Friday, May 13, 2011

Tips for a Perfect Headshot Session

I got new headshots taken today. It's been two years since my last shots were taken so it's about time. Most agents recommend getting them done every 18 months to two years. My old shots were still a pretty accurate depiction of what I look like in real life but my agent suggested that I get them done anyway as they often get "stale" after casting directors see them over and over again.

My preparations usually start one to two weeks before the day of the shoot. That's when I schedule a trip to the salon for a hair color and trim. This gives me enough time to practice styling my hair, let it grow out just a smidge and make sure that I'm totally happy with the color. After all, I have to live with my hair in this general style and color for the next two years until I get new shots taken. This is also a good time to start brightening your smile. If your teefers need a touch up, buy some white strips or bust out your own whitening trays.

A week before, I get my eyebrows shaped at the salon. I used to wait until a day or two before to get this done but found that sometimes the redness from waxing lasts more than a couple of days. I can always pluck any straggler hairs the morning of the shoot. The week before is also a great time to start applying a self-tanning lotion, especially during the pale times of the year (like now). I get one of the gradual formulas (my favorite is Jergens Natural Glow). It develops over time and gives me a completely natural faux glow.

A few days before, pick out wardrobe for the shoot and assess any needs. Decide what looks you are going to take to market yourself. Most actors have three, commercial, business or spokes and film. Most agents now require a fourth category, known as the 3/4 shot, to show your body type. For my shots, I take a commercial "mom" look (a brightly colored cardigan with a white tee under it), a corporate spokesperson look (a solid color button-down dress shirt) and a film look (something in gray or black, you know, serious). I also take something fitted for my 3/4 length shot (skinny jeans and a curve hugging top) so that the decision makers can get a good sense of my body shape. Note, I said fitted, not sexy. Although if that's how you're marketing yourself, that's fine too.

The day before, I drink as much water as possible and avoid salt at all costs. My eyes are puffy on a good day and I certainly don't need to give them any more reason to be. I also exfoliate my lips (a dry toothbrush works well for this), make sure my nails are polished and trimmed and apply extra moisturizer to any dry areas on my face. That night I try to get my full eight hours of sleep.

The day of the shoot is usually a breeze because all preparations have been made. All I have to do is pack up my clothing and show up on time. My photographer has a hair and make-up artist which is included in the shoot fee. If you don't have someone doing yours, just remember to go very light and natural on your make-up. Concentrate on evening out your skin tone and looking fresh. Remember, your headshots are supposed to look like YOU on a regular day, not a glamour shot. Keep your hair and make-up very easy and natural, this is the look you have to recreate over and over again for all of your auditions.

Now for the shoot itself. It's all about the EYES. How much life you can put in your eyes makes ALL the difference when it comes to having a really good headshot that will get you lots and lots of work. And isn't that the goal of all of this? Make sure you master the art of smiling with your eyes. Practice in the mirror. At first you will feel silly but the more you do it, the more comfortable you get and the better your pictures will turn out. When you look into the camera's lens, picture someone you love. I once read that Heidi Klum's secret to great pictures is that she pretends to be saying "hello" to a child into the camera. I've tried it and it definitely works!

Another great shot is the "I have a secret" smile. This isn't the big commercial smile but more of a demure look. Also, make sure you can pull off an intense film look. A good way to capture this is the look down method. To achieve this, first glance down at the floor, then immediately look up and make "eye contact" with the camera just as the shot is taken. It's a very powerful and intense look.

Again practice all of these expressions in the mirror until you feel completely comfortable and have someone take shots for you at home too. I promise you WILL get great shots! And when you do, please share them with me.


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