Guide to Amazing Actor Headshots
How to get better headshots with 7 powerful steps
If you have ever forked over the moola to finally get a headshot – that much needed new headshot that could open some doors for your acting career…and you finally shot it but then AFTER…crickets?! Cheer up. You are in the right place. I have a great preparation guide with great techniques I want to share with actors to help get them amazing headshots that stand out and market them well. But first, I want to address something important. So let’s go back to the old frustrating mediocre headshot story.
I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel…so this won’t be too painful to read;) I’LL EVEN SHOW YOU ONE OF MY HEADSHOTS OR TWO THAT DIDN’T DO MUCH FOR ME
The story continued…
So you shoot these new headshots, and after your shoot, you are all excited about the results! You think the pics are going to be amazing! Finally, this could be just what you need to get you that dream agent, or more auditions, RIGHT?! THEN…..drum roll………KAPLUNK! BIG KAPLUNK!!! There is barely any new momentum than what you had with your shots BEFORE. Talk about frustrating!
And now, let’s add another element into this case. Let’s say the photos are GORGEOUS! (Not bad- not so-so, but GORGEOUS! !)
SO Wait, What?! WHY??!!!!! Why didn’t something new happen?! Why aren’t they generating auditions or helping to get an agent when you submit? Why isn’t your pretty headshot working?! Ugh! Well maybe it isn’t specific enough for you when you are starting out, maybe it looks so pretty that it seems too airbrushed and no one trusts that, or maybe it didn’t capture your personality, or your small thumbnail isn’t popping. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter now. Let’s start over. Let’s let it go and start fresh with a great new plan that will allow you to showcase the roles you play well and also your personality. I have a guide that can help shed some light on ways to do this. But…
Before we dive into this, I want to discuss something that is very important for an actor’s life. It is having a healthy mindset and letting go of the things you can’t control because there are alot in this industry. Let’s first focus on the things you CAN CONTROL. Because truth is in this industry, there are a lot of things we can’t control. We can’t control what we really look like or control if we actually BOOK a role, but we CAN CONTROL how we go about our work. WE CAN CONTROL choosing to work on our craft and do the work! And we CAN control how we go about our next headshot session. Repeat after me. Take control of the things you can control and let the rest go! This is so important in life and especially for an actor’s life. Saying this with much love and from my own experience.
So now we mastered that! Now back to planning a headshot session and taking back control over something important that can help your next shoot tremendously.
Let’s make a game plan together!
READ ON FOR THE NEW HEADSHOT PREP GAME:
HOW TO ACHIEVE BETTER HEADSHOTS in 7 POWERFUL STEPS
You must take the time to make a great photoshoot plan.
No more showing up throwing spaghetti at the wall or being somewhat vague with terms like, “trophy wife or bad guy.” This system will help you get you more specific and won’t scare you with terms like “branding.” In reality i like to think of this as branding made simple. But actors don’t like to use the word branding and I understand why!
But you may wonder, what dos being specific have to do with it? Think about how as an actor prepares, and acting class teaches to be specific. We respond well to specifics (just like we learn in acting class- you have to be specific with your backstory, your choices, etc.) It’s the same with your acting headshot shoot. You need to be specific with your looks to shoot– and also with what you bring energetically and emotionally to make the look or role work even stronger! We need to make a specific plan! It will give yourself more to work with and play with, and your shoot will be more fun and better than you can even imagine. This plan when done right, can also help you discover some great looks to shoot that show your personality, your vibe, and you as an actor in different roles that you can play well and that you are either already auditioning for, or should be auditioning for! It is to help you get some amazing headshots!
I am sharing with you what I do with my clients to get them shots that showcase them stronger and standout.
MY 7-STEP PROCESS FOR BETTER HEADSHOTS.
Take some time to do this and enjoy it! Make it fun! No stress, no pressure, just fun and dream! Enjoy the process.
STEP 1) Describe yourself
Reflect upon your personality, your vibe, and your beautiful uniqueness.
This is about YOU the person– not just you as an actor.
STEP 2) IDEAL ROLES FOR YOU
You will next reflect and brainstorm about ideal roles for you– roles you dream to play, and also roles you seem to book or roles you are getting called into audition for often.
Think about roles you play now and are well suited for, and roles you know you could play well if given the opportunity. Brainstorm and dream about your dream roles.
Write it all out! It doesn’t need to be organized just GET dreaming and write it down! You can go as far as to really describe the role in detail, and even the film or tv show, if you would like. Have fun! Be free in these exercises.
STEP 3- WRITE YOURSELF A CHARACTER DESCRIPTION FROM YOUR FAVORITE ROLES THAT ARE STANDING OUT TO YOU FROM STEP 2:
WRITE A CHARACTER DESCRIPTION FOR YOURSELF in that role!
Write a character description of the role and go as far as to take steps to connect yourself to it!
IF IT MAKES SENSE FOR YOU AND THE ROLE- YOU CAN TRY Combining Step 1 with Step 2 and DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THOSE ROLES.
Take some key information about yourself that is standing out from step 1 and make that role even more specific to you! ie Not everyone would play “cop” the same because we all have different personality traits, etc. Make it more unique to you this way and specific. Feel free to have fun with it. There are really no rules to this –but bringing certain traits of yourself to a specific role can help you to get specific and visualize yourself in a dream role/scene/film and get specific TO MAKE IT YOUR OWN. It can help alot when you go to shoot later–and when you decide on wardrobe later, too TO MAKE IT REALLY YOU– YOUR OWN IN THE ROLE! Start being specific. But don’t get in your head. It doesn’t need to be perfect or exact and there is no formula what works is different for everyone. It can all change later just start by doing some work! Just have fun with it. Also I want to note that for sure I understand that certain roles are nothing like you– I understand this. What I’m trying to say is do some work- don’t just make the role vague. Do character work whatever that is for you. And an idea is to focus on how YOU can bring your unique elements to a role and tap into this when shooting so it feels like you! You in the certain role! (You can do this when this suits you and/or the role). Or sometimes you just may need to draw outside yourself to connect of course but you hopefully understand where I’m going here. Do things that work for you- connect yourself to the role and do the work. I always love bringing more of the real you to your work and photos always! It is more authentic and that is what acting is as you know!
STEP 4: NARROW THE LOOKS/DREAM ROLES DOWN FOR YOUR SHOOT.
This step is now about taking into consideration all your dream roles, what you want to do more of, what you are going out for now, and analyzing what you need NOW in terms of photos based on all the work and inner work you have done. You will now need to narrow it down and be led about what you will decide to actually shoot now — so you can advance your career, get more auditions and more dream auditions–and decide what you will shoot for your next upcoming photoshoot for those new actor headshots
CHOOSE THE BEST LOOKS TO SHOOT NOW THAT COULD HELP MARKET YOU. NARROW AND FINE TUNE SOME CHOICES.
Pick and choose the favorite and best roles that are standing out to you! What are you most drawn to from the reflection work you have done? What are you most suited for right now that you need to be auditioning for?!
You may begin to see some may overlap with different roles that are similar– and you could maybe group them together in terms of wardrobe or vibe. Some may be combined and some could stay more separate. Some may be better suited for down the road at a later shoot and could be crossed off the list (for now). Really think about what you need now to help showcase you and things that you are missing.
Tip: You may want to take some time looking at the breakdowns to narrow more. Make sure you didn’t miss a look you really need. See which roles could work for your roles that you have written about. Ask yourself, If I had a headshot done that was inspired from one of those “roles” would it work for me to submit myself on the things I am seeing and drawn to on the breakdowns? Anything missing? If it is, add into your possible looks/role inspiration to shoot! Or maybe you will omit it. See what catches your eyes on those breakdowns? Maybe we missed something from step 2 on your dream role you really need. If so, that’s ok it is part of the process.
You will want to pick 4-6 roles/looks to focus on for your headshot session. It’s ok if there is some overlap with genre or even wardrobe but just be specific with the vibe/characters/story/tones even if there is some similarity it’s ok! it will get you great photos! Make sure to have a few looks of variety however in the mix ok.
Next. Take a break and regroup again later or the next day to further decide with a clearer head.
STEP 5: FINAL LOOKS– AND GETTING SPECIFIC WITH WARDROBE.
AFTER FINALIZING THE LOOKS/ROLES YOU ARE GOING TO SHOOT, YOU WILL NEXT GET SPECIFIC WITH WARDROBE! BEGIN TO DRESS YOURSELF LIKE A STYLIST! BE A STYLIST FOR YOURSELF IN THAT ROLE AND HAVE FUN! MAKE IT YOUR OWN SO IT’S VERY YOU IN THAT ROLE.
You can pull inspiration from shows, movie posters and media coverage on the show or character. Go to imdb and look up the show and see what the character similar to what you are going for is wearing. Maybe combine some. Make it your own. But whatever you do remember the colors can set a mood but also make sure they flatter you specifically! Always wear what still flatters YOU and that you like. Never wear something you dislike. Look at movie posters. Use your imagination and have fun with it.
Step 6: DO SCENE WORK/EMOTIONAL PREPARATION WORK FOR THE LOOKS/ROLES THAT YOU HAVE FINALLY CHOSEN FOR YOUR HEADSHOT SESSION.
DO IT IN ADVANCE AND YOU WILL USE THIS DURING YOUR ACTUAL SHOOT!
I really recommend trying this if you haven’t. And don’t half do it. Really connect and do the work and make choices. Brainstorm different scenes, WRITE THEM IF THEY DON’T YET EXIST AND you can use THIS and do the work to connect. It will make a difference and help get you authentic shots. You will use this scene-work when you finally are on set the day of your headshot shoot! Wahoo! We are almost there and have a great plan! Yayyyy!
JUST LIKE AN ACTOR PREPARES, YOU WILL NOW PREPARE EMOTIONALLY AND CONNECT TO THE ROLES. DO SCENE WORK — YOU WILL USE THIS FOR THE ACTUAL SHOOT– SO YOU ARE VERY CONNECTED
You definitely can use actual scene work for the roles/looks and play with it while you shoot. It helps alot to have something to do and work from on a real level! You can use inner prep work and really work on a role before you shoot so you can pull. Whatever your method is, use it! This is something I like to do to get great shots so i’m not just winging it. Again, being specific and having something to do works well for some people! You can try different layers and use different scenes you set up for yourself to get different things for each look even!
Step 7: ON SHOOT DAY–MAKE SURE TO SHOOT AS YOURSELF ALSO IN EACH LOOK. THIS STEP IS ALSO FOR USE DURING YOUR SHOOT!
It is important to also just pull away the acting and be you. This is where you can again go back to that wonderful stuff that makes you you- even have it written down on a 4×5 card some beautiful descriptive words about yourself, and reflect on it for a bit and shoot. You can also use music! I love favorite music!
SUMMARY AND FINAL THOUGHTS AND TIPS
We have learned the system, made a plan, and gotten very excited!
Let’s try this whole photo shoot thing again, but with a different and strategic plan! A plan to really market yourself and get some very authentic vibes of YOU! Forget about pretty. Most of us photographers shoot pretty. Meaning, we will get you flattering and striking shots. That is just going to happen. But what you need is the real, diggity, dawg YOU. We need real. Raw. YOU! The good, bad and ugly too. But of course, for your main shot, show more of your good side. Show yourself in a good light, even in a more friendly light. Unless of course, all you really do is the bad guy. But even the bad guy can be good. Think about that.
Another note about the word pretty. Pretty is well…don’t judge me when I say this, but pretty is pretty much the normal in LA and also in headshot land. And a lot of casting directors see a lot of pretty shots. Everyone is pretty. Shots are shot to “capture pretty.” Even if you don’t think so, you are pretty or handsome. But what everyone is not, well what we all are not– is YOU!
Bring it all together for an amazing photoshoot!
As a reminder, shoot those looks, have fun, use the prep work/character work, and also take times to shoot when you are just being you! You will get some great authentic shots and they will also market you well!
Challenging all actors: I challenge you to really dig in to find some very unique attributes about yourselves in your inner core. Pray about it. Ask God who you are. Get in tuned with the real you. Don’t hide behind the acting. After you dig into these things and really think about them, at your shoot, feel free to let it all go. You can do some acting at the shoot too, with putting yourself in a role, in the dream look/dream role you are shooting. Ask yourself, what am I going to bring to this role, how am I GOING TO DO IT that’s uniquely me? But also, I encourage you to also shoot some shots just as you– being your amazing self. See what happens and what sort of great shots you get by doing a combination of this. Let’s get some expressions and vibes that are uniquely YOU.
Get in tuned with these things: Personality, vibe, soul, core, characteristics, even the way you talk. Really try to get a feel for yourself with that first exercise. Then also the shoot, bring the amazing qualities about you to the camera, by just being you. Even just tapping into this subconsciously and consciously will really help you “feel yourself” during your shoot and make you feel confident about you and who you are, and what you are doing. Because you have a ton to offer to these roles you will play. You are made by God and amazing.
It is my hope that this will really help you to let it flow at your shoot, to have fun, and to be you and get some raw captures of YOU. Try it. Message me, dm me, tag me or leave a comment below! I’d love to hear how your shots turn out. Or if you would like to shoot with me, reach out. I’d love to guide you through this process and help capture you on camera.
Work with me
I offer one on coaching on this process and do photo shoot prep sessions to help pick wardrobe! I will help you with wardrobe and find flattering colors and give you mood boards for your looks too! Just email me to get started and send me your current photos (if any) and include your social media handles, info about yourself and describe yourself and what you love to do, your hobbies, your work or goals as an actor, and we will get it set up!
GLOW UP TIPS TO LOOK YOUR BEST AT YOUR SHOOT
I have a free guide with a special skincare recipe TO DO the night before your shoot. It will get you photo ready and help you make looking your best the next day! It’s free!
I also have my ebook (OVERNIGHT GLOW UP) that covers in detail things to do (and not do) to look your best for an event or shoot. It works with 1 day to prepare or with up to a month of preparation to look your best. It covers mind, body, nutrition, exercise, diet tweaks and skincare to get ready fast when life has gotten out of whack and your events shoots are here– ready or not! Do this the 1-3 days before your shoots– or 2-4 weeks before if you have the time! It helps you get back on a healthy track again with visible results, that help us to keep going, too.
Follow me on instagram @angelstudiophotography
My personal instagram is @girlrambo