I'm bringing this back from the dead.
I'm sick of seeing lousy headshots, so I wanted to help people NOT get crappy headshots the first time or NEVER AGAIN!
These are some tips that I've gleaned from meeting with some of the Top LA Agencies (KSR, Abrams, CESD, Commercial Talent, APA, etc), Top Casting directors, and photographers.
Feel free to question, disagree with, or add stuff.
-When looking for a photographer for YOU, DON'T base you decision solely on whom other people used (especially if they DON'T look like you) nor use a photographer based solely on name. What might be awesome for other people might suck for you.
Go to http://reproductions.com or other photobooks such as Argentum's and find photographers that photograph people like you well ie. Skin tone, hair color, eye color, ethnicity, age range, physical structure, etc. Choose your top 5 and meet with ALL of them! You want to get their philosophies and their personalities. You certainly don't want to work with someone whose personality sucks for you.
-In LA, a good price range is $250-500. If you're paying more than $500 in LA, it's normally for a name. Photographers in other markets like NY do tend to usually run higher in pricing. Bottom line: High pricing does NOT always correlate to high quality headshots!
-With regards to looks,
Unless you're the REAL DEAL, you DON'T want character shots ie. literally dressing like a cop, doctor, etc. NO PROPS EITHER! This is an insult to the casting directors and will get you laughed out of this business.
You want 3-4 looks that can each suggest multiple roles or essences!
For example, a business suit look can suggest doctor, FBI, lawyer, detective, secretary, business person,etc. A casual look (jeans and t-shirt) can suggest high school, college, blue collar. An upscale j-crew/Banana Republic look can suggest young parent, preppy, white collar, etc.
These 3-4 looks you choose should be based on how you know you REALISTICALLY will be cast. If you're a woman in your late 40s you're most likely not going to win dressing like a college student. If you're in your late teens or early 20s, a full business suit won't help you that much, maybe a slighty unbuttoned dress shirt with an undone tie and no coat.
-COLOR IS STANDARD!
-For commercial headshots, it's usually smiling and brighter colors. For theatrical (film/tv) it's usually a more serious/intense expression and muted colors. Of course there are exceptions to the rules. My top commercial headshot is also one of my most used theatrical shots, especially since I like doing comedy.
-If you want to be serious, you NEED PROFESSIONAL headshots. For each cheap actor out there, there are a 1000 seriously investing in their career.
-It's important that your head and part of your upper torso are clear so agents and casting directors can fairly judge you physically. NO extreme close ups or where it's just your head.
-8X10 is standard size. Anything bigger or smaller will be filed in the circular file cabinet(garbage can).
-Always have your name printed on the head shot in case your resume does get separated.
-NEVER print your agency logo on the headshot UNLESS your agency is paying for it. What if you leave or the agency goes under and you printed a bunch with an agency logo? MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN!
-Avoid printing stuff on the back. Why?
Ink will smudge on photo paper. Even if you downgrade to Lithos (a lower quality headshot that can be printed on), the headshot is now dated for a serious actor is constantly updating his or her resume.
A printed on the back resume can also give off the wrong message that you're not working much.
You should have your resume (that has your email and CELL phone number printed on it) neatly cut to fit your 8X10 headshot and stapled to the back.
-Having a border can have advantages in that you can NEATLY hide the staples by stapling where the border and photo meet.
-NO GLOSSY. Get matte or pearl finish (non glossy). Most indoor lighting tends to reflect off of glossies making it difficult for the agents and casting directors to see.
-No busy patterns or jewelry that will take away from your face.
-Your headshots need to LOOK like YOU on your best week day!
-Do NOT wear makeup or style yourself in a fashion that would make you look too glamorous ie. As if you're trying to be sexy at hip club on a Saturday night.
Tell your photographer to avoid:
-Landscape cropping as the majority of your photo choices. When a landscape photo is posted online on LA Casting or Actors access, it's appears very tiny compared to a photo that was cropped portrait. CDs get submissions as really tiny thumbnails. They might miss your photo if it's smaller than the majority of photos that are cropped portrait.
Of course landscape can look great for personal websites or as hardcopies.
-Shooting you at weird angles, especially angles that would distort how you really look.
-Chopping off the top of the head. When too much of your head is chopped off, it makes it a little difficult as to what you really look like. Cropping off a small part of the top of your head is forgivable, but not to the extent where you look like a Hannibal Lecter victim.
-Too close. Don't get it cropped too close to where people can't see your body. At least some of your upper torso should be visible in your shots so CDs/Agents have a fair idea of what you look like physically.
-Silly poses. Headshots are supposed to be as natural as rain. Making stupid poses will just make you look stupider. Such common poses include, but not limited to:
1. Sitting on the toilet. This is where you're sitting down but leaning WAY forward and shot to the side. The hunched look can make the subject look weak.
2. My head is too heavy. Don't do a headshot where your hand is under your chin or even touching your head.
3. Look at me, I have a sexy back! I've seen some headshots where people are in contorted poses, looking over his or her shoulder. It's not natural.
4. I'm a mermaid! This is where you're laying on your stomach with your feet up.
5. Leading with my shoulder
6. I got sexy legs! This where you're sitting down and your knees are visible.
I would also say, for the most part, AVOID printing your 8x10s full bleed (when there is no border and the picture comes all the way to the edge of the paper).
Pictures tend to look dated and unprofessional when printed this way.
Using a border with your name under it is standard these days, especially in LA. Here in NYC I still sometimes see full-bleed prints, but they make me cringe.
When you look at photographer's portfolios, check out:
2. Is the color right? (no pink faces)
3. Are the images overretouched? (candy colors, and skin looking like plastic)
4. Are the images shot at a great moment? A real, serious impression with life in the eyes instead of an empty stare, a natural laugh or smile instead of a say cheese grimace.
5. Are the eyes always in focus?
And for your own shoot:
6. Generally: does the image show you can create an interesting character? Go for interesting instead of cute.
7. Be brave: you don't have to match general cliches and look like somebody else. You don't have to look super pretty - this is not a shot for dating. A distinctive and impressive look raises your chances of getting noticed. If you are very pale, show it. Don't try to make perceived downsides go away. If you are nicely rounded, let it show. You'd be taking a lot away if you tried to photograph John Goodman as slim as possible.
8. Pick your clothing well: a bunch of cheap, crumpled T-Shirts will not be OK. You don't have to buy expensive stuff. There are good second hand stores where you can find interesting pieces of clothing. Think of clothing as the supporting role for the lead, which is your face. It's putting your face into the right frame. A special, well chosen piece of clothing can do a lot.
9. Confident, not begging "pick me!" eyes.
PS: Meeting the photographer will give you a good idea if you can open up or if he can lure expressions out of you. If a photographer doesn't have the time to meet you, skip it. He won't spend enough time on your shoot as well.
Never be shy. Say what you want. You are the client, and it's your hard earned money. You deserve the best treatment and work a photographer can give.
Helmut Newton said once (I'm paraphrasing) that good portrait photography is about charming and seduction, about getting a great contact to the subject.
Well done ! This is very good and sadly funny, but it come at the right time.
I was wondering, when you don't have a resume, is it okay to just print the phone number and email on the back or should it be on a page by itself? or would a business card look better than a full piece of paper with only 1% print on it?
Also, I really love to wear my stripped shirt.
example of the shirt in question. Would it be too much details? if I leave it open with a top tank under it?
It's not me ^ -_- I wish haha
I'd like to add that it's important to KNOW YOUR TYPE.
Not so much your physical appearance or ethnicity, but also your personality. It's okay to be either comedic or shy, flirty or corny, leading heroic type or supporting next-door neighbor character. Heck, it's even okay to be a jolly older grandpa type. If you're competent enough, you'll find roles that fit you perfectly, you just need to prove it in your headshots.
Being able to find a photographer to help you key in on those nuances is what will really give your headshots... well, personality.
You should consult with him/her -- as well as your acting coach or agent, if you have one -- about how to construct looks that fit the types of roles you're going for.
Then, being able to showcase your type in both a commercial and serious/theatrical/legit context will really be able to display your range and capabilities as a professional.
Here's an article I wrote to help illustrate this: Commercial vs Theatrical Headshots
Justin Gill | Headshot Photographer Los Angeles
Any answers for me ? I'm going to have headshot taken next weekend (24) so I'd love some input on the shirt XD
Thanks for high jacking!
Would you consider yourself a tough guy, blue collar, or a douche? Wearing a tank top underneath a plaid shirt suggests those things. And yes that shirt is distracting.
Here's a noob resume:
Also, I NEVER understood this-getting a landscape image and shrinking it to fit portrait. You pay the SAME amount regardless, so fill up the damn canvas as much as possible!
Moki, I find that shirt much too distracting for a headshot. My eye immediately goes to the interesting shirt, rather than your face. I'd advice solid colors personally.
Ya well it was an example.. my shirt is not exactly like that. I'm a lady not a guy XD this is not my picture!!
Anyway I talked with my photograph and she told me what to bring I think I'm set for now.
I'm sorry Truth, not sure what it means to highjack someone. I suppose it must be because I asked after 2 days and I should have waited longer. Anyway thanks for the noob resume I see what I can do with mine at least.
Highjacking means to change the direction of a thread by asking an unrelated question (or not related enough). Presumably TT felt that a question about resumes and one looking for specific advice about your own shoot were different enough from his original topic (a general discussion about headshot do's and don'ts) that you should have posted them in their own topics. But, he answered your questions, so that's a good sign that you might still be able to get back into his good grace.
Be sure you are in CONTROL of the make up! I learned this one with my FIRST shoot. And I liked to shoot myself for for it!
The second one was least painful but still painful. NEVER let the photographer try something brilliant like this..
I realize how I hate this picture because the background. It was a table and light was reflecting it. See how it makes me look like I have an aura around my head. It is neat. (You think I should us it anyways?)But in reality the photographer was trying to get creative on MY DIME! You need to be in control of your sessions.
Know what poses you are after. I had control on second time a bit. Next one I will have more control!
You just need to know what you want. It is YOUR TIME and MONEY!
And... I hate using myself as an example but hey its the best way to show people what to avoid.
This one I was not happy at all. This was the first session. Notice TO MUCH MAKE up. If you are like me and hate wearing make up. You should not have this on.
I was not happy with my hair. AGAIN the make up artist fixed it. I did not like my hair either like curly. I ask myself why did I waste my time on this. I had a good job so I was trying it out. This was more a waste of money but I learn my lesson.
And I think we all learn this way because we have to grow.
Well I guess I did then. I Read his whole post and I saw he mentioned what to do with the resume on the back of the pictures. I did not think it was going from apple to orange but. I am sorry anyway and thankful he did reply because I learned the right thing to do.
"You should have your resume (that has your email and CELL phone number printed on it) neatly cut to fit your 8X10 headshot and stapled to the back.
-Having a border can have advantages in that you can NEATLY hide the staples by stapling where the border and photo meet. "
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