Headshot Photography: A Los Angeles Guide
If taking thousands of shots has taught me anything, it is that you don’t always have to look your best to get a perfect headshot.
You can even use a typical phone and still get an impressive headshot; what matters most is how you strategize the photos to get the best effect. I know that might be a lot to take in, but don’t worry, I’ll teach you how it is done.
What does an effective headshot entail?
When it comes to actors and celebrities, a headshot is more than just a photo to them, as every photo has to convey a perfect combination of color, personality, lighting and composition.
Most of my potential clients and regular clients often ask me, “What do I do to get the best out of a headshot session?” The question has become so recurring that I have to blog about and maybe it could help a few other photographers. Most of my opinions are gained from my extensive experience in headshot photography as well as working with managers, actors and agents.
Here are few tips:
- Headshots are simply for acting, not social apps- By this I mean, unless you are using the headshots for marketing or something like that, there is no need to look ultra-attractive. It all comes down to being specific and getting a photo that actually looks like you. Therefore, if your assessment of a headshot is how attractive you are, then you are heading in the wrong direction mate. Instead, focus on whether the headshot will get you into a room with casting directors. Your headshot should not have much disparity with your actual face.
- Why do you need the headshots ?- For instance if the headshot photos are to be used in more official position such as CEO, mayor or lawyer, you’ll want some of your shots to bring out your authoritative side. By this, I’m not saying that you try so hard to look authoritative, as the end result will be a headshot that looks forced. And you don’t want that, do you? I have taken numerous ‘official’ headshots and I can tell you that the camera captures even the most subtle thoughts, especially if they are action based.
- Eyes, eyes and eyes- too many eyes in one sentence huh! Talk to the photographer and question them about the best angles to get a perfect shot. Where do you place your chin? Are you to squint your eyes? How do you smile without necessarily squinting your eyes? Here, I would recommend that you open your eyes a little bit wide and do so in a more natural way. But still, consult your headshot photographer to ensure you get the best angle.
- There is no need to be a perfectionist- stop stressing on the small stuff, for example, a small wrinkle on your shirt or thread of hair that’s out of place. I’m not saying that you can show up to a photoshoot with the most weird and wrinkled outfit ever, well you can, but what I am trying to say here is that you don’t have to freak out over the small things that do not appear perfect.
- Be relaxed - the best way to get perfect headshots is if you are relaxed and you are yourself. The headshot photographer is tasked with the job of helping you be relaxed and you can make the job easier for them by being yourself. Stop criticizing the ‘bad’ parts of you as we are all perfectly imperfect, instead, just relax and stop being hard on yourself.
- Know your photographer- headshot photography does not only entail high quality gear and understanding the best way to take a perfect shot, it is also understanding the client and their goals. Does the photographer understand the goal of your headshots? Has the photographer shot other actors or high-profile individuals before? Does the photographer know how to engage with clients to get the most out of a headshot session. You also want to be comfortable with the photographer as it will be key to getting the perfect headshots, especially if you need them for marketing.
- Check out the headshot photographer’s portfolio- how do the clients look, especially those with a similar skin tone. Make sure that the photographer meets your needs before hiring him/her.
How to best strategize your headshots
- Choose the Right Style
Does the acting manager have certain requirements concerning how a headshot should look or feel like? Are you allowed to have your own styling? Personally, I prefer if we sit down and get to sort out all these issues before we can embark on a headshot session. Every headshot has to meet the set requirements and still bring out your good side.
- Choose the Right Wardrobe
I often advise my clients to dress for the job they are looking to clinch and not what they have. Always dress to impress as the headshots will be the focus when in a room full of acting directors.
- Choose the Right Makeup
I recommend using a professional makeup artist to get your makeup and hair done. I can also set you up with a professional stylist if you like.
How to choose the right headshot photographer
Picking the ideal headshot photographer can be very daunting especially if you do not have an extensive knowledge of photography. But don’t worry, I have a few tips that could help you make the right decision.
- The photographers have a good grasp of the current trends in the business?
I’m actually quite surprised to see that even today most photographers are still stuck with the old techniques, instead of focusing on the current trends and standards. A good photographer will get out there and engage with agents and directors to understand the current trends of what is required.
When taking headshots, it is important that the actor be the point of focus. You might notice that this aspect of headshots is given, but looking at headshots nowadays, I’m surprised to see that some photographers still insist on taking headshots in front of busy backgrounds, bushes, brick walls and even trees.
But if you look at the current trends, most agents and casting directors are interested in clean, crisp backgrounds, as it allows the actor to be the main point of focus and still highlights their specific branding and type.
Photography trends are changing every day; make sure that both you and your headshot photographer are up to speed.
- Photographers know all about lighting and angles, but do they know anything about you
Other than the casual conversation you had with the photographer over the phone, do they know anything about you? Does the photographer know your skin type? Does the photographer understand the roles you are targeting? Does the photographer know the features/aspects that make you special in your category/type?
Most of the actors I have worked with always have a special aspect of them that stands out, regardless to say that I’m always open to ideas, thoughts and opinions of my clients. This way, every single headshot I take is different from the last.
- Does gender matter to you?
We all have our preferences; some prefer male photographers to female photographers and the opposite is also true. But from my vast experience, I can tell you that gender doesn’t make one a good or bad photographer; it is simply a matter of preference.
Who do you feel comfortable working with, a male or female photographer? What’s most important here is that you are relaxed, and open to your photographer to get the best aspects of your branding and personality.
- Verify Referrals
Just because a certain photographer worked well with another actor doesn’t mean that they will also work well with you. In such a case, I would advise you to seek referrals. Ask the referees their experience working with photographer. You can also ask them if the photographers are up to industry trends and standards. Is the photographer open to the actor’s input? You can also consult your manager or agent, as they will always have a referral list.
- Is the photographer you’ve hired an actual headshot photographer?
I always advice my client, especially actors, that the best way to get perfect headshots is by hiring a headshot photographer. And most importantly, an experienced headshot photographer. Headshots, in its own, is a form of art and must adhere to the set standards to achieve the best quality.
- Chemistry is key
You want to have a smooth conversation with your photographer, in such a way that you can address your opinions and queries easily. You can request for a one-on-one consultation with the photographer to get a glimpse of their personality. And if you get the photographer through referrals, ask as to why they recommended the specific photographer.