A headshot is the first thing a casting director sees before you even walk into the audition room.
It’s important to make that first impression count. We caught up with our Third Year Program faculty members, Katie Flahive and Allison Brzezinski, to ask their advice. Here’s how Film & TV students get that perfect headshot.
1. Before you pick a headshot photographer – know your brand.
Picking a great photographer is a part of getting a good headshot, but it’s not the end all and be all. The biggest mistake actors make is that they try to find a good headshot photographer by asking their friend — someone who has headshots they like. They meet the photographer and after the shoot they see the photos and say, “Well I look pretty but I only have one shot I can use.”
This is the complete opposite of what we teach about headshots. Before you even look at a photographer – know what look you’re going for. Is it “rough and tumble cop” or “girl next door”? ‘
In the 3rd Year, we have a resident image consultant: Allison Brzezinski who helps students identify their brand. Refining their brand enables them to find the purity of themselves within the characters they are looking to play.
You set up your outfits and build your look around that before researching photographers who shoot your type. For instance, you wouldn’t go to a gritty photographer if you wanted a network “glossy” look – even if you like the gritty photographer’s photos!
2. How to pick a photographer once you know your brand.
Interview a minimum of 4-5 photographers. Just because you like their photos doesn’t mean you’ll have a connection with them. If you connect with the photographer you are going to have a much better headshot that makes you feel confident. Communicate with them about your marketing strategy and they’ll know exactly what you want. This is much better than going for the most trendy or inexpensive photographer who won’t shoot photos tailored for you.
I just recently shot with Peter Konerko. Everything was planned out from the outfit to the location. I even sent him an email with photos that he took that I really liked, or photographers that were similar to the style I was looking for. That way he had a clear message to collaborate with.
3. Prepare for the shoot.
Prior to the session, try thinking of the different characters you could walk in and play right now. Maybe it’s the senator on “House of Cards” or someone on “VEEP”. Have in mind specific scenes that this character (YOU!) would be in. And, let these characters guide you (and if you are working with a stylist, let them in on it too) to help you pick out the appropriate wardrobe to bring.
Then, when you’re in the session, if you start feeling stuck or nervous, you can try putting yourself in a scene, as that character. That way when you get the photos – there is always something going on in your eyes.
You don’t just want a pretty picture. You want something actionable. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t “be yourself” at your session! Of course you want to be yourself in the photos, but not be “putting on” a character. Think of it as bringing yourself to a role and a way to get out of your head if you happen to be feeling stuck. By doing a little homework you can find a way to be you, but you in a specific, actionable situation, instead of you posing for the camera.
It should look like a clip from a scene. What is happening? And that is happening in the eyes. It’s all behind the eyes.
4. Feel confident.
Once you pick your person – one thing I like to do is to bring a soundtrack to the shoot. Two weeks before the shoot, when you get up in the morning – whatever song comes to mind put that on your playlist. So then you have about 20 songs – and you associate them with that morning, what you’re doing etc. It’s just a fun thing.
The most important thing is when you take your headshot – don’t put so much emphasis on taking the perfect shot. Just show up and be you. You’re going to take a lot of shots and some of them are going to be shitty photos. Some will be great photos that won’t work for a headshot. If you make them precious you will never be able to obtain what you want. Think of it like a rehearsal. When you have that attitude you relax and you will get more usable shots.
Also if you’ve done all that research before – you’ll be confident and know what you’re doing. You’ve mapped it out so you can just come in and live it.
Don’t bring any clothes that you are iffy about – because it will affect your confidence. I got new headshots recently, and you can see it in my face, when I put on that dress it made me feel like a million bucks. Bring outfits you feel comfortable and confident in.
5. After the shoot
Look them over, then walk away from them for a day or two, and then look them at again. Your opinions will change. I always go through it myself and then I ask my photographer what he thinks. Their perspective is interesting because they know their photos.
You need new headshots every two years! The industry is moving so fast. If you are going over two and a half years – it’s too old. You change as well! And every 5-7 years you should check in with your brand and refine it as you change. Seven years from now the kinds of roles I will play will be different. And my headshots from five years ago are very different. It’s still me, but what I’m branding is different.
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