Every actor needs them. All actors are afraid of bringing the wrong shirt.
So, what makes a great headshot?
We've done a few posts on this topic before, but we are invariably asked this question before every headshot session.
Because actors are, in essence, very passionate but disorganized control freaks that are acutely aware of their brand: themselves.
It's hard to think of one's body as a brand. Very few career choices make this a thing.
Think about it:
Only elite athletes and other artists - dancers, singers, models - deal with the body as a product.
And not even they have to fear the great onslaught of time that will inevitably change one's features enough that protocol dictates documenting said changes with new headshots that show just how hard you've partied in the last five years.
So, how do we combat the every day blemish or newly formed wrinkle? How do we get an amazing shot that will not only catch the casting director's eye, but will also capture the spirit of the artist?
Because let me tell you, one of the worst possible things to happen to an actor is not aging or performing a matinee hungover; it's being poorly cast.
Casting directors are incredibly important to a production. If the wrong actor with the wrong skillset is placed in a role of great import, you lose your audience. Audiences are not stupid and not everyone is Meryl Streep. But brand yourself correctly, and you can sure as hell pretend to be!
Branding is not the easiest thing in the world. It begs the question, "Who am I?"
And people do not like to answer that sh*t. But instead of asking who you are, actors should be asking themselves who they WANT to be.
The first thing you should do when sorting this out, is to write out a list of ten adjectives that - in your mind - sum you up pretty well. You can say things like, "Delightful, Funny, Skinny, Cheesy, Nerdy, Pockmarked, Damaged, Dangerous, Edgy, Comforting, Cool, Aloof, Sexy" and then tear out that page and lay it in front of you and to the left.
Do NOT write down stereotype B.S. like 'The Girl Next Door' or 'Leading Man'. Nope. No. Nah, boo. That's not a thing. Are you a stereotype or are you an actor? That's what I thought.
Next, you'll make a list of ten adjectives that you want people to use when describing you. This might seem cheesy, but darlin', we have worked with celebrity clients on their image/brand for ages and this sh*t works.
You can say things on your new list like, "Daring, Fabulous, Hilarious, Spellbinding, Mysterious, Domineering" or whatever else suits your fancy. You can even say, "Fancy" if it tickles you pink.
Now, take that list and lay it to your right, side by side with the first list.
What are the differences? Where do they overlap?
These lists are the KEY TO YOUR FUTURE.
I mean it! They are the key to your future brand and the way the world will see you from now on, so baby? You just go ahead and pin those lists to your bedroom wall and glance at them when you aren't sure whether to wear this shirt or that shirt to your audition. You glance at those lists when picking your next monologue. Take a gander when choosing scenes for your reel, or better yet, when you sit down to WRITE scenes for your reel that will emphasize what a badass and versatile actor you are.
That is what gets an actor cast with us. When you show who you are, not resorting to gimmicks or character shots, but actually showing us who you are - that's the golden ticket.
Okay. Now that you have the basic idea of what a headshot should really represent, let's go over FCF's top 10 tips for grabbing a great one:
1. Get your hair cut and/or colored two weeks before your scheduled shoot. A little root action is great on camera and a fresh cut can take some getting used to, so schedule this in advance to make sure it looks dope af.
2. Reach out to your photographer to verify whether you'll be shooting in natural light or in their studio. We like to review our client's previous pics as well as their social media accounts to see whether or not they look best indoors or outdoors. (It also helps us help YOU figure out your brand. Studio shots and outdoor shots are both beautiful, but look very different. Consider your options carefully.)
3. Hire an HMU artist. Don't be daft. Your face is great, but the nature of cameras makes 3D subjects wonky. A good HMU artist can clean up your complexion, tame your frizz, and highlight your features without caking on foundation or overdoing the eyeliner. They can even trim your bangs and get them out of your eyes, so spend the extra dough.
4. MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE. Your skin is literally covering your head. Take care of it! Drink a ton of water during the week leading up to your shoot. Your body will deflate a little (always a plus), and your skin will really glow. Two nights before the shoot, you should be moisturizing really well on the face and neck and the evening before the shoot, just slather it along the hairline as well. Sounds weird, but me picking out your dandruff all morning is weirder, so just try it.
5. Bring a black shirt. Every time. With a flattering neckline and sleeve length for your frame and body type. It always gets used. Every time.
6. And that brings us to WARDROBE. What should you bring to your session? Plain shirts that pop against your skin tone. Even the shape of collars like the ones on Darcy below are important to consider. Darcy chose excellent items because they work with his brand, aren't overly suggestive, and the colors pop against his skin tone.
Your photographer should also be able to determine what kind of backdrop will add to or take away from each item that you've brought, giving the shots a vibe that fits in with your look. Having a stylist on set can make this process even easier.
Darcy was shot in studio because his facial features looked better under studio lights that could emphasize the incredible angles of his underlying bone structure.
Other clients, like the beautiful Anna Reichert, are shot in a mix of indoor and outdoor lighting as well as color and black and white for versatility.
If you want to spice things up and give a little more personality without going overboard, you can do what Molly B. Kiernan or Hannah Chase did, and bring a couple funkier pieces that would typically be used for portraits, not headshots. This is a great option if you are building a website to feature your talents and need variety.
7. Choose the right photographer for your look. Photographers are not one-size-fits-all. Emilia is our main photographer. Her voice is very clear in these images. We talked a bit about artists' voices in our blog before. However, the clients are very different and your photographer should be able to capture you as well as express their voice in every image. That's what makes it art (and gives your brand an edge).
8. Iron or steam your clothing. This should be a no-brainer, but items come to set wrinkled and all kinds of messy more often than not. It takes time (that you are paying for) to unwrinkle and steam everything, so just do it before you get to set. :)
9. A headshot is not a modeling gig. You do not need to practice posing in front of a mirror unless you plan on purchasing a combination package that includes both headshots and portraits. (They are different!) Keep it simple in front of the camera. If your photographer will let you, email them a list of your favorite tunes in sections for different moods: sassy section, fun section, sad section, etc. They can build you a playlist and help you relax or get into different vibes on set using music to your taste.
10. Get your headshots printed at a shop like Reproductions that specializes in printing professional-grade images. Don't ruin all of your hard work by printing them at home! It makes casting directors think you aren't investing in your career when you come in with sub-par materials.
*Bonus tip for the ladies: keep your jewelry minimal unless it has something specific to do with your brand. Jewelry is very distracting, so beware of anything that makes a 'statement' during your shoot. Your face is the statement, not some necklace from Free People.
Okay!!! So, how do you guys feel? Relieved? Afraid? Worried you left the hair iron on at home and will come back to find your apartment burned to a crisp?
Let us know in the comments!!