Actor Headshots | Make the Most of Your Photo Session!

As a lifelong theatre lover, stage production photographer and mother of an actor heading for his BFA, I have an intense admiration for your work, and the highest possible respect for your talent and art.

 above: natural light actor headshots photographed on location in urban settings in Denver, except for upper right which was photographed in my natural light studio

above: natural light actor headshots photographed on location in urban settings in Denver, except for upper right which was photographed in my natural light studio

And I get it: getting photographed as an actor when you’re not… acting… is not your favorite thing.

SO... if you're nervous about this, please keep in mind that 1) you’re not alone in this feeling, and 2) I’ve got your back. My job will be to help you relax and have fun with the process. I’ve been told often by many clients that this is my superpower.

But there are a few things you can do before the session to increase the odds that you arrive at least feeling prepared.

Think of getting ready for your headshot session like you would prepare to arrive at an audition: rested, hydrated, on time and dressed for the part you want.

PREPARING YOUR WARDROBE:

  1. Bring 3-4 different looks for and actor headshot session (4-6 looks if you booked an extended photo session). Even if your end goal is just two photos  (one commercial and one dramatic) it’s best to have options. Please don’t bring your whole wardrobe as we'll end up using up shooting time trying to sort through your clothes.

  2. Bring a variety of necklines and fabric textures. Simple tops are best, and keep wardrobe options in line with your brand.

  3. Clothes that fit close to your body are more flattering in photos (no matter your body type, I can pose you in more flattering ways if your clothing is not baggy or boxy).

  4. Bring colors that compliment your skin tones, and generally avoid black or pure white -- colors that compliment and bring out your eyes, skin tone or hair are best.

  5. Avoid flashy and busy patterns that will distract from YOU. The main focus of these photos should be your eyes and the connection we feel with your personality.

  6. Jackets and uncomplicated layers can create variety without stopping for full changes.

  7. If you can wear a light tank under tops, it allows for quick changes outdoors and therefore more photography time.

  8. Jewelry is likely to distract from you, so unless it’s a vital part of your brand (and you're confident it will stay that way until your next headshot session), skip it.

  9. TRY ON your wardrobe items before you bring them. If you’re only doing headshots, there’s no need to worry about pants (I mean, you’ll need to WEAR pants to the session, of course). Check that items still fit well. Hopefully this will remind you to pack outfit specific undergarments (i.e. avoid striped undershirts/black bras under light shirts, etc.).

  10. Launder, press, de-lint as needed.

  11. NOTE for actors and models who have AGENCY REPRESENTATION: talk with your agent beforehand if he/she wants input regarding wardrobe and styling!

MORE ACTOR HEADSHOT PREPARATION TIPS:

  1. After selecting your wardrobe, PACK it in a way that it is portable and can comfortably sit on a sidewalk while we are taking photos. A small duffel bag or rolling suitcase is ideal.

  2. Make sure you stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. This will help keep your skin clear and eyes bright. Don’t stress if you wake up with blemishes the day of your session (and don’t mess with them as that generally makes them worse -- let photoshop do the magic there!)

  3. Exercise the week prior (if that’s your thing), but there’s no need to delay a headshot session just so you can “lose a few pounds.” You’d be amazed what good posing can do to flatter every and any body! Light exercise before your session can add a healthy glow to your skin.

  4. Eyebrows / Nails / Hair / Lips / Facial Hair: Clean up, pluck and trim as necessary. You want to arrive at your audition looking essentially like your headshot for it to be the most effective tool for casting directors to connect your headshot to your audition. Please DO NOT try out a brand new haircut/style in the few days before your session (take it from many clients who have learned this lesson the hard way)! Wear hair & makeup how you normally would, just be sure to refresh right before our session and bring anything necessary for touch-ups just in case. Even if you don't wear makeup, mascara and lip tint or at least gloss is great to highlight your features but still look natural. Men: remember some lip balm or chapstick… it’s Colorado. 

  5. It is not your job to be photogenic, it is my job to make you feel empowered to draw out your personality while you connect with the camera. You can relax knowing that I will direct you into your most flattering poses (this is critically important since you can’t see yourself, after all). I’ll give you posing tips to take with you, and YES, I’ll show you photos as we go (not all photographers do this). My clients love to see what we are getting and discuss any necessary modifications we want to make as we work together.

  6. IMPORTANT: Please arrive on time! Familiarize yourself with directions to our meeting place and leave time to negotiate traffic and parking. Session times are designed around flattering LIGHT. Nothing worse than arriving frazzled, except also having to race against the sun.

  7. If you have done your prep-work, the only thing left is to show up! We’ll chat about your wardrobe for a few minutes when you first arrive, and then you’ll have time to relax into the session. Ideally you’ll have a great experience while we produce fantastic headshots to land you in front of your dream casting director.

 

To learn more about my personal approach to studio and/or on location actor, model and professional headshots (for men, women and kids), and to explore investment options, please check out my PORTFOLIO. And if you’d like to read my most popular blog post to date, check out my INTERVIEW with Denver Casting Director Sylvia Gregory and discover in depth what she’s looking for in an actor headshot.

 

Final thoughts if you’ve reached this post and are still shopping to hire a professional:

Be sure you are working with a photographer who specializes in ACTOR Headshots (very different from portraits or professional corporate headshots). Spend time looking at a photographer’s work -- do you resonate with the photos in her/his portfolio? Are the eyes the main focus of the photos? Do you feel personality and connection in the subjects? Is the lighting flattering? Do the photos make the actors look approachable, interesting, engaged and professional? Are the backgrounds distracting? Also important: do you feel comfortable communicating with your photographer? Is he or she willing to talk with you on the phone if you have questions? Your comfort level the day of your session is critical to getting great connection in your photos.

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