My very first headshot was taken by my dad. You should have seen the configuration of floor lamps and sheets hanging on the wall we had to make up a studio. It was right before my first audition out of college and I needed a headshot. My dad has always had a mild fascination with the camera as a toy to play with and use for the benefit of others. So, I made him my headshot photographer. For what we had to work with and the fact that my dad had never taken formal portraits or headshots of any kind, it was pretty decent! (Thanks for being volunteered, Dad!) The first thing the director said at my audition was, “You’re prettier in real life than in your headshot.” Oh! I had been so concerned with the lighting and how fat my shirt made me look that I hadn’t been thinking about whether or not the picture captured me. Maybe the picture was too dark and we didn’t catch the light in my eyes. Maybe I’d been preoccupied with the contortionist act I was performing. Or maybe it was something else, but I’d just learned my first lesson in headshots.
Lesson #1: Your headshot must look like you and you like your headshot. (Besides the fact that no one does black and white anymore.)
Fast forward. I am now having my headshots taken by a professional headshot photographer. He’s been recommended to me by one of my favorite directors. He and I have talked about what to wear and what not to wear. I’ve had my haircut a couple weeks before to let my hair readjust. I’m ready! We met at a dance studio and started the shoot. Here’s where something I hadn’t anticipated started to interfere with the process. I was uncomfortable. A middle aged man, whom I had never previously met, was taking pictures of me in a secluded room and trying to draw out a wide range of emotions for the camera. I want to be clear that this photographer was completely appropriate and did everything with integrity, but that didn’t change the fact that I didn’t know how to handle it at the time. After all was said and done, I had maybe three really good, natural looking shots.
Lesson #2: If you are uncomfortable, the camera knows it.
So, I was able to use those two or three shots for almost three years and get a lot of work. Last Summer I went to a casting workshop in Seattle with a casting director from LA and asked for her thoughts about my headshot. “There’s something not quite professional about it.” Keep in mind I was printing this headshot on card-stock (something another director had told me was ok). But there was also a difference between the style of Seattle theatre headshots and that of Hollywood film headshots. Ok. Time for new ones. This time I picked a highly recommended and sought after headshot photographer in Seattle who has an eye for the LA style, Susan Doupe. If you are in Seattle, go to her she is awesome! I picked out my outfits, got my makeup done and had a fabulous headshot session.
Now I’m in LA, using my quality, LA level heashots. A couple weeks ago I went to a casting workshop. The casting director looked at my headshot and gave me a scene where I play a serious government agent. After I finished the scene she said, “That was great! But I would never cast you as a serious government agent. In person you are cute and bubbly and in your early 20s. In your headshot you look like you’re in your 30s and a serious agent or mom.” She is not the first person to tell me the same thing.
Lesson #3: Makeup and wardrobe can make or break a headshot session.
Lesson #4: Know your type and how to capture that on camera.
So within six months of my latest headshot session, I go back the drawing board. Several things lent themselves to this headshot session success:
- This time I had my friend, an experienced headshot photographer and actor, take my shots and I really was myself with her! (Audrey Matos)
- I wore very little makeup (not because it over glamorized me, but it aged me!).
- I wore clothes that are MINE, very ME, not something I picked out just for my headshot session (one of my wise husband’s pet peeves).
- I now know my type (more on that later)!
Here is the result! Granted, this is only one step in the journey. I am sure that I’ll learn something else from this group of shots and know what to do better next time. It’s all a part of the journey. Enjoy!