Over the years I have tried and tested numerous techniques and worked with hundreds of clients to achieve the look that was best for them, tailoring my coaching style to suit them however no matter the client, commission or type of lighting I use the following tips have remained a constant. Whether you are about to have your headshot taken or you are a photographer about to embark on one of your first sessions, hopefully, some if not all of these tips will help!
1. Give yourself a head start
You’ve planned for your headshot session, exchanging calls and email, you’ve arranged a date and a time but you need to make sure you give yourself the best possible chance for a great photo session.
Know what you need on the day, what you are going to wear, samples of previous headshots, for example, should all be ready in advance so you’re not rushing around. Also, get to know you, get comfortable with your face and what you can do with it, practising expression technique in front of a mirror is especially useful. Having your photograph taken in this way isn’t necessarily natural, so try to remove all the possible sources of stress to help relax you on the day.
Finally, the most important thing is you! Refrain from alcohol and start to drink plenty of water at least three days beforehand and get plenty of sleep the evening before.
2. Less is more
Your headshot should look like you on a good day. Although we all want to look our best for photographs, if we go to the effort that we may go-to for a special occasion, such as getting a new hair cut or a makeover, we will look nothing like our headshot when it comes to meeting the person it is meant for. The casting director, interview panel or new client may not recognise you when meeting them for the first time.
Men should be clean-shaven or neatly trimmed, check to see if there are facilities at the studio to shave to give you multiple looks. For women, light makeup as a concealer is acceptable, you can always add to your look once you are at your session. If you can wear your hair either up or down, bring some clips or scrunchies along on the day.
3. What to wear
Don’t try to overthink this, like everything else in preparation for your headshot session, keep it simple but remember to avoid certain things. Plain colours that complement your skin tone or hair are a safe bet, the stock black or white shirt, T-shirt, blouse or vest will suffice too.
In my headshot sessions, there is usually time to change at least three times so take a few options. Ladies should note that although varying necklines is a great advantage and I’d highly recommend bringing different style tops, you shouldn’t wear anything with a plunging neckline as it will prove to be more of a distraction than it will flattering!
Finally, if you are in despair and end up packing your entire wardrobe to your shoot, just leave out anything with a crazy pattern, recognisable logo or bright garish colour. Your photographer will help you choose what suits your images best on the day!
4. Explore your range
Although this tip is especially important for actors, it can be used for anyone posing for their photograph, just think about who your target audience is. Every casting you go to is different and to that end, you should explore your range during the shoot to give you even more variety to choose from.
An example of range could be having a fun, smiling portrait, great for commercial work and a serious, dramatic look for a theatrical role. Be honest in whatever you do, anything overly posed or too extreme won’t look genuine.
5. Choosing your headshot
You are your own worst critic so when choosing your images from the photo session it’s always a good idea to get other people’s opinion. Before you ask a relative or partner do be mindful, friends and family will naturally go for the big happy smiley photographs of you without considering what you will be using your images for. Ask others in the industry not partners or family members, other actors or your agent if you are an actor yourself, colleges or trusted clients if you are having some corporate images done.
Finally, try to see beyond the overall look of your proofs, that’s all they are – images straight out of the camera with no work done to them as yet. Final editing will correct any problems such as it being a little dark or light, retouching unexpected blemishes can be done too, I always ask my clients to point out minor things they’d like to remove but I always advise against removing things like laughter lines or wrinkles.
6. Preparing for web, print and email
Check with your photographer as to how you will be receiving your final images, the dimensions or resolution of each photograph will affect the size of the file. For example, you wouldn’t send a casting agent a high-resolution file on email, if it doesn’t fail to send it’ll block up their inbox – not the best first impression!
The resolution you’d use for email will be suitable for your social media accounts too but you should know that sites such as Twitter reduce the resolution of anything you upload significantly, so expect some loss in clarity.
If you are having your image printed, speak to your photographer, again checking the resolution and depending on where you are getting it printed its colour profile. Ideally, you should consider getting your photographer to arrange to print for you, they will have access to professional printers and will be able to provide you with a high-quality finish, much better than that off the high street. If you do decide to print with a high street store, you will most likely be asked to provide a limited print release; this is simply a signed statement from your photographer allowing you rights to reproduce the photographs.
That’s it! Hopefully you’ll find some if not all of the above useful, no matter the type of photo session you are about to have. If you’d like to know more or see what other people’s opinions are, why not join the conversation below!