These Are 5 Headshot Secrets Every Actor Must Know!
Your headshot is easily one of the most valuable aspects of your career as an actor. Having a portfolio of great headshots is a sure way to make sure you get taken seriously as an actor by managers, agents, and casting directors. Terrible headshots can, in many ways, be the sign of an actor who doesn’t take their career seriously and you wouldn’t want anything to negatively impact your career!
So many actors, when they finally realize these truths, book headshot sessions with photographers but fail to truly understand how to get the most out of their session. They end up spending tons of money on their acting headshots and walk away feeling like they weren’t able to capture the great photos they envisioned.
So please, allow me to share my decades worth of experience in the entertainment industry along with the many hundreds of headshot sessions that I’ve taken over the years by giving you my headshot photography blog. I will give you 5 Headshot Secrets Every Actor must know when booking a headshot session!
SECRET #1 – It’s not about looking “Pretty”.
This is a huge pitfall for new actors going into their headshot sessions. Now yes, you do want to be well groomed and dressed for your headshots. That is important, but don’t let looking pretty and perfect distract you from the true goal of the session: to bring a character to life in a single photo.
Unless you’re looking for glamour headshots in Los Angeles that make you look like a million bucks, most of the time you want to focus on replicating drama, intensity, and edge in your images. One of the most frequent complaints I hear from many of the actors I’ve photographed is that their former headshots turned out good and they look great in them, but they are missing that extra touch or depth. This extra touch is found by incorporating many of the other secret tips I’m sharing with you below. But in a nutshell, many actors are so distracted by trying to look perfect and pretty in there photos, that they miss the opportunity to capture that theatrical essence everyone needs in their headshots.
SECRET #2- Your body language controls the image.
Just as in life, body language can say a lot. Through body language, you can tell if someone is lying, or if they are nervous, or if they are attracted to you. Body language is the hidden underbelly of speech that says so many things that words simply can’t. In the same way, body language can reveal truth or lies to one’s words, in a headshot it also conveys a huge level of authenticity to an expression. Many mishaps of a bad headshot is a face that says one thing but the body is saying another.
If you’re goal is to look friendly and open, you don’t want a headshot with your arms crossed and you slightly pivoted away from the camera. You want to open up, maybe place your hands on your hips and turn up the charm. Your body language compliments and enhances what happens on your face.
One of my favorite exercises in improv class was called “walking with purpose” and it required everyone in the class would come together in the center of the room and begin walking in a circle. An announcer would then say, “okay, now your feet weigh 500 pounds each, and your hair is on fire but you don’t want anyone to know”. The announcer would continue to throw out a varity of situations that would require your body to follow suit and then she would begin tp ask rhetorical questions such as “who is this person, where are they from, how old are they, what just happened to them?” And just from those prompts, the entire backstory and traits of a character would begin developing into our brains. This one exercise showed the true power of body langue in character building. This is what you need to develop for your headshots in Los Angeles.
Many times actors can hit an unfortunate mental road block during sessions where they may not know what face to make next. The remedy to this is actually allowing your body language to lead the shoot. It’s much easier to generate various facial expressions when your body falls into different positions. This secret brings a real authentic feel to each headshot in Los Angeles because the face and the body are in harmony.
SECRET #3- Buy the clothes your favorite TV characters wear for your headshots in Los Angeles.
If you want to nail wardrobe easily and stop frantically worrying about what to wear for your headshot session, this is one of the simplest and easiest steps you can take to ensure that. Make a list of all the characters from your favorite films, tv shows, and commercials that you could see yourself playing. Take that list and head over to google images and type in their character names. Copy, as closely as you can, exactly what they are wearing in the project.
This will give you the exact look you need to ace your headshot session. The exact characters you want to play will be in your portfolio of headshots and you can have confidence you picked out the right clothes for your headshot look.
And don’t be afraid to go and buy new clothes! You can always take them back after your headshot session. This is what major studios do when they need to purchase wardrobe(s) for a production. Ultimately, it’s so important you bring the right clothes that make it that much easier to sink into the mindset of the character you’re playing.
SECRET #4- Don’t be present, be in your head.
The entirety of an actors job is being in the correct mindset to produce the character. During your headshot session in Los Angeles, you want to get out of the habit of focusing on your career and how badly you want these new headshots to impress. All of those things don’t matter for a moment. What matters during your session is sinking into the mindset of the characters: allowing yourself to be free from trying to impress the photographer or please your representatives.
You know those moments where you may be in a long car ride, listening to sad music, or it’s raining outside, and you’re crying like you’re in a music video? That’s the type of headspace you want to be in during headshot session – all in your feelings and completely out of touch from reality! Because in your head, you’ll be creating a new reality, the reality of the character and that’s exactly what we want to see in a headshot. Show us the character and the imaginary circumstances they are going through. Show us the emotion from what just happened to them, what they are going through in that moment, and what the anticipation expects to happen soon.
SECRET #5- Throw it Away
This phrase, once you’ve been in the business long enough, is usually one you’ll be familiar with. It usually is a sign that you may be trying bit too hard or that things my seem forced or inauthentic. But all in all this is a phrase to signal you to relax and just be natural. Let down the walls, stop trying to act and just be. Though this may sound counter to all the previous tips which require you to “try” many different things, this aspect, when utilized in conjunction with all the rest, will produce an actor that is in a whole other league.
Those actors who are just able to turn it on and off so easily and so naturally are ones who can just “throw it away.” They have moved beyond creating the character, and are now living as the character! This is the difference between leaving a movie saying “oh, they played that character really well,” versus the recongization that that actor IS the character they are playing.
Utilizing being able to “throw it away” will bring the final layer of authenticity and charisma that every great headshot needs. It’s the natural ability for an actor to “become”.
I hope you’ve found these secrets to be helpful along your journey as an actor and if you’re in the Los Angeles area looking for an awesome actor headshot photographer I would love to meet you!