Tag Archives: Headshots 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!

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!

How much should I pay for headshots?

How much do headshots cost? How much SHOULD headshots cost? How much is too much for headshots and how much is not enough for headshots? Every actor has an opinion on the subject and odds are good their opinion is that you should pay however much they paid for theirs!

The real answer depends on where you live and what you’re looking for. Top photographers in New York can charge upwards of $1,100, more with hair and makeup included. Concurrently, you can walk into a photo studio in the mall and pay $50. With the former you will receive hundreds of professional pictures that look pulled from the pages of a fashion magazine. With the latter you will most likely walk away with one or two usable pictures that look pulled from the pages of a high school year book. I’m not saying that you can’t get by with a $50 headshot– if you shine through in the photograph then you shine through in the photograph. I’m also not saying you need to spend $1,100 on your headshot– a slick, expensive looking shot might not suit your type. It all boils down to what type of image you want to present.

Are you just dipping your toe in the water, looking to do background work and maybe submit on small parts on actorsaccess.com or backstage.com? Then a basic picture that shows what you look like with a plain background might serve you until you decide you want to take the plunge and make pursuing acting a major priority.

Do you look like Angelina Jolie? Have you just shot a great part in a studio feature and need a picture that says “I’m the next big thing?” Then expensive headshots might be a good investment for you.

Now what if neither of these scenarios apply to you? Then odds are goods that you are like the majority of serious actors. Both starting out and established, working actors need headshots and they need them once a year, on average. Every time your look changes dramatically you need new headshots. Oftentimes when you acquire or change representation you need new headshots. If you aren’t getting the results you want from mailings to agents and managers or submitting yourself for parts on actors access or backstage– you guessed it– you need new headshots.

Financially it just doesn’t make sense to spend that much money on your headshots every year– it’s not a good investment. That’s why many photographers, especially in Los Angeles, fall in between the two extremes. I currently charge $400 for a longer shoot and $200 for a shorter shoot, if you just need a few looks. Before I started my photography business, I went to photographers of every budget level and I can honestly say that I was most satisfied by mid-price photographers. It’s just my opinion, but I’ve found that good photographers start at around $150. I personally don’t believe in spending more than $600 on headshots. Anything past that and you’re not paying for the picture– you’re paying for the security of going with an established “name” photographer. That’s certainly worth something but I’m not personally willing to spend hundreds of dollars when I can secure the same piece of mind through properly researching and vetting a photographer before booking a session with them. I wouldn’t pay that much money as an actor and I wouldn’t charge that much money as a photographer. With a mid-price photographer you get quality without busting the bank and many of them offer quarterly specials if you keep your eyes out, especially during pilot season (wink wink).

There are, of course, no hard and fast rules when it comes to headshots. You could find great headshots for $100 in Idaho– or you could get useless pictures for $900 in NYC– but your odds of getting a good photographer and your odds of walking away feeling good about how much you spent increase dramatically when you do your research.

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.