7 killer headshot tips
No matter how many times you find yourself in front of a camera, getting your headshot taken is a daunting experience. All of a sudden it’s just you staring down a lens with no idea of what to do, how to stand, smile or appear vaguely human. As your nerves soar and your confidence plummets not even the directions of the photographer – in my case incoherent babbling in a strong Glaswegian accent – are going to help. Every movement becomes unnatural and you become aware that you haven’t closed your mouth or blinked for what seems like an impossibly long time. Very quickly your expectations of the shoot change from nailing a few wonderful headshots that are going to capture all of your brilliance to hopefully not looking like a serial killer caught in the act.
Having been on both sides of the camera I’ve had my fair share of horrible photo shoots. Thankfully there are a few headshot tips that can really help you to not only overcome the awkwardness of a headshot shoot but actually make it an enjoyable experience.
1. Know what type of headshot you want and who you want to take it!
You need to do your research, every photographer has different styles and what suits one person may not suit you. Don’t just pick the prettiest photo, think about your casting or what image you are trying to promote. Decide if you want natural light or studio lights or both. Make sure the photographer you choose can deliver what you need. Have a look at the photographer’s work, have they shot someone with your colouring before? -As an olive skinned guy it took me a while to figure out why so many photographers made me look like I had the darkest circles under my eyes and slightly green skin! Google really is your friend here, simply image search “headshot photographers London” or “headshots for actors” and you’ll have plenty to look through.
2. Get some sleep!
Once you’ve found your photographer and booked your session get your beauty sleep. In the days running up to your photo shoot try to get early nights, eat well and lay off the booze! If you turn up to your shoot exhausted and hungover that’s exactly what you are going to look like in your pictures. Even photoshop can’t save you!
3. Treat it like a casting/interview.
Turn up on time, looking good and mentally prepared! Entering into something with the right mindset is half the battle. Even if you are nervous, walk in knowing you are going to own it. Fake it till you make it!!! Think about what you are wearing, if you have an outfit that makes you feel like a rock star, wear it! If you feel good, you’ll look good and it will 100% show in your headshots.
4. Stop second guessing yourself.
We’re all our own biggest critics, which is great and how we improve in life, however your headshot session is not the time for self analysis. If you’re worrying about how you’re looking or the weird face you think you pulled seven frames ago or if it’s going well then the shoot is going to pass you by! If your mind is wandering and you’re not present in the shoot it leads to that vacant look you see in so many actors headshots. You may look nice but there’s no engagement there, it’s just another boring headshot. Hopefully your photographer will be aware and on hand to pull you back into the moment!
5. Remember it’s a collaboration!
There’s two of you in the room and you both need to be working to create something special. Neither of you are allowed to be on autopilot during the shoot, if you feel yourself getting fuzzy ask for a quick break – it’s not easy keeping up focus for so long.
6. Commit to your shots.
Whether it’s acting or giving a presentation, we’ve all seen people who are not fully committed to what they’re doing and how boring it is to watch. Your headshot shoot is exactly like that except magnified and captured over and over again at fractions of a second. I often give people different things to visualise and scenarios to run through in their heads during a shoot; the difference between 50% commitment and 100% is staggering. If you want a headshot that’s going to demand attention, you’ve got to fully commit.
7. Have fun!
Now that you’ve got a bit of a plan with these headshot tips and know that you’re going to nail your session, have fun! You know that every shot doesn’t have to be THE SHOT so take the pressure off yourself. Play! Laugh! Hopefully your photographer will lead you in some fun directions and you’ll not only create something special, you’ll enjoy yourself too!