hey you. so you're getting your headshots taken. yay! it's exciting because it bears potential. it's nervewracking because everyone in town says a good headshot makes all the difference and it can cost a lot of money. you know it's worth it if you get a shot that sells you in just the right way. here are some of my DOs that can help you get just that.
1. find a photographer you like. not just their pictures but someone you think brings out what is unique about their subjects. when interacting with them do they ask you questions that lead you to a more specific idea of what you want? my suggestion is to not just pick the most expensive "name" photographer off a list that an agent/casting director/coach gave you. i've popped up links for photographers whom i love working with in Los Angeles - this is by no means a comprehensive list - who get great results every time and are intent on everyone having a positive experience and know how to bring out the you that will get you in the room.
2. get a little outside help. it is actually incredible how much a trained eye can assist you in finding your type. we all know ourselves very well from the inside. we hear our inner dialogue and know our entire histories and that informs who we think we are. but who we think we are and who we are to a casting director or a producer can be very different. there are plenty of people who will take your money [lots of it] to tell you this so be discerning. take an on-camera class in which you're able to review footage to see how you come across on camera. or nab some sides online and use your iphone to self tape as if it were an audition.
3. plan your wardrobe. what colors do you look good in? what is your type? do those colors that you look good in fit your type? as an actor, it's usually better to be a specific hungover creepy child-molester type than a general pretty person (as long as you're not actually a child molester). so if you look terrible in yellow and you know you have a nasally voice that sounds sort of sickly, maybe you will book a ton of pharmacy, medicine, allergy, before and after kinds of commercials. knowing who you are and what wardrobe confirms that will take you to the top of the heap. typically, for commercials you want something bright, light, fun, happy and with some sort of texture or detail near the face to drive attention towards your eyes. theatrically, you'll want something a tad more sophisticated in darker or more neutral colors. plan ahead, wash and dry, iron or steam and make sure there are no distracting spots on any of your wardrobe. or rumple it up and pull it from the hamper the morning of but only if you're the guy eating pizza on the couch or ordering tacos in the drive-thru.
4a. get some rest. 4b. drink lots of water. 4c. exercise. these are the more obvious ones. don't get too much sleep, but definitely not too little. it's nature's way of refreshing our faces. drinking lots of water for the week leading up to your session won't just make you have to pee a lot; it'll flush out toxins that might otherwise huddle in your skin and form a tribe. or a zit. getting your blood flowing on the morning of your headshots is a great idea. doing it outside is even better [as long as it doesn't require more than 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure] because you'll start to feel connected to things that aren't stress inducing.
5. hire a makeup artist. i realize this one is self serving. but i wouldn't do what i do if i didn't believe that it was a tremedous service to have someone who knows what they're doing apply and alter your makeup as necessary. there's a reason why makeup artists are integral to a film or tv set - having someone dedicated to watching your face and your hair and ensure that it coincides with the goal of the character or the actor is invaluable. the actor can relax into their work, the director can focus on getting the best performance and being the audience, the grip and electric team can work their magic with lights. if you have a regular makeup routine, rarely stray from it and have been in front of the camera a lot, i recommend sticking to that for the purposes of your headshots too. otherwise it will be a good investment to hire someone to make you up and keep an eye on you.
6. know thyface. once you bring on a makeup artist, you may have to inform them of things about your face that you like [freckles, unruly brows] and don't like [zits, undereye circles, wispy hairs around your forehead] and anything you can't tolerate [skin sensitivities or allergies]. if you know going in that you have freckles that you really like and want to shine through, your makeup artist can play them up or at least not try to cover them. he or she might try to pluck those brows or tame them if you don't mention at the outset that they're your favorite attribute. i personally tend to love the little things about a person's face that they will immediately point out to me as a flaw. i'm not the one who will be there when you're hyper-analyzing your shots so hearing from you is crucial. PLEASE mention any allergies or sensitivities. i always keep in my kit a set of brushes that are eco-friendly and makeup that is designed for sensitive skin. as a backup, you may want to bring along any products that you know work particularly well with your own complexion. *COVID-19 notice: in order to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible, my makeup and tools will be honed down significantly before a shoot.
7. think outside the frame. you're not going for cheesy or prop-comedy here, but maybe grab something to bring with you that is fun, silly or says something about you. some goofy glasses or a cupcake, a hat or coat. it probably won't make it into the photo, but sometimes being a little wacky in one frame will make the next six frames keepers. if you feel like you've got a good brand going, ask your photographer if there might be time for a few shots of you doing something in keeping with that brand to pop onto your website. also, consider the look and colors of your website or online presence when you're planning. something else to keep in mind - shoes. they will almost certainly not be in your HEADshot (unless you're incredibly flexible) but we all know that different pairs of shoes can really make us feel different. wearing high heels or dress shoes vs. converse or flip flops might give you a different outlook.
8. give a little. if you've done all the steps above, there's no reason to come into your headshot session anything but relaxed. you know yourself, you know your photographer, you're happy, healthy, funny, creepy or befreckled, and you can sit back, be you, enjoy the time and let the camera capture it all. trust the people you're hiring. having fun in front of the camera will show and will be irresistible and so very cast-able.
UPDATED: March 16, 2021