the making of a headshot

The Making of a Headshot

Headshots are so important to an actor (or anyone who has a presence on the web), and I really like to take time to work with the actor to get the right light, expression, and pose.  The background to me is incidental, though I realize the background also has to be just right, and in fact, sometimes dictated by the casting site where the headshot will be featured.  I personally like very simple neutral backgrounds, from white to dark gray, or without a backdrop but very blurred.  All the elements of a headshot should work together so that the person who is the subject of the photograph stands out, not any one of the components.  An extreme lighting setup, expression, pose, or anything else that’s extreme can be more dramatic, but probably not the type of headshot most people need.

When this young actress above called me for an updated headshot, she had a specific look in mind, one that she said is “her.”  I asked her to send me some headshots she’d seen that she liked, not to copy them, but to help me see what is “her.”  It was interesting for me to see her choices, because the lighting and camera angle were different in each one. One was black and white, and the expression was different (from a blank stare to slightly smiling).  When I asked her what it was about the headshots that she liked (since it wasn’t as obvious as I’d hoped it would be when I asked for them), she said, “They feel natural and not forced or posed.”  Fair enough. Pretty much no one these days wants anything forced or posed, unless they are modeling for a magazine.

The goal is always creating a great photograph that is authentic and shows something special about the subject.  Once I sit anyone in front of the camera, I like to find their best side, experiment with giving them directions and we go from there, making micro adjustments of expression, and body position.  That’s really what posing for headshots is about, minor adjustments to create a natural look and expression that still gets attention of casting agents.

During the photoshoot we’ll periodically review the images we are getting, in order to make sure we end up with the look we set out to get.  It builds the actor’s confidence when he or she sees we’re getting there, and will end up with a great headshot!  I love it when the actor can relax, try new things, laugh, and feel great about the whole headshot experience.

For this actress, that’s what happened.  At the top, is her final image she selected for editing.

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