Get The Perfect Headshot in 7 Steps
Getting the perfect headshot is a process and as that famous phrase goes 'luck comes to those who follow the process..." The perfect headshot is one that serves your interests powerfully i.e. it gets you regularly seen for roles you are right for. Here's how you make that happen.
Before your shoot...
1. Be a Casting Director:
If you were a casting director, who would you cast yourself as? Be honest. If in doubt, investigate. Casting Director Amy Jo Berman suggests actors choose a headshot that is in the CENTRE of their casting range. While you can play the extremes of your range, you are most likely to be cast in roles close to who you are.
This in mind, I often see actors try hide distinctive traits because they *think* they're unflattering and choose qualities that they *think* are more attractive. But firstly, this is very subject and secondly, it doesn't serve you. For example, if you can be a bit goofy and you try to instead be sexy in your headshot. You are putting yourself into a casting bracket that doesn't fit (the person who naturally defaults into being sexy will more often than not land that role) while you've not lost the opportunity to be seen for that ingenious, slightly goofy role you're perfect for. Your casting value is in being 100% yourself and so the perfect headshot unashamedly celebrates that. *Tip: Dress and wear make-up that subtly supports your casting type.
2. Be a Producer:
If a producer was booking you for a headshot shoot, what would they do? They would leave nothing to chance that is for sure. So, before your shoot, cast yourself as the producer. It's your job to make sure that the actor has: done their research, ironed their tops, drank lots of water, gone to bed early and has a map of where the shoot is. As a photographer who champions actors, it's so frustrating when clients arrive late with a crumpled shirt, looking stressed and demotivated. Set yourself up powerfully for the shoot by being 100% prepared.
In the shoot...
share with your photographer the casting director's opinion. and then forget about the CD at home. Now it's time to be energised, open and proud.
3. Be Energised:
Getting a great headshot is not passive process. It doesn't matter how talented the headshot photographer is, you've got to bring energy to the shoot. What exactly do I mean? Energy in the form of aliveness, presence and engagement. For the perfect headshot, you need to be 100% engaged and present. Do whatever it takes to be fully awake. (Before the shoot, go for a run, do some yoga, have a cold shower- whatever it takes!) Don't waste the opportunity. Be responsible for your own motivation.
4. Be Open:
Photography is communication. Whatever you're thinking/feeling is conveyed in the picture- that's why we love them. So, for that reason (and because you're paying for this experience!) don’t sit in misery saying repeatedly “I’m fine” while your teeth chatter. Be really open and straight with your photographer. Say “I’m preoccupied with this spot on my forehead/I’m worried I look like a giraffe/ I’m only here cos my agent bribed me” Whatever! Say it. Once it’s out in the open, the photographer can help you come up with solutions. Over the years, I've seen that as soon as clients are really honest about what's going on for them, they relax. Also, being present is key to getting the perfect headshot, so if you're thinking about your left dimple, you're not present.
5. Brando rather than Ned Flanders:
Don't spend your entire shoot trying to get it right. Do all the prep work, listen to the photographer and then be Brando! Be proud as a peacock and chill out.
After the shoot...
the key moment comes to CHOOSE the perfect headshot. This is really important. Don't rush this step.
Ask your headshot photographer to tell you which images are his/her favourites. If unsure, ask them why. This is gold. Don't ignore the photographer's opinion (you still don't have to go with their choice, but take their opinion onboard). He/she has seen your casting type, watched you repeatedly on camera and spoken at length with you. The photographer will be heavily invested in you getting the perfect headshot because it's their job (and it makes us look good too)!
Speak with your agent and industry friends. People you work with are more likely to give you professional feedback. Often you will choose a shot that you think you look the most attractive in but this may not however be the most castable shot. Put back on your casting director hat and leave vanity at the door.
To sum up...
before your shoot, think like a casting director: that determines what you should be going for. Put on your producer hat and organise everything you need. Then forget everything and in the shoot be energetic, alive, open and proud. After the shoot, choose wisely. Put back on your casting director cap and speak with key people to make sure you're choosing the perfect headshot *for you*. Because that's the trick- knowing what's perfect for you and maximising on that.
Isaac Peral Photography:
Isaac runs Isaac Peral Photography from his Brixton studio in South London. He specialises in using natural light to capture engaging authentic headshots that are a powerful calling card for any actor. His clients have worked on countless productions from Downton Abbey to Doctors, in films such as The Danish Girl, James Bond, and can be seen onstage frequently at The National, RSC, the Globe, Broadway and the West End.
To read testimonials or view his portfolio visit: www.isaacperalphotography.com