Top 7 Tips for better Headshots

Selective Focus Photography of Woman's Face

The headshot. It’s the single most important marketing tool for an actor, singer, dancer or model, and it’s amazing how many people do it wrong just to cut a few corners. Artists, it’s time to take it more seriously. When that little headshot jpeg pops up on a casting director’s computer, you want them to say, “Yes, bring that person in!” Not “Yikes, that guy kinda scares me.”

Your headshot is your calling card. A nice color 8×10 of your face, from which people will hire you, and you will make lots of money for them. It will be sent out and emailed to tons of casting directors and agents, who see hundreds of these every day, on their desk and on their computer. If your headshot is bad, you look bad. You want to be seen as a pro, not an amateur, so the way you present yourself in your picture is everything. If you want people to take you seriously, you must have a good, high quality, killer headshot. Not an iPhone pic, not a Facebook photo of you outside with the wind gently blowing your hair, and not a JCPenney glamour shot with palm trees in the background that you reproduced at Kinko’s. Save those for your grandma’s mantle.

Here is what you need to keep in mind when it comes to your headshots:

1. Go pro. 
Spend the money. It’s worth it. Go to a professional, who is trained, understands lighting, and takes headshots for a living, not some friend who happens to have a decent camera who “sorta knows a little about photography.” Save those pictures for Instagram, and leave the headshots to the pros. Good headshots range from $400-$1200, and to get them professionally duplicated (not at CVS) will cost you another $100. Anything less is just a glorified passport photo. If the headshots look cheap, they probably are. And you look like you don’t care about your career.

2. Go for personality over glamour. 
Make sure it looks like you. Chill with the airbrushing. Casting directors expect you to look just like your headshot, and will not be happy when you show up looking totally different, or 10 years older. It’s not about looking pretty, it’s about representing your type, age wrinkles includedIt should look like you on your best day, showing your age, and who you are now. It’s not about the type you want to be, it’s the type you are.

 

3. It’s all about the eyes. 
Just like with on-camera acting, it’s all about the eyes, and what’s happening behind them. It’s your closeup, your moment. Your eyes should be perfectly in focus, alive, and energized, and not dead and glazed over. There should be strong inner thoughts, implying a backstory and a life behind the eyes. A slight squint and strong piercing eyes will bring a picture to life and help it stand out in a pile of hundreds. A good headshot photographer knows how to bring this out in you.

4. Pay attention to framing, lighting, and background. 
In general, a good headshot is chest-up with good lighting on your face, and no strong dramatic shadows, unless you are going in for “The Phantom of the Opera.” Three-quarter shots are good for print, and extreme close-ups are good for, well, nothing. Look directly into the camera, and the focus should be on the center of your eyes, not your left ear, or your shirt collar. No peace signs, weird facial hair, or the famous “hand on face” pose. Be sure the background is blurred, which means it’s shot with a good, high-quality camera with a high depth of field, which makes you stand out. We don’t need to see that you are standing on the beach in Santa Monica, or on a tour boat in front of the Statue of Liberty. It’s about you, not the environment.

5. Natural light vs. studio.
Some photographers do both, as they offer a different look and feel. Natural light gives a very real, “film” look, which I prefer. Studio lighting tends to be a little more polished, with a more neutral backdrop. Both can be wonderful. If you are more of a sitcom actor, perhaps a good well-lit studio headshot is more suited for you. If you want to look like you are on “True Detective,” then go for the outdoor look.

6. Clothing and props. 
I once saw a headshot of a guy with a bird on his head. Why? Because he wanted to stand out. Let’s not get crazy here. Keep it simple and classy, and follow the standard format. Professionalism gets you noticed, not desperation. Leave the Ed Hardy and the “statement” shirts at home. A simple, solid color shirt with a little texture that fits you well and matches your eyes should do the trick. No whites and no graphics or anything you think might distract from your face. And no props. (You know that, right?) If you think you are going to play cop roles, you don’t need to wear the outfit in the headshot. It’s a bit much and very limiting.

7. Don’t go crazy with the makeup. 
Yes, lots can be done with retouching. There is no need to put on tons of makeup. You want to look like yourself on your best day, and not look like you tried too hard. Girls, be yourself, do your hair the way you would for every audition. Guys, bring some oil sheets to take down the shine, and maybe use a lightly tinted moisturizer to take out the redness and even your skin tone. Some people spend way too much on makeup, only to have to get their headshots redone afterward because they look fake in all the photos.

Find a photographer that gets you. You have to vibe with the photographer, and that person has to make you feel very comfortable, as you will hopefully be using this headshot for a couple of years and sending it to everyone in town. Research photographers online, go to Reproductions and look through their portfolio books, look through the list of photographers in Backstage, ask for a consultation, get a feel for how they photograph your type, your ethnicity, your gender, etc.

And most importantly, don’t cut corners.

Credit: Article Sourced from Backstage Magazine (Matt Newton)

Social Media DONT’S

Image Source: The CW

When you think about embarrassing social media behavior, you probably think about octogenarians who accidentally post their phone numbers in a Facebook status. But embarrassing social media perils are everywhere for users of all ages, particularly for actors.

 

But it’s 2019 and social media is as important to your acting brand as your signature monologue or audition song, so we want to help you avoid these digital landmines and lead with your best online foot forward.

Contacting industry professionals you don’t know.

“If you met them at a pay-to-meet or networking event, it’s a perfect time to follow up. In NYC recently we queried over 50 top industry professionals at our Actor Marathon, and only one percent wanted to be reached via Facebook, none via Twitter. On the west coast about 20 percent said it was OK and actually had a separate professional Facebook account for actors to reach them. Still, you need to ask first.” —Gwyn Gilliss, manager, casting director, and Backstage Expert

Not actually learning how to do it.
“Many actors dislike social media because they don’t understand how it works. They sign up for a new platform, spend 15 minutes on it, then get angry at themselves for not being more socially savvy. Sound familiar? You can learn to use social media to create the career you want. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how good you are with technology—learning a new social media platform is like learning how to ride a bike. It takes time, practice, and determination. Trust your training wheels before you tackle the big hill. Start slow and learn the basics of each platform before you try posting 20 times a week.” —Heidi Dean, social media expert and Backstage Expert

This. 
“Never send out a tweet with specific details of an audition or job. That will get you fired.” —Marci Liroff, producer, casting director, and Backstage Expert

Total social media insincerity.
“Above all, you have to be yourself. Before you post anything, ask yourself, ‘Would I say this in real life? Would I talk about this in real life?’ If you wouldn’t, don’t post it; people see right through the fake and the phony. Your audience is following you not only for the information you’re putting out there but how you’re putting it out there and that’s where your personality comes in. Anyone can find the facts, but there is only one you.” —Arda Ocal, NYC-based broadcaster and Backstage Expert

Your green monster is showing. 
“Seeing your social media ‘friends’ post photos from the audition waiting room or on set along with #SoBlesed and #ActorsLife can make you feel like you’re not enough. There you are looking at Facebook in socks and underwear eating cereal for dinner in your tiny apartment comparing yourself to a well-filtered image of your Facebook friend next to the steady-cam operator. Then that negative voice inside your head starts to pipe up. It compares you to the actors you see on social media. All of a sudden you’re paralyzed with feelings of inadequacy that prevent forward motion as an actor. Worthlessness sets in and you start to believe that you won’t succeed.

“But most often it’s comparing the worst parts of your life with the best parts of other people’s. And when the comparison is with a social media picture or narrative, you’re comparing yourself to a skillfully manipulated image designed to present an image of success. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, most of us use social media to present a facade to manipulate the viewer into believing something about us that we are trying to be. The comparison is flawed.” —Risa Bramon Garcia and Steve Braun, Backstage Experts

Trying too hard to be social media “famous.”
“Social media is a very powerful tool, and being a social media figure isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time and planning, and I can tell if someone is really ‘working it’ or just phoning it in. I’m looking for an organically authentic person—and perhaps someone who isn’t just concerned about getting photos of themselves out there, but who has taken on a political and social stance that can, dare I say, make the world a better place. Look at Yara Shahidi of ‘Black-ish.’ She used her platform to start Eighteen x 18, an initiative to encourage young people to vote for the first time.” Marci Liroff

Falling off the digital map. 
“Fans love keeping up with actors and social media makes it easier than ever, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. With new platforms launching practically every day, it seems nearly impossible to keep up. Don’t panic! Instead, concentrate your efforts on fewer platforms so it’s easier for you to stay active without burning out. What you don’t want to do is go M.I.A. as it’s the fastest way to lose fans.” Tammy Lynn, publicist and Backstage Expert

Credit: Article Sourced from Backstage Magazine