Take Your Best Shot: A Guide to Getting Quality Headshots

By Christine Rose

Guy with camera

One of the first steps an actor should take is getting quality headshots. Here are some easy tips to help you get your best headshot.

So you finally decided what you want to be when you grow up. One of the first steps you need to get your foot in the door and your name in lights is a great headshot. Here are some easy tips to help you get your best shot.

First, you need to choose a photographer. You should try to speak with your potential photographer to establish a rapport with them. Would you feel comfortable working with them? Ask to see some of their work, (online is ok chat with them and get pricing information. Make sure you know exactly what is included in your shoot. Find out if you can get selected high resolution images burnt for you on disc. Make sure you get a release from the photographer if you are going to have the headshots reproduced yourself and ask if you can get small resolution files (jpgs) for web use.

The photographer will probably require a deposit to book a date, with the balance due the day of the shoot or upon delivery of finished product.

Next, you need to choose your outfit. Ask the photographer for suggestions, but in general you should bring several changes. Make sure they are well-pressed and clean with no visible threads or stains. Make sure it fits properly - not too tight and that it lies well when you move. Avoid white or very light-colored shirts for your headshot. White draws the eye. Dark or mid-tones are better and will draw attention to your face. Don't use wild or big prints.

For guys, a solid shirt with a collar is best. Besides keeping the attention focused on your face, a solid shirt is easier to drop type onto (your name). For women, wear a scoop or collared shirt. Try to choose a neckline most flattering to your face. If you are working in color make sure you wear a color that is complimentary to your skin tone. If you aren't sure ask a girlfriend or someone with a good eye or good fashion sense to help you. Be careful or wearing sleeveless or capped sleeves - depending on the crop it can detract from your photo. It is wise to bring a variety of sleeve lengths to choose from.

Make sure your hair is a good length and not scraggly. If in doubt, have someone take a polaroid of you before your shoot and ask your agent to critique it. Guys should be clean-shaven (unless you are going for the scruffy look). Don't make any drastic hair style changes or cuts right before your shoot. Hair should be in a style that is easily obtainable. Simple is better. Women and girls should generally wear hear loose and down for a headshot. You have to be able to look like your headshot when you go to a casting.

Women and guys take a good look at your eyebrows. If you need to wax or pluck please do so before your shoot. Make sure your eyebrows are cleanly shaped, have a good line and accentuate your face. If you have sensitive skin sometimes waxing can leave marks so you may want to wax your brows a few days or a week before your shoot. It is much easier to have a clean palette to start with rather than to have to do extensive retouching after the fact.

A few days before the shoot, you should avoid alcohol and drink plenty water so you will look your best. Make sure you are well-rested, and avoid the sun. Men will probably need base, concealer, and powder for the shoot. It is best to obtain your own so it is specially matched to your skin tone. Guys shouldn't need a make-up artist, however. For women, make-up should be clean and natural. The idea is to look your best without looking like you have make-up on. Matte finish is best; no heavily overlined lips or eyes; no shiny eye shadows or powders for black and white headshots. Neutrals such as browns are usually a safe bet. You can do your own makeup if you feel comfortable; or, you can have the photographer refer a make-up artist that he/she likes to work with.

Don't be tempted to ask the photographer to make you look ten years younger. When you go to a casting, the director has to be able to identify you as the person in the photo. So, you need to be able to look like your headshot. Your photo should be a flattering, yet realistic portrayal of you. Light retouching to remove a blemish or to clean up a little under the eyes is ok.

If possible, remove any jewelry for your shoot; no necklaces, bracelets or watches. No earrings on guys; but, for women, small studs in the ears are ok. Remember, you want people to notice your face - not your jewelry. Remember you are selling yourself, not your jewelry. If you wear glasses and you want to be photographed in them it is best if you can remove the lenses for the shoot. Also be careful about wearing sunglasses or hats before your shoot - they often leave an indentation on your face after you have removed them.

On the day of your shoot, arrive on time or early. Relax, and try to have fun. Listen to your photographer, and if you have any questions, or you don't understand his/her direction, ask. After the shoot, try to review the proofs with the photographer if possible. They can help you choose your best look. Also, you can get other opinions - your agent, a casting director you know, or your acting coach. Good luck!
Christine Rose is an award-winning South Florida photographer specializing in headshots, composites and fine portraiture. She attended the Brooks Institute of Photography, Santa Barbara, CA and has participated in numerous professional workshops. Christine has been a freelance photographer since 1987, and has had her advertising and editorial work published nationally. Since relocating to Florida in 1991, she's acquired a lengthy exhibition history, including displays in the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Arts, The Palm Beach Photographic Museum, and The Schacknow Museum in Coral Springs. Her work is in private collections throughout the world. In addition to her model composite and headshot work, her work can be viewed online at www.lilangelphotos.com.

Copyright © Christine Rose. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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