6 Mistakes Actors Make When Getting Headshots

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Photo Source: @esspeshal via Twenty20

We hear over and over again that headshots are an actor’s calling card or first impression. Once the homework of selecting the right photographer to take your headshots is complete, you want to make sure you’re doing your part to create the platform for a successful session. Here are six mistakes I notice actors make when taking headshots.

1. Not communicating with your agent before the headshot session.
Your agent is the one who sees all of the casting breakdowns each day. They know what current trends are happening in casting. You want your agent to be excited about your headshots and feel your image represents profitability. Communicating with your agent helps ensure you’re getting them what they need to promote you as a brand, so be certain you and your agent are on the same page. If you see yourself as a quirky comedian and your agent views you as a sexy dramatic actor, there may be a disconnect that could affect the audition process. A little communication helps you shape your brand and avoid wasting your time and money on needing to reshoot.

2. Only focusing on the exterior.
I notice actors focusing on the haircut, makeup artist, or proper wardrobe a lot in the lead up to a headshot session. Of course, you want to look great in your photographs but let’s not forget that the purpose of your headshot is to sell your unique personality as an actor. When you make the choice about what you want your headshot to convey about you, it’s a good idea to do some mental preparation, just like you would for any performance. Think about what you need to bring to the photo shoot to be present and in the mindset of what you wish to portray: music, pictures, lists of memories—every actor is different. This may give the photographer more tools to direct your session as they learn things about you and how you work as an actor. It also gives you something to think about other than the nervousness you might feel about being photographed.

3. Choosing inexperienced makeup artists or not hiring a makeup artist.
Hire a skilled, professional makeup artist. Some actors are really amazing at doing their own makeup. Others think they are amazing, but everyday makeup doesn’t always translate in photographs or in your photographer’s lighting. If you aren’t sure about your makeup skills, hire a professional. Ask to see photos of their work before committing and be sure they work with clients who have similar skin tones to yours and whose headshots don’t need to be overly retouched.

If you choose to bring your own makeup artist to a shoot, make sure they know how to do headshot makeup. Fashion and editorial makeup is not necessarily headshot makeup. Have your makeup artist speak with the photographer if they’ve never worked with them before. You want to be certain your makeup artist knows how to work with the photographer’s lighting technique.

4. Not communicating with your photographer before the headshot session.
Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer questions or for help if you’re unclear about something. And if they reach out to you, return calls or texts in a timely manner and provide the photographer’s crew with the materials they need to give you the best service. Once you’ve done all of your research and communicated what you need from your photographer, it’s time to let them do the magic you hired them for.

5. Not speaking up at the headshot session.
Always ask to see your images at the shoot, preferably on a screen large enough to see details. It’s much easier to notice and correct simple mistakes or performance issues at the original session rather than having to reschedule a shoot. If there’s anything you’re unhappy with, let the photographer know. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You and your photographer are a team. Most photographers want you to be happy so that you walk away from the session showing and telling your friends (potential future clients) positive things about your experience. If something is bothering you at the shoot, it will bother you even more when you get home and can’t fix the issue without spending more time or money.

6. Being late to the headshot session.
When you’re late to a photo session, you start the session by telling the photographer you don’t respect their time. If you are running behind, always inform the photographer before the scheduled session time. You don’t want your session to be rushed or canceled because you didn’t communicate with the photographer.

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Marc Cartwright
Marc Cartwright is an L.A.–based photographer who has lent his experience and expertise to various aspects of the entertainment industry for over 25 years.
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