Even though your headshot should absolutely look like you, it should feel like the type of character you want to be cast as!
Lets do a little test…
Lets pretend you are a casting director, and you have been commissioned to find actors for a new film. You have the breakdown of the story and the character descriptions and you are ready to select actors for the audition process. What would you be looking for? Take some time to think about this!
What would you, as a casting director be looking for when browsing headshots for your character? Probably an actor who could fit the physical description or the overall look of the character? Right? Well……ok but… How many times have we seen casting directors cast actors who may not really fit the physical description or look of a character? Many! What are we left to conclude from this? That maybe just the right physical description or look is really not the deciding factor. Maybe something more important overpowers this decision!
What could that be? Well, maybe how the person feels, even from just the first impression which is their headshot! So how can you “feel” right for a part before you even audition? …… What were you thinking and feeling and being, when the specific photo was being taken? Because all those things are what come through in your headshot! That is what casting directors see and feel when they look at your headshot! If you are thinking, feeling and being nervous, anxious, worried, stressed, that is what they will see. If you are thinking, feeling and being, dynamic, complex, confident, enigmatic that is what they will see.
So, which is more captivating? What do you want casting directors to see in your headshot? How can you achieve the desired affect?
It is a very simple and fun process which I will explain and walk you through before and during your headshot session!
What makes a great headshot?
I have contemplated this question for a long time! After much research, many hours of observation and trials, my conclusion is… Well, the same things that make a great performance… Living truthfully in imaginary circumstances. The mind produces thoughts, which in turn cause feelings, which affect the body in reacting accordingly. The body follows the mind unconsciously. Whatever the mind dictates the body feels true. So that is where my answer lies. I want you to think of your headshot session as if you are walking on the set. You have your lines memorized, your character figured out and come to life, your who, what, where, why, when … and you are ready to live truthfully in imaginary circumstances and tell the story.
You are thinking and reacting through your character, not about how you look! You are just being in that life. You are here to act, I am here to direct you.
How is this done?
First off we talk about your goal!
Yes it is very important for you to have a sense of direction. What are you aiming for? And for this to be achieved you have to be very precise! What types of roles do you want? Many industry people talk about type. Maybe it sounds too confining to some, but it is very helpful to know even if it is for the sole purpose of having a sense of direction… Its like being hungry and having a huge menu of wonderful foods to choose from. It can be overwhelming and hard to choose, even frustrating for some. And possibly if you don’t have an idea of what you crave, it may take you a while to decide. Maybe its not the best example… but I think you get the idea.
Having a specific goal will help you find direction, stay focused and committed and will eliminate a lot of stress and frustration along the way!So before you step in front of the lens you have to know! This may be harder than it sounds…
What will definitely help you is to choose a favorite role for yourself before coming to the shoot. A role that you would love to play, and work on it before just like you would for an audition. The goal here is not to memorize the lines, but to really understand and be the character.
This will help you to get out of your head and stop focusing on you. After all focusing on you is my job! And eventually isn’t that what you want your headshot to show? It’s the same thing as having a close up in film or television. Can your character be seen in your face? Isn’t that what casting directors are looking for?
To play devil’s advocate you might say … ok but isn’t the character supposed to be me?
Well… Sure! But is it the real you as you are in everyday life? Or is it the you being photographed and trying to “act” as you? There is a huge difference! Because the real everyday you is not “acting”, its being! And that makes a world of difference which you can plainly see in past headshots that you have rejected.
Of course you have seen photographs of renowned actors in magazines, events and promotions, and I am sure you have seen candid photos of them in their everyday life! Have you observed the difference between the two? In both cases we are talking about the same people right? Well, how is it that these photos are so different? Because their public image is an important marketing tool which they have learned to utilize. Just as you need to train as actors, you also need to train on how to create and promote your image starting with your headshot!
Early on in my carrier, I observed successful actors, models, singers, show people, even politicians who all used a form of this technique in front of the lens!
In my personal photographic experience I have used this technique to help even the most nervous and tense of subjects relax, play and have fun!
Which makes for amazing headshots!
1. Work on your chosen character before the shoot. Bring the sides that you normally would to an audition. (you can bring props with you)
2. If you want commercial headshots, bring something you love, so you can advertise it. (can be more than one thing, as long as they fit through the door)
3. Bring as many changes of clothes as you like, with a minimum of 5. Preferably solid colors with different necklines, and a variety of jackets etc. for layered looks. Also colors that match your eye color work very well!
4. Bring all your previous headshots so we can review and decide the new direction you are pursuing. You may also bring samples of headshots or portraits you really like!
5. If you wear glasses, please be prepared to take out the lenses or to bring an extra frame without lenses.
6. Be rested with freshly washed hair and skin so you may feel and look your best.
7. And just remember not to worry about how you look…… that is my job!