Headshots: The Shoot

If you’re like me, you HATE having your picture taken! So the headshot session can be intimidating. The best shots I’ve ever had came about in an environment where I felt most comfortable. But even the shots I use today were a challenge to get as there are many variables that can make or break a shoot. Here’s a check list of things to keep in mind to help make your shoot a success and minimize those variables:

Makeup Artist
A lot of photographers have one makeup artist that they use (although some do it themselves). But sometimes that artist is not available so they hire a sub. But you won’t necessarily know that. The artist for my shoot, for example, was a sub for the regular lady who had another job that day. Now, besides film/commercial shoots I’d not had that much experience with makeup artists and I assumed that they were all good. NOT TRUE. This lady was using a foundation that was not camera-friendly. I didn’t know that some foundations show up on camera differently than they do in real life. The saying “the camera sees everything” really is true. The foundation this lady used on me didn’t sit on my skin well and was patchy. Now I couldn’t really see it in the mirror because I didn’t get up close enough to inspect it. Why would I? And the photographer didn’t seem to pick up on it either as she was more focused on composition, lighting and whether or not I was relaxed. But when I got my final selection printed to its 8×10 size it was painfully obvious. I had to spend an extra $150 on airbrushing my skin out in a way that didn’t make me LOOK like I’d been airbrushed. And my shots were over $1000 after the makeup artist fee as it was. So this oversight cost me a fair amount.

I’d recommend asking the photographer when you’re booking your session if the regular makeup artist will be present. If not, then it might be a smart idea to ask around among your friends if they know an artist you could hire independently. Someone with a good track record and whose work you’ve seen. Or, be aware that the makeup artist scheduled for your shoot may not be up to par so you will be responsible for making sure you their work is good – get right up to that mirror and check out the texture of your skin, if they use eyeliner make sure its smooth/even and that the mascara isn’t clumpy. Same goes for lipstick/gloss, make sure your lips look smooth and that the color is even. All this stuff will show up on your picture and could potentially render a good shot useless.

Also, for headshot photography a good makeup artist is supposed to make you look like you on a REALLY good day. NOT like you are going to a ball or a red-carpet event, etc (unless that is how you dress everyday and is how you “type” yourself). If they want to put a ton of eyeliner on you but you never wear it, you are within your rights to say “no thanks” or “just a little, please”.

That all goes for the hair department too. Some artists can get carried away with their utensils and product. If they pull out the curlers and start ringlet-ing your hair but you have bone-straight locks, you are within your rights again to ask that they refrain.

Overall, its a delicate balance because you have to both surrender to the artist/photographer trusting them completely while giving equal attention to trusting your own instincts and experience.

What are you wearing?
Simplicity is the key. Also, wearing good colors is important. I’m wearing a white shirt in my shot but if I’d had a business top that was a nice teal, say, it’d have be better. Also, white is pretty hard to shoot, so make sure you’ve seen your photographer shoot with it before otherwise your adding a new variable to the already complicated process of photography. Chia Messina (my photographer) is very skilled at shooting with light tones so we knew it’d be ok. You can check outthis article on wardrobe staplesfor more info what to wear to a shoot.

Get comfortable!
Do what you can to get comfortable. Choose clothing that you feel relaxed in. That make you feel like yourself. Go bare footed if necessary – you’ll probably not show your feet in the shot anyway so even bring your slippers if it makes you feel more relaxed. Most photographers have an ipod dock or a cd player (you can ask this at the interview by the way) so you can bring your own music. I recommend bringing some tunes that make you happy. Don’t bring anything that is hardcore/angry/depressing/melancholy as this will bring the mood down in the room overall and can affect your final picture. You should also consider that the music you play affects the photographer as well, so if you’re worried that your death metal might be too intense – it probably is!

Be on time
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to relaxation and comfort in front of the camera is being on time. If you show up late to a shoot you are bringing added drama to the room that will make the shoot tense. So do everything you can to get there as scheduled, if not earler.

Most headshot sessions can run around 4 hours. So it’s important you show up well-fed and with snacks. You wouldn’t think it but it can be quite tiring having your picture taken. You are giving a lot of attention to one thing over an extended period of time and this can be draining. So you should have things on hand that can snap you out of a tired spell, like nuts, tea, a chocolate bar, banana, etc. I wouldn’t recommend bringing one of those 5-hour energy drinks or Redbull unless you know how it affects you physically. You don’t want to add a new variable to the process. If you need to eat, it is a good idea to bring your toothbrush incase you get something stuck in your teeth.

Look at test-shots
Most photographers will let you look at test shots on the computer before the session really kicks in to see how the light is, if the lens they are using is right, are your clothes working, etc. It can make a lot of us uncomfortable to see photos of ourselves but if you can stomach it really have a good look at the pictures. Have the photographer zoom in and check the makeup, have a look to see if there is anything weird happening with your hair. Just really use that moment to make sure you are getting what you want. It’ll be worth it.

Be gracious
Even though you are paying for your photographs and you are entitled to make sure you get what you want, it is not helpful to be mean or aggressive. Watch your manner and be grateful that you have the professionals you’ve hired to help you get your pictures. This does not mean cow-tow to them or pussy-foot around a problem that may arise, but it does mean that you should be considerate all the same. You catch more bees with honey than vinegar, after all.


About The NYC Actor

Angela Dee is a professional actress working in Film, Theatre, TV, Commercials and Voiceovers. She currently lives in New York. www.angeladee.com

2 Responses to “Headshots: The Shoot”

  1. >Thanks Alex,A casting director or an agent may suggest you get new headshots if the one's you are using are not working or appropriate but they will never tell you to pay for an on-the-spot shoot with them. If this does ever happen, you are well within your rights to get up and walk out.It's good to be clear though that your agent is not responsible for your headshots, either. It is every actors individual responsibility to get the best headshot they can.

  2. >Hi, Angela. Interesting — and informative — post about headshots. It might be worth pointing out to your readers that, if you already have your own, professional headshots, no legitimate audition will insist on taking their own headshots at a cost to the actor. Too many "auditions" are actually headshot scams.

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