers think what I do can be vastly different to reality but there have been times that I’ve come see what I do based on their opinion. I’ve fallen into the trap of believing ‘them’ that I’m an amazing photographer, that I take wonderful photographs however despite being in a great place creatively now, that has not always been the case.

I have found it invaluable to surround myself with like minded people, to ground me. Having conversations, sharing experiences and learning with people who are doing or have done ‘it’ has been enlightening and has truly helped me to grow as an artist.

So what is this actors life like that everyone refers too? Is it just a flippant way of giving explaining why sometimes things go wrong or an all encompassing phrase that allows us to communicate a shared understanding of the many different elements that define what it is to be an actor?

It’s not easy, effortless or glamourous, it’s hard work

When you tell someone that you are an actor you often get greeted with “wow that’s awesome, have you met anyone famous?” or “it must be great to do something you love and not have to answer to anybody at work!”

While either of those scenarios are attractive propositions the reality is that you’ve probably done plenty of work but nothing that your friends or family can relate to. It takes a lot of hard work to get that kind of recognition, long days, often working a full time job supporting you while you meeting agents, go to open castings and call backs. You are always learning too, going to coaching sessions, training, keeping fit at the gym and of course watching as many shows or films as humanly possible.  At some point you’ll find time to grab some lunch.

The reality is that you’ve probably done plenty of work but nothing that your friends or family can relate to.

There are a lot more opportunities out there than we collectively realise

The perception that we are a billion people competition for a handful of jobs – this perception is totally false. It’s important to understand that not everyone is trying to do the same thing, consider how many photographers there are just in Yorkshire alone. Thousands! In most cases those 1000+ will specialise, there will be wedding photographers, portrait photographers, pet photographers and of course, headshot photographers. Yes, there are a lot of people trying to do what you do but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

When you increase the number of actors you inherently increase the diversity of talent available. The range of theatrical, television and film production is significantly better than that of 20 years ago, this is largely due to the size and diversity of the creatives working on it.

We look to a few famous people and set them as a standard of success

Don’t get hung up on the idea of making it. It can be something you try and run after but never get to. It’s not realistic and its not healthy to idolise people. The path to success is so varied and what that looks like when you get there vastly different that to try and copy it will only lead to the inevitable.

Equally, don’t look at other people and think you have failed. It’s easy to look at someone else and think that they are so lucky to have the role dropped on their lap and at such an early point in their career but the reality is that person has the same fears and anxieties as you. They’ve had to train and work just as hard as anyone else.

The saying that when opportunity knocks you should be ready to answer couldn’t be more true. We don’t know when it will happen so instead of wishing it to happen, you should work towards making it happen.

If you haven’t done so already, set goals. Understand what success means to you but break it down into smaller wins

Think about making it every day a success, not a desitination but rather a process you do every day.

It may have been several months or even years since you last worked, perhaps you are coming back to your career after having a family. You’re worried that you aren’t as successful as you hoped but whether you are starting out or trying to get back to where you left off, it’s like standing at the foot of a mountain and not knowing how tall it is, an impossible mission to get to the top. It’s better to put one foot in front of the other and each day celebrate getting a little bit higher.

If you haven’t done so already, set goals. Understand what success means to you but break it down into smaller wins. Once you have your goals, you’ll be able to decide on what it is you need to do to get there. If like me, it can be difficult to focus or get started, check out my article : 5 TIPS ON GETTING ORGANISED

Join a community of fellow actors

Right at the top of this article I talked about how I ensured I had the right support to help me on my creative journey. Being part of a community, one that allows you to vent your frustrations in a safe environment or to pass on what you have learnt to others is incredibly inportant.

I started ActorsLife which is a Facebook group with a small difference. Although members often share opportunities, it’s also a great place to share your experiences and ask for support. The group is 600+ strong at the time of this article and is moderated and free from adertisers. So what are you waiting for?

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