What Makes a Great Headshot?
Right after talent, headshots and resumes are at the top of the list for what can get you booked on a job. If you want tips on a great resume, check those out here.
I cannot stress enough the importance of a great headshot. In this day and age when many clients can choose what talent they want to have audition, or even better, what talent they want to book, right over the internet, you must have a great headshot to remain competitive. This is non-negotiable. Yes, professional headshots are pricy, but in the end they are worth every penny.
“Courtney” you ask, “What makes a great headshot?” Well my friends… the answers are simple, clear, and listed below:
1. Use a Professional Commercial Photographer: Please, for everyone’s sake use a professional commercial photographer. If you don’t, you are wasting time and money. When or if you get picked up by an agent, they are most likely going to ask you to re-shoot. So it helps to do it right the first time. This does not mean someone who shoots weddings, a friend of a friend who does photos, or Uncle Joe who has a fancy new camera and takes great pictures of flowers. This means an agent or acting coach recommended photographer. If you need recommendations, please feel free to email me.
2. Always get the Hair and Makeup Artist: This is vital. Otherwise you can spend a ton of money, and be really unhappy with your pictures. The Hair/MUA is there to help you look your best. They know how to do your makeup so the camera does not wash you out, and to make your features “pop”. They are also there to ensure that if in between takes your hair gets crazy or lipstick gets on your teeth, that you get fixed up in a jiffy. Yes, the cost is a bit more, the great ones usually charge anywhere from $100-$150 for the shoot, but their work is priceless.
3. Make Sure Your Headshots Look Like YOU: This is probably the most important tip on this blog. It’s great that you listened to me, and hired the Hair and Makeup Artist, but now make sure that said artist is staying true to your look and who you are. Explain to them how you normally do your makeup and hair so they can just exaggerate it a bit for the camera. Make sure that whatever look they give you, you can recreate on your audition day. Your headshot should look like you on good day, not "Who the heck is that supermodel?" Unless you are a supermodel… then you're fine.
4. Look Your Best: Roots done, Hair-cut, Teeth whitened, Weight Lost, Skin Clear… you get the picture. Photos are expensive. Don’t waste time and money if these things are not in tip top shape. Clients will notice. As a consumer yourself, you would pick up the product with the pristine packaging, not the banged up box with holes. The same can be said for clients, if you two inch roots or your skin is looking a hot mess, they may pass you by.
5. No Gimmicks: Steer clear of hats, sunglasses, cheesy backgrounds, gaudy jewelry, cleavage (anything more than church cleavage is too much), loud patterns, anything that takes focus from your face.
6. Update Your Headshots Regularly: This also refers back to #4. To ensure the client is always getting the best photo of you and your current look, make sure you are updating them on a regular basis. Kids change FAST, you cannot expect an agent to book your child with a shot that’s more than a year old. Teeth change, hair changes, faces mature and they grow more than you will notice. It’s not a popular notion, but kids’ photos need to be done yearly.
Adults can usually go 2 years, if nothing changes drastically in their look. Keeping your agent stocked with your best, newest shots will help them be able to book you, or get you on auditions more often.
Again, your headshots must look like YOU. Be honest with yourself on this. The last thing you want is to show up on the set of a direct booking and have the director and client be surprised. It will be an awkward situation for everyone, and could cost you the booking.
7. Dress: Bring LOTS of wardrobe options for your photographer. Bright colors (no neon), muted colors (grey, tan, green), small patterns, black and white (contrary to popular belief), jackets, blouses, dresses, assorted necklines, and small accessories, are all great options. Bring clothes that are flattering to your figure and are age appropriate.
Do your research beforehand, and know the kinds of roles you are going to be considered for (i.e. mom, dad, business woman, character roles, etc.) This will help your photographer pick out the best options for you, and if you are unsure, talk to your agent or a coach before getting headshots done.
Make sure above all else, you are working with someone who you like and who makes you feel comfortable. Someone you trust to tell you if something is not your color, or if you have a bad angle. I have a few examples of great headshots below for consideration. If you need recommendations, I would be more than happy to help.