Tag Archives: Advice for actors

What to wear for a headshot session (and what not to)

What do I wear for my headshots?

What should you wear for your headshots?

The question I get asked most is, without a doubt, “What should I wear for my headshot session?” or “How do I pick an outfit for my headshot?”  There are two answers to this question– a general answer and a specific answer.  The general answer is that you should wear an outfit to your headshot shoot that you would wear to an audition– you want to look like a person, not an “actor.”  That means no black turtlenecks, and you don’t need to dress up in a business suit unless you plan on playing a businessman (or businesswoman!).  The actress pictured to the right is frequently ‘typed’ as a cop or lawyer and wanted a headshot that showed that without hitting the nail on the head, so we chose a fitted leather jacket.  Before you start pulling outfits from your closet it’s best to first identify your type .  Check out my blog post on how to figure out your actor type.

Now on to the specifics:

  • Once you’ve identified your “type” bring an outfit that best represents it.  Look at how your “type” is represented in different mediums.  What does your competition wear in commercials, on procedurals, in movies?  There are slight variations for every type. Bring a casual option and a more formal option.
  • Don’t bring clothes with loud patterns or designs.  Avoid writing and logos.  That isn’t to say you should be boring– colors and designs are okay, especially for commercial shots, just make sure that what you’re wearing doesn’t distract from you.  The viewer’s eye should be drawn to your face, not your t-shirt.
  • Bring at least one option that matches your eye color.  This can make your eyes pop.
  • Focus on bringing a variety of necklines– this is all that will show in the majority of your shots.  Girls, avoid spaghetti straps as this can look like you’re in a victoria’s secret ad– unless that’s what you’re going for.
  • Avoid bulky or rumpled clothes.  No christmas sweaters and no wrinkled dress shirts.
  • Don’t worry so much about your pants!  Odds are slim we’ll ever see them.  Girls make sure you wear something comfortable and durable if you’re shooting with me because we’ll be moving around a lot.
  • If there’s one theme here it’s bring a bunch of options!  Even if you don’t end up shooting half of them it’s good to have them with you.
Picking an outfit for headshots

How do I pick an outfit for my headshots?

Those are some ground rules, now feel free to break them.  There are exceptions to every rule– what works for one actor may not work at all for another.  Some actors should absolutely wear solid colors and solid colors alone, but others really can work with patterns.  Even if it’s not something that ends up working for your primary headshot it could be perfect to round out your promotional shots on your webpage and imdb.  The same actress wanted to make sure she got a friendly, approachable shot so she brought her most comfortable plaid shirt as an option.  We didn’t spend a lot of time shooting it but in the shot to the left I think it ended up working out for her.

Lastly, if you have any more questions about what outfit to wear for headshots ask your photographer for advice!  I always have my clients send me a couple of pictures (preferably their old headshots that aren’t working for them) and give them personalized suggestions in our phone consultation.

Visit http:/www.kitpictures.com to find out more about me and my work!

Top Ten Ways to Tell if a Talent Agency is a Scam

How do I know if my talent agency is a scam?

You’ve been approached by a talent or modeling agent who wants you to sign with them.  This could be the start of a dream come true or it could be the start of a nightmare.  There are a disturbing number of “agents” and “managers” out there who are just trying to take your money.  Before you enter into any kind of agreement with an agency you need to adequately vet them to make sure they are legit.  Here are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a scam agency.

Top Ten Ways to Spot a Scam Agency

  1. They ask for money up front.  FOR ANYTHING. This cannot be repeated enough.  No matter what reason they give you, DON’T. Even if it sounds legit, DON’T.  If they won’t represent you, count your lucky stars you didn’t sign anything and walk out the door.  Agents make their money by taking a commission WHEN YOU BOOK A JOB.  If you don’t make money, THEY don’t make money.
  2. They require you to take pictures with their in house photographer. Actors are expected to pay for their own headshots (it works a little differently in the modeling world) but you should never feel pressured into working with “their” photographer or makeup artist or web designer.  Most agencies have numerous photographers they recommend but the decision is up to the actor.  Your agent should certainly never be the one behind the camera.  Run.
  3. They demand money to be listed on their website or in their “book.” This just isn’t how the industry works.  Real agents and managers submit your headshot and resume through breakdown services.  If they have a website or “book” it’s a supplement to that and shouldn’t cost you a penny to be in.
  4. They charge you to attend a class, seminar or workshop. Your agent is not your acting coach and they can recommend classes but you shouldn’t be paying them for their advice.  If they offer it for free, great, but they shouldn’t be taking your money.
  5. They advertise themselves in internet ads or the newspaper classified section. Legit agents and managers rarely need to go out looking for new talent– the talent finds them.  They are regularly inundated with headshots and resumes as well as professional recommendations.  If they are spending money to advertise to actors they may be looking to make money off of them, rather than with them.
  6. They claim to represent famous actors or models that they do not. Cross reference their claims against the internet movie database for PROFESSIONALS (www.imdbpro.com). Pro members can not only look up the contact information for most every reputable agency in New York and LA, they can also see their CLIENT LIST!  If an agent claims to represent someone that they do not then they are not someone you want to associate with professionally.  This is also a great resource when deciding between prospective legit agencies.
  7. They guarantee you work. There are no guarantees in this business and not even the top agents or managers can promise you work.
  8. They do not work out of their own office space. If the agency can’t afford to rent a space they probably aren’t making much money from their client’s work.  This is not a hard and fast rule but if you are meeting someone at a studio rented for the day you should have your guard up.  Of course, if they are a very successful scam agency they may have their own offices as well.
  9. There have been complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau. Call your local office and see if there is any information about them.
  10. They are not franchised with Actors Equity or SAG. In Los Angeles or New York City, if an agent is not representing union actors, chances are good they aren’t making their money by securing their clients work.

It can be difficult to spot a scam, even if you are familiar with the warning signs.  These people are pros and can adjust their con job to whoever they are talking to.  They can impersonate a real agent perfectly for weeks, maybe even get you an appointment or two (real or fake), and then go in for your cash.  It isn’t always cut and dry– they could be representing you AND taking advantage of you.  I don’t think it pays to be paranoid but if something feels off– it usually is.

K.

Visit www.kitpictures.com to book a shoot with me today!

How do I tell what my type is?

How to figure out your actor type:

People talk a lot about “type” in this industry but the concept of type is inherently flawed.  Of course you’re more complex than a single type!  You’re a small town girl from Ohio but you trained at RADA and you love nothing more than rocking out to 80s hair metal!  You’re worldly and wise, down to earth AND a scatterbrained dreamer with your head in the clouds.  Once you’re established as an actor you’ll have the chance to portray characters as multi-faceted as you are, but in the meantime you need to be able to market yourself in a way that is targeted, specific and immediately accessible to agents, managers and casting directors.  You have to know how to speak their language.

So what’s an actor’s “type,” exactly?

Kit Pictures, Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

The Boy Next Door

Your “type” is less about who you are, intrinsically, as a person or an actor, and more about who people perceive you to be.   It’s your first impression, plain and simple, and your default casting.  Knowing and understanding your type is a key component to marketing yourself to agents and managers.  What type of actor are you?  If you have a wholesome, girl-next door look you shouldn’t send out a headshot that exudes exotic sensuality, for example.  Don’t send mixed messages.  If you want to play the exotic beauty then you need to look like the exotic beauty inside of you at default.  Your headshot needs to reflect what people see when you walk into a room.  That is your “actor type.”

How do you tell what your type is?

Kit Pictures, Los Angeles Headshot Photography

The Quirky, Smart Girl

Lesly Kahn does a fantastic exercise on the first day of her comedy intensive where she holds up your headshot and asks the class (a group of total strangers) to call out adjectives that describe the person in the picture.  She then has you stand up and take notes on the type of roles they think you could play.  If your two lists are different it might be time to think about getting new headshots.

I also know an agency that holds “typing sessions” for new clients, where all the agents and assistants fill out a questionnaire based on a short meeting.

The key similarity between both of these exercises is that you are gathering the opinions of strangers. Your close friends and family might have a difficult time being objective about your type because they know just how complex and wonderful you really are– they’re never going to tell you that you’re the quirky computer expert after they’ve seen you play Hamlet!

I’m not saying you won’t get to play meaty dramatic roles in your career– you may get the chance right away!  There is no single established path to success in this business.  But knowing your type is a useful tool that can help you understand and exploit the assumptions people make about you at a glance and this knowledge can help you get the most out of your headshot session.

K.

Visit www.kitpictures.com to book a shoot with me today!

Horizontal Vs. Vertical Headshots

A question I get asked a lot is “should my headshots be horizontal or vertical?”  Flipping through portfolios you’ll see that some photographers clearly favor one over the other.  Peter Hurley, for example, almost exclusively shoots horizontal shots, while Theo and Juliet have a tendency to favor vertical headshots.  There are many schools of thought on this.

Horizontal headshots allow you to fill more of the page in a printed headshot, but it’s important to note that the printed copy of your headshot has become secondary to the file that your agent uses to submit you for projects online.  If you’ve ever sorted submissions in Breakdown Services (the primary way casting directors receive submissions from agents and managers) or even Actors Access then you know that casting directors are sifting through page after page of thumbnails.   I was recently talking about the horizontal/vertical debate with a commercial agent who told me he requires his clients to have vertical headshots because they “pop” more when people are scanning through thumbnails in breakdown services .  Take a look at the smaller thumbnails below:

In my opinion, there are advantages to both vertical and horizontal headshots.  Vertical headshots may “pop” more in a gallery of thumbnails, but it isn’t as though horizontal headshots are invisible, and they may in fact “pop” more when the submission is actually opened.  Keep in mind that the agent I mentioned before was a commercial agent– in most commercial castings your headshot is the sole deciding factor of wether or not you get called in for an audition (or your submission even gets opened!)  You’re essentially trying to get picked out of a lineup.  With theatrical auditions, your headshot is important, but your resume (or your agent’s pedigree) could have as much or more to do with you landing that audition than your thumbnail in a lineup.

All that being said, since people have such adamant opinions on the subject I make sure to capture every look, setup and expression that I can both vertically and horizontally.  The client should leave the shoot with as many options as possible, so that they get their money’s worth.  Some agents and managers are notorious for demanding new headshots of their clients, even if their look hasn’t changed dramatically– you could save yourself a lot of time and money by thinking ahead before you get your headshots taken and making sure you pack a wide variety of looks and styles into your first shoot so you’ll have options to go back and pull from.

K.