A professional actor headshot for a kid is just as important as a headshot for an adult. They’re used to help determine castings just the same. Parents of child actors need to take some of the same things into consideration as adults do for getting good headshots, but they also need to consider one or two other different factors.
Here are five tips for making sure your kid's headshots are as great as they can be.
1. Set a time limit
Adult actors can usually go all day when it comes to doing a shoot, but kids will have their limits. While there are some extraordinary exceptions, typically, the younger a child the less time you’ll have. Most parents know attention spans wane and distractions become more obvious with children, so plan accordingly.
For example, let us say you know you want to capture four or five looks for your child and they’re between 5–8 years old. It might be wise to break apart the looks into two or three different shoots on different days. Kids are naturally bubbly, happy, or joyful and these expressions are important to capture in a headshot session. But the longer a shoot takes, the more you increase the chances those warm, bubbly, and joyful expressions will not be there. Be honest with yourself about how long you’ll have before that happens, and be prepared to scrap your timing plans and adjust to the mood your child is in that day.
2. Remove distractions and set up things that help with focus
You might think to bring your child’s favorite toy or gadget with you to the headshot session. Your thought might be to use it to keep them occupied between shots or looks. However, this can backfire. It can end up being the focus of their attention instead of them looking into the camera.
Rather than bringing your child's favorite toy, consider alternatives to keep them focused. Bring some music they like or ask the photographer if they have such music on hand. You might also consider a break between every one or two looks. The break can be as simple as a bathroom break or a quick walk outside. This can help reset their mind so the impression of doing one task for too long—a photo shoot—might not occur.
Also, factor in where the photographer will do the shoot. Is it in a studio setting where distractions can be minimized or outside on a busy street or park where distractions are amplified?
3. Go vibrant first, second, and third, and then maybe consider theatrical
As mentioned, most of us think of children as adorable and joyful little beings. In most cases, these are the types of headshots you’ll want. So go for happy and joyful expressions. Use colorful and vibrant backgrounds and clothing. Get plenty of such shots to have many options for commercial-look child headshots.
Afterward, if your child can also possibly play a dark character, then consider theatrical headshots that are darker in mood and tone. If you’re working with a manager or agent, consider asking their opinion on whether theatrical looks are worthwhile for your child—even for children, there are dark roles to be had. It’s worth considering.
For both commercial and theatrical headshots, working in a studio provides more opportunity to capture starker differences between them. This is because, in a studio, a good photographer can have more command over light setups compared to outdoors, where the light is nowhere near as controlled.
4. Work with photographers that have proven patience with children
Not everyone is cut out to work with children. It’s important that a parent finds a photographer experienced working with kids. As you research photographers, the first way to vet this is to check out their portfolio of work. See if they have photos of child actors in their portfolio, then simply ask them about it. Make sure when you speak with them to point out any scenarios they should know about with your child. For example, if you know your child will not be attentive past 15–30 minutes, mention that so you can discuss a plan for it. If you know your child is most attentive with music playing, mention it, and so on.
5. Ensure quality in the shots you need
Good quality headshots are critical to have for all actors, child actors included. When you’re researching photographers that work with kids, measure their quality too. Again, this can be done by viewing their portfolios of work. Be sure to do this research from a large screen like a desktop or laptop monitor, not from your tiny smartphone screen—the smaller the photos are that you’re looking at, the easier it is to hide or miss poor quality factors like sharpness. Consider their level of service too. Read online reviews about them. This builds your confidence that you’ll be working with a photographer that can get the most out of a child headshot session.
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