How to Prepare for an Actor Headshot Session
So, at some point, you made the brave/inspired/scary decision to become an actor. Perhaps you’ve recently been to drama school or university, or maybe you’re already making your mark in the industry. Whatever juncture you’re at, you will (at some point) be needing to get some headshots done. If it’s something you have to do, you may as well do it right, right?
Why Do You Need A Headshot?
First of all lets be clear about the role a good headshot plays in your career. I’m not going to overstate their importance by claiming that a brilliant headshot will guarantee you work, or that the job you’ve always dreamed of getting will suddenly materialise on the back of Spielberg seeing your shiny new photo. YOU are the only person who’ll get yourself work, but an actor headshot can definitely go some way to getting you in the room (be that real or virtual…). For casting directors and directors who don’t already know you or your work, your headshot is hugely important. As they sift through the many actors suggested for the parts they need to cast, a great headshot will grab their attention and, as a result, will more likely lead to an audition.
This all sounds very straightforward, but you’ve got to get your headshot done first! Here are a few things to think about when preparing for a headshot session.
What is Your Headshot Budget?
This sounds obvious, but decide what it is you’re happy to spend. If £200 is your maximum, research photographers around or below that price. It’s important that this investment isn’t going to break the bank. One of the things I’ll touch on later is the need to be relaxed for your session. If you’re already resenting it because you’ve spent your last pennies, feeling relaxed might be a challenge.
With that said, be realistic about what you need to spend. This is an investment, and if you go for the cheapest option simply because it’s the cheapest option, you’ll likely find yourself having to get some new shots done far sooner than you’d hoped.
If you’d like your session to be catered around your needs, then you’ll likely want a photographer who doesn’t clock watch or have a revolving door of clients throughout the day. I’ll never have more than 2 sessions in a day, because that allows me to give energy, time, and focus to each client I work with. Working in this way does inform my session fee, but I know it’s the best approach if I want to get results that both myself and my clients are happy with.
Guide to Headshot Research
Be clear about what kind of headshot you want. Outside? Studio? Natural light? Studio lighting? Look at agents websites, as well as, the websites of photographers and Headshot Hunter, to find the style you think would work best with your look and casting. Everyone offers a different approach, and one size does not fit all. I always shoot inside using natural light, because I like to have a clean, uniform background so as not to detract from the main event – you! However, for many people, an outside shot brings a softness they feel would work best for them. The important thing is to make decisions about what’s best for you, which helps you narrow down the pool of potential photographers.
Things to Think About
So, you’ve booked a session in with your chosen photographer. They’ll likely send you some information about what to expect, what to bring, and what to think about in preparation. For me, I have a few dos and don’ts.
- Don’t get your haircut the day before your session. It takes a few days for your hair to settle after a cut, so give it that time!
- Don’t panic if you wake up with a spot on the end of your nose, and don’t spend loads of time trying to hide it with make-up. Spots and blemishes are easy to remove in the edit, and easier still if they’re not covered in concealer.
- Don’t go out and get wasted the day before your session, or the day before that, or the day before that. For obvious reasons.
- Don’t spend hours deliberating whether or not to bring that top you love – just bring it! You can always choose not to wear it.
- Don’t overdo it with the make-up. For me, natural is the best starting point. If you want to add to your make-up, you can do so during the session. It’s always easier to add than it is to take away.
- Do have a good think about what you want from your headshots, so that you arrive at your session with some clear ideas.
- Do ask your photographer any questions you have before the session.
- Do remind yourself that a great headshot is an authentic headshot. This is not about looking objectively amazing or like a model – this is about showing who you are. Your unique selling point is you, and this is an opportunity to celebrate that.
- Do consider what it is that helps you relax, and give yourself the time and space to do those things. Whether that be yoga in the morning before your session, or going for a run, or meditating, or listening to music. The absolute BEST shots are captured when you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, so anything that helps get you to that state of mind, will be of real benefit.
- Do give yourself plenty of time to get to your session. Being in as rush is not conducive to that relaxed state of mind you’re aiming for.
- Do iron any tops/shirts you would ordinarily iron. Creased tops, shoved into your bag, are not a great look.
The process of getting new headshots done can genuinely be an enjoyable one. Honestly, it can! Don’t let previous bad experiences – or some misplaced belief that you’re not ‘photogenic’ – get in the way of bagging yourself some shiny new job-getting headshots!
Arthur John Wilson
Arthur John Wilson is a photographer who specialises in actors headshots. Based in Tottenham, North London, he always strives to capture natural, clear, and authentic shots. He also works as an actor, and has done for the past 15 years. He appreciates how much his work as a performer has informed his photography, and vice versa. He loves collaborating with other creatives, whether that be in a rehearsal room, or during a headshot session