Headshots for Actors, Actresses, & Talent
Good headshots, combined with your reel, are the foundations of your professional profile as an actor. Casting directors have to look through many, many headshots while trying to find the perfect fit for the job. It's important, not only to make sure you're well prepared for the session but that you also have a clear idea of how you wish to present yourself as a professional actor.
Maybe you're reading this because you're in need of your own headshots, perhaps you're curious about whether you need to get them done professionally. In this blog, I'll share how I typically run a headshot session and offer some tips on how to prepare for yours!
How do we start?
Normally one of the first questions I get asked is "What should I wear during my headshot session?". The clothing you choose will play an important part in the persona you're portraying. It's important to really consider how the style and colours will affect how you might be perceived. We've got to be careful about how the clothing is chosen, even if something might fit really well, or fill you up with confidence it might not be the right outfit for your overall goal. This is where you've really got to ask yourself an important question...
What type of actress am I?
How do others perceive me? What roles am I likely to be cast in? As compared to "What roles would I like to be cast in?" What we want, and what others might see in us might be very, very different and it's important that we're at least somewhat aware of this before we begin marketing ourselves.
An Actor's type is typically a combination of 5 criteria that might be found on most character breakdowns:
- Physical Appearance ( short, tall, thin, heavy, light, dark, long hair, short hair, etc.)
- Job Title (surfer, teacher, CEO, spy, professional athlete, student, doctor, unemployed, investor, actor)
- Personality Traits (silly, smart, naive, loud, serious, attractive, talkative, loving, sincere, loyal, sly, sneaky, suspicious)
...back to clothing
What should you bring?
For this kind of image, we really need to bear in mind that we're choosing the clothing to present a character. The greater variety in outfits, the more options you may have for casting, but it doesn't make sense to try and produce images that don't represent your actor type! Keeping that in mind, there might be certain outfits that you have an attachment to, whether they're your favourite colour, or you get a lot of compliments when you wear them, this doesn't necessarily mean that those are the right outfits for actor headshots.
How many outfits should I bring?
With your actor type in mind, make sure to bring a range of outfits, normally between 5-10 options would be best.
What about colour?
Typical headshots are done in neutral colours (black, greys, whites, browns, creams), make sure to bring a few neutral options, but it might be a good idea to bring along one or two vivid colours that don't clash with your skin tone or eye colour. If you have darker skin, it might be worthwhile to bring a few extra colour options, I find that muted colour works so much better with dark skin than white. Some colours that look great on camera are mustard, dark greens, blues, maroon, burgundy.
Black, and white tops.
A black, or white top is rather standard. I'd definitely recommend that we get at least one shot in one of these colours. Let's avoid using dress shirts (unless it suits your character "type") and perhaps focus on using t-shirts or polo shirts, or if you're confident with your upper arms, perhaps a vest? For people with darker skin, normally it works better if we use black or grey instead of white. White can create a strong contrast between and we want to keep the attention on you! However, if you've got a lot of dark hair a lighter colour may work out well!
Whatever you bring, please make sure it's ironed and clean, (unless you're trying to be cast as "person with wrinkled shirt" I don't have a stylist on set to prepare your clothing for you.
We're based in the Caribbean and layering clothing isn't as common here as in more temperate areas, but that shouldn't stop you! It's also great to consider how you might be able to add layers!
A leather or denim jacket with a t-shirt suggests a more youthful persona and goes a long way to making more visual interest in your images! If it suits your character type I'd definitely suggest preparing a few looks using layers.
Blazers or other jackets are great, but typically they're better if you're a more mature type. These might be useful if you're planning to cast for CEO, Lawyer, cop or doctor roles. Coats are ok, but avoid anything that will take away from your visual impact! I almost never recommend turtle necks. To me they always make my subjects necks appear shorter and it can make it appear as though your head is suspended in space. The only time I'd suggest wearing a turtle neck is if you have an exceptionally long neck.
Patterns, Logos & Prints
I would recommend avoiding all outfits that have prominent logos (eg: Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Nike, etc.) writing immediately takes away from your visual impact and distracts the viewer. To me, it also appears somewhat unprofessional. Large, loud patterns are also not recommended for similar reasons. They're just too distracting and will make your headshot appear too visually busy. If you have a light pattern it may be ok, it might be best to ask or show me a picture before you bring anything with a pattern to the shoot. Prints are almost equally not recommended, however, there may be some characters that would wear print. If you're aiming at character types that wear print fabric then let's discuss how we can use it most effectively.
Ok, so hair can be one of the most important aspects of your appearance. It's very important to avoid getting any haircuts or dyed the day before, or on the day of our shoot. Unless you're familiar with your barber or hairstylist. I've had a few photoshoots cancelled because something went wrong at the salon and my client had to go to another hairstylist to get their hair fixed. It's best to leave a few days between the haircut and the shoot date.
Also, it'd be a waste of your time and money getting headshots and then changing your hair colour the following week, that would immediately make the shots out of date!
Up or Down?
If your hair is long enough to put it up or have it down, I suggest that you make sure that you wash it and prepare it for being photographed down/out first and then we can do some variants with your hair tied up. For people with straight hair, it's usually quite easy to switch from having your hair up, or having it down, but for those with curly hair, once it's up, it's up! Let's capitalize on those curls! For those with long curly hair, please don't come with your hair still wet/slick with product.
Guys, if you typically shave every day then I'd suggest doing so for the shoot. However, if you typically have a bit of stubble it might help to define your face better. A freshly shaven face might present more youthfully than you may want, conversely, your face shape might not need the stubble to help define it. Guys with beards! Make sure that the edges are clean and that the beard is clean and well maintained before you arrive. Please also bring a brush or comb if you need one so we can tame it where need be.
Please make sure to do your makeup before you arrive on set. If you've booked a time slot and choose to do your makeup on set I will have to charge my full hourly rate for any extra time we might take. That being said let's talk about how the makeup should look.
Keep things natural
Considering that these images are meant to present your look, let's stick to keeping things as natural as possible. Please don't cake on the foundation or come with fake lashes, (unless they're part of the character type), heavily drawn-in eyebrows, or strong contour. The best thing to do is just even out your skin tone and reduce blemishes or dark spots under the eyes. A little mascara/eyeliner/highlighter goes a long way, it's important that we accentuate your natural features, not attempt to build new ones.
Personally, I am not a fan of fake lashes, there! I said it! They weigh down the eyes, produce heavy shadows, and dull the natural sparkle of the eyes. If they're subtly done then that's ok, but if they're far beyond what would be normal I'd suggest that we avoid them.
To be honest, a little gloss or lip tint goes a long way, but let's stick to a nude colour to start with. If your character type would wear a stronger colour, then perhaps we could work towards that. Let's avoid blacks, purples or browns.
A few final suggestions...
- Make sure to keep yourself hydrated before the shoot
- Try to get as much sleep as you can the night before
- Avoid drinking alcohol or going out for a late night, the night before (it REALLY shows).
Where is Logan C Thomas' Studio?
Logan C Thomas, Pavilion Court, Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados
About Logan C Thomas
Logan C Thomas is a professional portrait, headshot, fashion, beauty and lifestyle photographer based in the Caribbean, living in Barbados. He was professionally trained in commercial and fine art photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia. His clients range from international celebrities, international swimwear and resort wear brands, regional beauty pageant franchises, local and regional business owners, fashion designers, makeup artists and entrepreneurs.
If you're lucky you might find him somewhere near the shoreline on the south coast of Barbados with a book or GoPro in hand.