Do I Need To Get Professional Headshots?
I often hear actors and or parents of actors say that they are going to use a good picture taken from a camera phone and have them reproduced or have their friend take some pictures of them. Many times it is because they are new to the biz and do not make the connection on why having a professional headshot taken of the talent is crucial for the success of the actor/actress. The headshot is their calling card, it will be one of the main deciding factors on if the actor gets cast or not. And in 99% of the time it will be the only thing that makes the Casting Director want to see you in person for an audition. I tell these actors and parents "look if you want others to take your career seriously, then you must also take it seriously, you have invested time and money in training, acting workshops, moving to L.A, why stop there and go cheap where it truly matters.....the headshot". Remember there is a big difference on what most people consider a good picture and what a Headshot Photographer and Casting Director consider a good headshot. We see headshots everyday and know what is going to capture the attention of a Casting Director when your headshots hit their desk. Not only is it about a good quality picture, but it's about the expression and life in the subject.
So what makes a Great headshot?
1. The eyes. The eyes are the most important part of the headshot. They must show an emotion and tell a story. The talent should not be looking aloof, or away from the camera. One tip for actors is to try to look beyond the center of the lens. Also try slightly squinting your eyes. This slight movement in your eye lids prevents you from having that wide eyes dear in headlights look.
2. The Lighting. Whether you are shooting in an indoor studio or outdoors the talent should be in even lighting. There should be no harsh shadows on any part of the face. You should be able to see clearly the details of the actors face. We don't want any shadows distracting from your good looks. We also don't want them second guessing shadows for skin discoloration.
3. The Background. The background should be simple. The background should not be too distracting from the actor. I believe solid colors work the best. Peter Hurley who is known to be one of the best headshot photographer uses a simple white backdrop majority of the time. Outdoor backgrounds work great as well as long as the photographer is shooting at a wide enough aperture to create a nice Bokeh and blur out the background. Remember once the view is looking at the background asking themselves "is that a storefront in the back" or "it looks like their under a bridge", you are no longer the center of attention and you have done yourself a disservice. Also when it comes to the background photographers should have the actor several feet from the background. I cringe when I see headshots where the photographer had the actor too close to the background. This often creates an unflattering shadow behind the actor, once again one more thing to take the attention away from your eyes.
And then there is the photography knowledge of image composition, rule of thirds, ISO/Aperature settings, exposure compensation, lighting etc. It's not as simple as most people may think. It takes time and experience.
So when it comes time to get headshots done keep this all in mind. Hire yourself a professional headshot photographer. Ask to see examples of their work. If you like their style, techniques, and pricing contact them. I also advise that you talk to them on the phone prior to booking the shoot. You want to make sure they are friendly and approcachable. A great headshot session relies heavily on the communication between the actor and the photographer. The photographer should be easy going, talkative, friendly and even goofy. You should feel comfortable with the photographer before stepping in front of the camera. That's all I have for today. I hope you found the above helpful. Good look out there and enjoy the journey.
Jean-Pierre Mouzon is an actor and headshot photographer serving actors and actresses in the L.A. Area
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