WRITTEN BY AMELIA BRANTLEY
Ah, headshots! If I’ve learned anything in the last three years I’ve been assisting at Joanna DeGeneres Photography, it’s that the vast majority of actors hate getting headshots. I used to be one of those people too, so I get it. I did weird things to self-sabotage, like panic over wardrobe for weeks, but not make any real choices until 24 hours were left. Or randomly decide to get bangs two days before my headshots. Pro tip: If you’ve never had bangs, definitely don’t decide you want them literally right before your headshot session.
But headshots are our #1 marketing tool as actors and they usually aren’t cheap so it’s important we get them right. Headshots define our brand. They are the billboards and business cards for each of our actor businesses. Good headshots mean potentially getting into more rooms with representatives and casting directors. So how do we become headshot taking professionals? Well, join me in this 3-part series as I let you in on all of the secrets I’ve learned while working for one of the best photographers in Los Angeles!
Today, we discuss the ‘before’ in the headshot process.
1. Plan Ahead
The good headshot photographers, the ones all your reps have recommended and all your actor friends have shot with, they book at least a month in advance, and usually a little more. The busiest season for headshots is the summer; pilot season is over, reps are re-evaluating their rosters, actors are re-evaluating their materials, and everyone has a little downtime to get these things in order. Do not wait until the last minute.
2. Know What You Want
Schedules are based on the number of looks you’re doing and if you need hair and makeup for the session. If you email something vague like, “I want 2, maybe 3, but could be 4 looks and I’m still on the fence about hair and makeup,” I can’t help you. That’s a question for your reps. Also, if you need to shave during the session, totally fine, but we need to know that.
3. Hair & Makeup?
Yes! You should get a hair and makeup person. Many actors say, “Well, I want the shots to look like me, so I’m going to do my own hair and makeup because that’s how I’ll show up to auditions.” Not a good idea. Headshot makeup is very different from every day makeup because what looks natural and fresh in person, probably isn’t going to translate through the lens when we’re taking close up photos of your face under bright lights. 9 out of 10 times, the actors who choose to do their own makeup, regret their decision once they see the finished product. A great makeup artist will never make you look different, but they will make you look your best, and we all need to look our best in our headshots.
For Men: I know it feels unnatural, but having a makeup artist for your session will most likely save you a lot of money in retouching. A great makeup artist will even out your skin tone, hide those under-eye bags, cover any blemishes, and powder you in between takes to take away any unwanted shine. Also, if you’re shaving during your session, definitely have a makeup artist there. Most men get a little red after they shave, or their skin tone can be uneven once the facial hair is gone, and in that situation, a makeup artist is crucial.
4. Prep Your Wardrobe
This is huge. As an actor, it’s your job to understand your brand and which TV shows and characters you’re most right for. If you have representation, you’ll most likely want to discuss with them which looks you should be aiming for. Leaving enough time for research and prepare is key. Remember that most headshots shoot from the chest up, so your look needs to translate based on what we see on your upper chest, shoulders, and neckline. That’s it! Bring a variety of clothing but stay away from super busy prints, loud logos, or shirts that blend into your hair color.
5. Research Hair & Makeup
Have an idea of how you want your hair and makeup to look for each individual look. Print out pictures and make a binder or have them ready on your phone. Perhaps you want to show your MUA how you typically look during the day so they can get a sense of your hair preferences and usual style of makeup. The more research and planning you do, the less you’ll leave up to chance.
6. Make a Playlist
A good photographer that wants you to do your best, will ask you what kind of music you want to listen to during the session. Come with a solid playlist full of music that will get you in the right mood and mindset for each look. Not only will it make the shoot more fun, but your finished product will be better for it!
7. Look & Feel Your Best
In your headshots, you need to look like you will when you walk into an audition room so getting a bronzed tan or teeth whitening session may not be a good idea if this is something you won’t keep up year-round. While we absolutely are able to do any touch-ups in post, you still probably want to feel great about your skin so consider drinking plenty of water for the 2 weeks leading up to your shoot. A nice sheet mask so your skin is fresh and moisturized the night before is great, too! But definitely be careful with any last-minute facials or products you’ve never used before.
8. Practice In The Mirror
Because headshots are such a big investment, you want to love your results. Practice different facial expressions and angles for at least 15-30 minutes in the mirror or with a with a friend snapping shots of you.
9. Get Plenty Of Sleep
When you wake up on the day of your shoot, get excited! You’ve done all the prep so now it’s all about feeling relaxed, feeling like yourself, and having fun! You deserve it.