5 Tips for Safe Headshots as Sessions Resume in a COVID-19 World

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Photo Source: Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Movie, TV, theater, and other entertainment productions were almost completely halted because of COVID-19, but as more and more local governments reopen their economies, actors and agents will start to look much more at castings again. This will require headshot submissions. So what do you do if you need new or updated headshots? 

If after considering everything happening with the pandemic you decide you want to take headshots when allowed, you and the photographer will need to collaborate a bit differently to safely get headshots. There are a few extra steps you can take to increase the safety and reduce the chance for infection when at a headshot session. Here are the things you should consider and the steps you can take.

1. Consider studio or natural light session advantages and disadvantages.
First, you’ll want to decide between doing a headshot session in a studio setting or outdoors. Both have safety advantages and disadvantages. Some photographers may only shoot in one setting and not both so you should verify if there are limitations.

Shooting outdoors has the advantage of more easily maintaining six feet of separation for social distancing, particularly if a spacious outdoor setting is chosen. However, it also has the disadvantage of you more likely running into a passerby or two and as we know, not everyone is complying with official requests to wear masks or keep safe distances.

Shooting in a studio removes the concerns of a random passerby ruining the possibility of a safe session, but if a studio is small, keeping a safe six feet apart might be more challenging. In a studio, however, it’s much easier to control the space being filled by just the actor and the photographer, thus avoiding a passerby altogether. 

Ultimately, which location is chosen is also based on the type of look you might be after. Some people like the studio look while others like the outdoor look. But during COVID-19, it’s now also important to consider the safety advantages and disadvantages of either.

2. Make sure to maintain a safe distance during the shoot.
Whether in a studio or outdoor setting, it’s a good idea for the photographer to keep a face mask on. Obviously, you’ll need to remove your face mask for photos, but limiting removal for only during the actual shoot and not during scenarios like changing for looks will help reduce the chances of spreading infection.

In most cases, keeping six feet apart during shooting is a given. This is because the lens of choice often requires the photographer and subject to be six feet apart or more. Photographers sometimes shoot with lenses that require them to be closer. If changing lenses to accommodate more space is not an option, you should still keep six feet apart. This means you’ll need to be sure the photographer can crop in to your liking without losing quality in the photos. 

Speaking of reviewing photos for quality, often during a photo shoot a photographer will invite you to look at the photos on the back of the camera. Naturally, this means getting within six feet of each other. While this might not be as practical outdoors, in a studio at least, a photographer might use an external monitor attached by a chord allowing six feet of spacing. It can be a convenient way to further collaborate and ensure you’re getting the shots you want while being safe about it.

3. When wrapping up the shoot and paying, avoid handshakes and cash.
Ultimately, you’ll wrap up the shoot. Normally this might mean a thank you handshake. Also, when you first met to start the shoot, under normal conditions you might have had a hello handshake. Conditions not being yet normal, such handshakes should be avoided. Here is where words matter. If warranted, be sure to express your gratitude verbally while maintaining a safe distance. This includes while paying for the session.

Photographers offer many ways to pay. This might include online from their website. The one thing that should be avoided for now is cash payments. If that’s not possible, the photographer might accept and process cash payments using disposable gloves.

Another popular payment is credit cards. The most convenient way to accept this might be to read out the credit card details so the photographer can process the payment verbally, much as you might over the phone. Or the photographer can be sure to use gloves to take the credit card and give it back. In addition, and if an option, remember that popular payment apps can provide a touchless payment experience.

4. Try getting the photos digitally.
Some photographers deliver the finished photos on a USB stick or similar device. Obviously, this means transferring a physical device. If this is the only option, it’s advisable to wear gloves. You can then take the extra precaution of disinfecting the device, if possible, without damaging it, before using it.

An alternative is to go all-digital. The photographer might set up a download link for the photos. They can email you the link so there’s no need to hand over a device. This is another touchless experience that can increase the safety of the shoot.

5. Take post-shoot safety steps.
For those of you who are also photographers that will be having headshot sessions, if the photo shoot occurred in your studio, it’s a good idea to establish a protocol for making it safe for the next headshot session. This should involve wiping down common touch areas. After every shoot, take care to clean things like door handles, payment terminals, hard seating areas, and more. Taking such care will further reduce any chance of transmitting infections. 

By taking precautions and understanding potential risks, it’s possible to increase the safety of getting headshots during this pandemic. To ensure your own safety, be sure the photographer is willing to share what they are doing to ensure safety. This can include asking if they’re willing to do what you require of them such as keeping a safe distance. This pandemic requires new approaches to safely get work done but it does not have to limit results. 

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Rafael Larin
Rafael Larin is an award-winning headshot photographer in the Los Angeles area. He operates the Headshots by The Light Committee studio where he regularly works with actors and others to create professional headshots. Studio services for acting include commercial look and theatrical look headshots, and slate video services. He also provides modeling digitals and headshots, corporate headshots, and other photography services.
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