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Backstage Experts

What NOT to Do During a Headshot Session

What NOT to Do During a Headshot Session
Photo Source: Pexels

By now you’ve probably been advised extensively on what to do and how to do it when it comes to taking your headshots. But what about what not to do? We touched base with Backstage Experts and photographers alike about those headshot no-nos that should be avoided at all costs.

Don’t over-airbrush.
“Chill with the airbrushing. Casting directors expect you to look just like your headshot, and will not be happy when you show up looking totally different, or 10 years older. It’s not about looking pretty, it’s about representing your type, age, wrinkles included. It should look like you on your best day, showing your age, and who you are now. It’s not about the type you want to be, it’s the type you are.” —Matt Newton, acting coach and Backstage Expert

Do not strike the following poses:
“Actors, don’t:

  • Put both hands at your hips at the same height. This can seem cheesy.  

  • Cross your arms, which can be feel cold and emotionally cutoff.

  • Have your head back or your weight on your heels. This will never result in a headshot that seems engaged.” —Michael Roud, L.A.-based photographer

Don’t let “looks” dictate your shoot.
“As an actor myself, I always found it difficult to decide what package to select when booking my shoot. When I was a newbie, my change of look was nothing more than swapping my burgundy t-shirt for a hunter green—so it was mind-boggling to me that merely changing my shirt could cost me an extra $100.

“That’s why I don’t believe in shooting based on ‘looks.’ If a top or a hairstyle doesn’t work, you shouldn’t feel obligated to commit to it because you paid more for it. During my sessions, I welcome clients to change into different outfits throughout, so long as we’re clear on the ‘look’ that they’re going for, and this is something you should talk to your photographer about before your shoot.” —Wolf Michael, L.A.-based headshot photographer

Don’t forget styling and makeup.
“I know headshots are supposed to look like you, but I suggest not doing your own makeup for a headshot shoot. I know some of you are in theater and do your own makeup everyday, but makeup for the stage is very different than what you’ll need for a headshot. Luckily, there are several photographers out there who are also makeup artists or partner with a very capable ones. Let the professionals take care of you.

“Also make sure to find out whether the photographer is using indoor or outdoor lighting and settings. Don’t pick at your face the night before. Don’t try a new skin mask. Basically, stick to the status quo before you take photos that will last you for a while.” —Carla Renata, blogging/branding expert anc Backstage Expert

And don’t wait ‘til after the session to discuss styling.
“Most agents and managers are very specific about what they like in a headshot. You don’t want to discover after your session that your reps hate your hair and wardrobe choices. Always have a discussion with your team if you’re planning any major hair changes. Even if the style is staying the same, try and show them your hair before you book a headshot session in case they want you to get it trimmed or grow it out a little more.

“The same goes for clothing. Some agents and managers love layered clothing and lots of color, others like very muted tones and simplicity. Your agent or manager knows what works well for them with casting, and you want them to feel that you represent whatever that is. You’re less likely to be submitted for auditions if your team thinks your poor clothing and hair choices are going to make them look unprofessional.” —Marc Cartwright, L.A.-based headshot and editorial photographer and Backstage Expert

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