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Headshot Advice

Smile! Top Houston Photographers Share Pro Headshot Tips

Smile! Top Houston Photographers Share Pro Headshot Tips
Photo Source: Kerry Beyer

Hair up? Hair down? Natural look or glam? A stellar headshot is all about looking your best, but sometimes it can end up a wrinkle-inducing headache. So we spoke with three of Houston’s leading headshot photographers to get some tips to help you out. Kerry Beyer, Kristine Canterbury, and Debbie Porter share what they’ve learned over the years. 

Always Be Prepared
“Water. Sleep. Make sure your clothes are prepared and ironed,” says Kristine Canterbury.

Practice your look. Kerry Beyer advises to “practice posing in front of the mirror to get an idea of how your face looks from different angles. Know how your looks feel and what smile is the right size for you.” For the actual shoot, he says, bring a good selection of clothes (“more than you think you need”) in solid colors.

Know the Market
“Have a good understanding of the market and your place in it,” Beyer says.

“If you’re represented, discuss the headshot with your agent,” Canterbury suggests, to gear your shots toward the marketing your agent has in mind.

According to Porter, you should “look at headshots posted online by your agency (or an agency you’re targeting).”

The Natural Look
All three agree: light and natural makeup are best. Go easy on the eyes, especially eyeliner.

For men, Beyer notes, typically a matte powder is enough.

Porter prefers that actors arrive with bare lips and bring several lipstick color choices.

“Make sure lips are not chapped,” Canterbury warns. Besides medicated chapstick, her secret weapon is A+D Ointment, which makes lips plump and naturally colorful. She adds that “if you can’t do it yourself, get a makeup artist, but make sure that a they can do natural and make sure you can duplicate it on your own.”

Let Your Hair Down
All three recommend that women start with hair down. “Don’t go hairdresser fancy,” cautions Porter. Instead she says to put your hair up for a third or fourth look—it’s more suited for an industrial role.

“Casting is going to want to see what your hair looks like naturally,” Beyer says. Even so, he favors having a stylist present. “If people don’t like their hair, they won’t like the shot.”

For kids, Canterbury found that pigtails, ponytails, and braids create a younger look, while straight reads older. If hair is naturally curly, she and Beyer both recommend showing straight hair as well.

For men, start with your day-to-day style, Canterbury says. A man with facial hair might shave during the shoot, for both a bearded and clean-faced look; one with long hair might cut it and come in for a second shoot, to have a variety to show. 

The Good that Actors Do
For Beyer, the good includes bringing large selection of clothes, knowing the types of roles you’re going out for, and knowing how to pose.

Porter’s good list starts with having the right attitude at the shoot. “Not being perfect is okay, because that’s probably how you’re going to walk in on the audition.”

… And the Bad
“A glass of wine does not help,” says Porter. “Then your eyes are not alert; you’re in a different mood.”

Coming in with crazed eyebrows or dirty hair are bad moves in Canterbury’s book. So is retouching photos “Do not lie in your photograph. It has to represent who you are, not who you want to be.”

For Beyer, it’s showing up with only one outfit and being awkward on camera. “If you’re not comfortable in front of the camera, I wonder why you’re in this business.”

Technical Specs
Attach your resume to the back of the headshot with double-stick tape instead of staples, which can scratch the photo, come apart, and cause the resume to get separated. When posting online, give copyright and photographer credit. “It won’t stop people from using your images without authorization,” Canterbury admits, “But it will slow them down.” She adds that best practices begin with having headshots printed on quality paper. Go to a quality lab and make sure that the color is adjusted to match your actual skin tone.

What Makes a Great Headshot
All prefer a natural, comfortable shot that has expression in the eyes—and actually looks like you.  “They look like you on a good day when you’ve had sleep,” says Beyer. Ideally a shot captures the spark of your personality. “It should make a casting director think ‘he looks interesting; I want to meet him.’”

“You’re going to walk in the door and they’re either going to want you or they won’t,” says Porter. “You have to be confident in yourself and that has to show in your headshot.” 

Other advice?
According to Porter, “You can always come back.” Try a headshot out for six months and reshoot if you think it’s not working. Updating it regularly also keeps you fresh in front of agents and casting directors.

Beyer notes that “everyone has that one feature that they don’t like but no one else notices. I’m a firm believer that everybody is beautiful. Accept your own beauty and don’t stress about things you can’t change. No matter what you look like, somebody needs your look.”

For more information, visit Canterbury’s FAQ, watch Porter’s video about headshots and read the headshot chapter in Beyer’s book Acting Roadmap.

The above headshot of actor Stephanie Styles was shot by Kerry Beyer. 

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