7 Tips for a Successful Headshots

How do you make taking headshots less like going to the dentist to get a root canal? Here are seven tips on how to take the pressure off of your next headshot session.

1. Mentally prepare. Approach your headshot session as you would any character or script study. Photographs, like film and television, are meant to tell a story. A skilled photographer will direct that story, but you want to give them something to direct. What are the types of parts you want to audition for? Prepare a few monologues to help you get into character. Write down situations in your life that trigger the emotional vibe you are going for. Bring music that puts you in the right headspace. You want to give your mind things to think about—other than the giant lens staring at you.

2. Rest the night before. When you are tired, it’s harder to focus, and you’ll be wondering if you look tired during the session. Because of this, your energy and personality won’t be an accurate depiction of you at 100 percent.

3. Be on time to your session. When you are late to meet with someone, you are basically telling the person that your time is more important. It’s a photographer’s job to see and pull out the best in you, so this isn’t the initial impression you want them to have of you. There is always traffic, construction, parking or subway issues. Give yourself a buffer and leave 20 minutes earlier than you normally would. Call at least 15 minutes before your session if you think you might be even two minutes late.

4. Don’t become a statue. Headshots are meant to tell a story about you and your personality. Remember to breathe and look away from the lens every few shots to help you authentically reconnect. You don’t want to look like you are a deer caught in headlights in your headshot. If you are nervous, acknowledge it. Nervousness is a human emotion, and like all emotions, repressing won’t serve you.

While being photographed, some tend to get caught up in thoughts about looking a certain way or pleasing their agent. Yes, you want to look your best and impress your agent, but these thoughts while being photographed cause people to freeze and nervously stare at the camera. They stop breathing. You can almost hear their thoughts while they wait for the camera to click. “Am I doing this right?” “I hope my agent likes these pictures!” “Am I the worst headshot client ever?” It is difficult to get a photograph full of life, expression, and confidence with this way of thinking. A great photograph will have a sense of movement. Tap into the mental preparation you did for the headshot session. Discuss it with your photographer so you feel more connected.

5. Be open and honest about your needs and expectations during the photoshoot. You will be happier. Your photographer will be happier. You won’t be wasting your already busy schedule with expensive reshoots. The entertainment business is way too competitive to have marketing tools you aren’t confident about. If you are unhappy at your photo session, it will read on your face while you are taking pictures. It is really important to respectfully acknowledge what would make a successful headshot session for you during the photo session. Service providers want you to be happy and spread the word about a great job. Ask your photographer to see the photos on a computer screen so you can make any needed adjustments. Some photographers won’t allow this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

6. Go easy on yourself. Nine out of 10 actors hate taking headshots and feel they are awful at it. It makes sense. As an actor, most of the time you are given character and a backstory to work with. It can be challenging to act like you. Don’t get into your head about it. Focus on what is in front of you, any character work you did, and trust the photographer.

7. Have fun! After you have done all of the preparation for your session, there is nothing left to do but have fun. People turn to actors for escape and to get lost in watching them create a world. If you are having fun in your headshot (whether you are playing the girl next door or a villain), people will have fun looking at your headshot, which increases the chance that they will want to meet you.

Marc Cartwright (@HeadshotsByMarc) is an L.A.-based headshot and editorial photographer, and Backstage Expert! For more information, check out Cartwright’s full bio!

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4 Tips for Selecting the Perfect Headshot

Choosing the headshot you want to use after a headshot session can sometimes be a daunting task. The goal is to narrow down the shots in hopes of selecting the right image that authentically represents your physical appearance, gives the viewer a sense of your personality, and evokes interest.

Personally, I don’t think an actor should ever choose his or her own headshot without some outside opinion. I think we all have a perception of ourselves and how we would like to be perceived by others. Sometimes our self-perception is accurate, but most of the time it isn’t. Whether we are talking about personality or appearance, when selecting our own photos, we run the risk of picking the images that show an ideal version of ourselves. Furthermore, we may select photos that hide the very flaws people find interesting and endearing about us. More importantly, I believe you should have someone assistance who has seen you act and understands your presence as a performer.

Sometimes actors don’t understand the picture selections their agents make. I think it is important, as a businessperson, to include yourself in this important decision. I also think as a businessperson, you want to make sure you are choosing to work with an agent you trust and who is looking out for your best interest. Agents are the ones that see the breakdowns each day and get a sense of what is being selected by casting directors. Hopefully, they took you on as a client because of the vision they had of you as a working actor. If you don’t like their choice, ask why they selected it. You may learn something new to add to your marketing strategy. I have seen actors just pick a shot themselves without allowing the agent to review the entire headshot session. Even if your agent chooses not to see the entire session, it is wise to get a second professional opinion. Non-professionals may again just select the shot that they think you look best in. 

A successful headshot is a mixture of variables. Beyond just looking good in your headshot, here are some key ingredients:

1. Your headshot should represent the types of projects in which you want to be cast. Research the actors who get hired by the networks and projects that speak to you artistically. Write down some adjectives that come to mind and look at the commonalities that may exist. If your headshots are overly sexy or mature, you might want to rethink a session if your target is Disney, for example. 

2. Your headshot should display your essence and qualities. Though we may all fit into some general type or another, we do all have unique qualities. For example, you can have the category of sexy leading male actor. However, one may be the more friendly, approachable everyman type, while another might be the quirky, sexy nerdy type, and yet another may be the libidinous, rugged, mysterious type. You can get even more specific here. Identifying your qualities makes it easier for casting to get a sense of where you fit in a particular project. 

3. The eyes in your headshot should be speaking. I like headshots that feel as if the actor is looking right at me through their picture. You want to bring the viewer of your headshot into the conversation or story the picture is telling. When someone is talking to you and you know they are daydreaming, you feel disconnected from them. The same idea can be applied to a headshot. 

4. Your headshot should feel spontaneous and in the moment. Your headshot photographer should be looking to capture a spontaneous moment. Posing and plastering on a smile or dramatic look feels inauthentic. A picture is just not as engaging and interesting if there is no authenticity. 

In the end, you do have to be happy with your headshot. Your  happiness should be derived from the feeling that you have a solid marketing tool that accurately describes your physicality and personality as an actor to a person that has never met you. 

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Marc Cartwright (@HeadshotsByMarc) is an L.A.-based headshot and editorial photographer, and Backstage Expert! For more information, check out Cartwright’s full bio

6 Headshot Photography Myths

1. I don’t have to hire a professional.
While you can get lucky with an unprofessional photographer, it’s much more likely your image will look and feel amateur. When you are competing with other actors who are experienced and on top of their game, you don’t want to look like the amateur. One of the many reasons producers and directors like to hire someone they know or who comes with a reference is because there is more insurance that the actor will be accountable and professional. Inexperienced actors can cost a production time and money. When you submit a picture that looks like you haven’t been acting for very long or haven’t invested very much in yourself, why would a production want to invest their time, money and reputation in you?

2. Casting directors just need to see what I look like.
Yes, a headshot is a representation of what you look like. But when a character is listed on the breakdowns, many agencies are going to be submitting hundreds of people who also look just like you. You don’t just want your headshot to be a generic representation of a person with your features. Headshots should always tell a story about your personality.

3. The casting director can imagine what my personality is like from my headshot.
Casting directors are busy people. They don’t have time to stop and analyze your picture, figure out who you are and imagine the amazing personality that isn’t coming through in your headshot.  If you are submitting for a comedic, energetic character, there won’t be as much of a pull towards your picture if you submit a stoic, dramatic image. Especially not when placed against the other more vibrant comedic headshots.  Casting directors aren’t mythical creatures that can read minds—they’re people. People are always drawn to things that move, touch and inspire them in any given situation. Do your homework before your headshot session. Consider the types of characters and projects you will want to audition for so that you can cover your bases during your headshot photo shoot.

4. A nice camera will take great pictures.
Using this logic, having nice pots and pans should make a delicious dinner. A camera is a tool. It is the person and their skillful use of that tool that yields a great product.  When choosing a photographer, you want to seek out people who are passionate about photography and who know how to put the pieces together to create effective and powerful marketing tools for their clients. When looking at a photographer’s portfolio, is there consistency or just a few good pictures?  Does the mood of their work fit well with the types of characters you want to audition for? The photos may be well lit and the subjects look nice, but do you learn something about the personality of the different actors in the photographer’s portfolio?

5. I’m not photogenic.
Photography is as much a visual medium as it is psychological. Many times when people don’t feel they are photogenic, it’s because they aren’t recognizing their authentic selves within the photograph. I usually ask someone who doesn’t feel they are photogenic to show me a picture that they like of themselves. This not only lets me see what angles they like and how they view themselves, but it also gives me a sense of what environment they feel most comfortable in. It is a photographer’s job to create a space of trust for the subject. The subject must also be willing to trust the photographer. This is why I believe authentic communication is key in a photo shoot. When looking for a photographer, you want to choose someone you are comfortable with and trust. Try to talk to your photographer over the phone or in person if possible, rather than just through emails.

6. A photographer who is great for my friend will be great for me.
Referrals are a great way to find the right photographer. However, be sure to still do your homework. Make sure the photographer shoots for the type of actor you are. Look at the actors on their website that share a similar skin tone or hair color and make sure there is consistency in quality.

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Marc Cartwright (@HeadshotsByMarc) is an L.A.-based headshot and editorial photographer, and Backstage Expert! For more information, check out Cartwright’s full bio

Unbridled Eve Derby Gala

 

Red Carpet

Unbridled Eve is a Gala benefiting Blessings in a Backpack, an organization fighting childhood hunger. http://www.unbridledeve.com

One in five American children faces food insecurity. Blessings in a Backpack mobilize communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry.

The impact of Blessings in a backpack goes beyond removing food insecurity. Student survey results how that Blessings in a Backpack not only helps ease hunger for children, but it also improves their learning focus peace of mind school attendance and behavior.

The premise of this great charity is simple. Elementary school students on free and reduced lunch programs likely aren’t getting the food they need on the weekends – after all, hunger never takes the weekends off. Eligible students are given a backpack chock-full of goodies to take home. Blessings aren’t just combating hunger on a daily basis but our students enrolled in this program show improved health, increased attendance, higher reading levels, and better test scores.

Blessings in a Backpack was chosen as the People Magazine PEOPLE FIRST Charity of 2012.

#unbridledeve #UE17 #weareunbridled #blessingsinabackpack #unbridledevederbygala #redcarpet #celeb #celebrity #celebritynews #star #actor #actress #hollywood #producer #castingdirector #weownthenight

The Headshot

Photo Source: Shutterstock

The headshot. It’s the single most important marketing tool for an actor, and it’s amazing how many people do it wrong just to cut a few corners. Actors, 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 mantel.

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 included. It 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.

READ: How to Pick the Right Headshot for Your Backstage Profile

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 closeups are good for, well, nothing. Look directly into 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 afterwards 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.

Good luck!

Matt Newton is an acting coach and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Newton’s full bio

ALABAMA ACTING WORKSHOPS

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Welcome to “can-do cold reading” workshops for adults. This is a bold approach to get adults hired in the movie industry. We provide practical, on-camera classes that pass on acting tools that work—so that you can work. Students rehearse sides from common shows and projects currently being cast. Actors are perfecting their craft while learning the technical aspects of a film or television shoot. We are teaching actors to offer something unique in their performance that will make casting directors say, “You must cast this actor!”

There are many things that work for some but not all actors. Maybe a “non-Method” technique is best in that it trains actors to listen, stay present, and get out of their own heads. This is what is going to capture the performance; so, make it your top priority to explore what to do and not to do when you are acting.

With over 20 years experience and over 100 Movie, Television, Commercial, and Theatrical performances, Charles Wesley has the know how to make you pop on Camera. Birmingham classes will be starting soon! Go to Red Carpet Casting on Facebook to get class times and dates. Casting Director and International award-winning photographer, Ginger McNamara will be attending. Hosted by Glynna Siegler.

Go to Red Carpet Casting on Facebook to get class times and dates. Casting Director and International award-winning photographer, Ginger McNamara will judge headshots. Hosted by Glynna Siegler.

WHEN: 9/10/16 ~ 9:00AM – 12:00PM
First Workshop is FREE / 18YR Old Minimum

WHERE: Acting Out Academy – AOA Studio
2531 Rocky Ridge Rd Suite 125
Vestavia, AL35243

Red Carpet Casting