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What Should You Avoid In Headshots?

By Brandon Andre,

I am a photographer and over the last 8 years of shooting professional actors' headshots in Los Angeles, I have seen the most insane things that actors will do when they come to my studio site to get acting headshots. Most of the time I’m left thinking, “yep, they are definitely never going to make it in the industry” and that’s not easy for me to say either. I genuinely want all of my clients who hire me to be able to use their acting headshots and report back to me that the headshots helped them get work with casting directors, but I’ve also had to learn that some people come to me for acting headshots just to make themselves feel better about themselves not because they have any real intention to become a successful, talented, and professional working actor in the acting industry.

Acting Headshots for these actors are purely an opportunity for them to feel good and to feel glamorous and I’m all for it, so in these instances, I’ll back down from my usual challenging of bad ideas just to give them a fun experience getting their pictures taken. For those who are serious professional actors and who are depending on acting headshots to make progress in their career and with casting directors, these are the things you HAVE to avoid for your next headshots session.

1. Getting No Rest The Day Before Your Headshots Session

I don’t know about you, but if I am getting professional acting photos taken of me I would be prepping 1-to 2 weeks out. The first thing I would start with is cutting out all forms of sugars because sugar/carbs cause inflammation in the body and can have serious effects on the skin like puffiness, redness, dry skin, breakouts, and deeper lines. On top of that, I would prepare to stay

hydrated on the days leading up to my professional acting headshots because you want your skin to look as healthy as possible for casting directors. Don’t overwork yourself 24hrs before you take your acting headshots!

Have all of your outfits and looks planned out ahead of time so that you can just sleep early to get a good night's rest. Doing all of this is how you will avoid waking up with bags, looking tired, or having no energy. Sleeping early will help you wake up early to get ready without pressure and be able to appropriately style your hair and do your makeup (yes, makeup that goes for males too). This is important because no professional acting headshot photographer in Los Angeles wants to deal with someone who is low energy and scatterbrained.

2. Not Knowing What Kind Of Actor Headshots You Need

You’d be surprised how many actors will come into my studio site and not know what kind of acting headshots they need. Commercial or theatrical images? Or both? Standard actor headshots or character looks? What’s your plan for using these headshots? Are you submitting them for representation, to a casting director, or to upload on actors access and start submitting yourself for roles? Do your research. Know what you’re spending money on, why you’re spending money on it, and what you expect to get out of it.

Don’t just get actor headshots because you know that’s what you’re supposed to do, but then don’t inform yourself of what you need to know for your scenario because everyone’s situation is different and

requires a different approach. Heck, some actors will even have agents and management come to my studio site having never discussed with their team what type of acting headshots or looks they need. Stop doing that!

3. No Having Any Makeup On And Poorly Styled Hair

Part of what makes me one of the best in Los Angeles headshot photography is how many times I have saved actors from having terrible hair and makeup. Let me make this loud and clear: FULL COVERAGE FOUNDATION IS REQUIRED FOR BOTH MALE AND FEMALE ACTORS. For my male audience who doesn’t understand what “full coverage” is (don’t worry I had to learn as well), it’s basically your basic foundation makeup that covers your skin in one even tone. This is not the same as getting tinted moisturizer or one of those blemishes sticks for your pimples, no.

The reason why full coverage is important for both males and females in headshot photography is primarily for the evenness of skin tone. No human has one color throughout their face. Our skin has different shades of colors from the forehead to the chin to under the eyes for varying reasons. That means the light will illuminate these differences and make your image look less flattering in headshots. You don’t want your skin to be a distraction for you, so get full coverage that is in your proper color. This also applies to males who accidentally overdo it on the makeup and end up looking too caked on or get the wrong color for their skin. Sometimes it’s better to invest in a makeup artist when taking headshots.

left no makeup right full coverage

Also, there is such a thing as overly done makeup in female headshot photography. I’m talking WAY too much contouring, heavy eye makeup with obvious false eyelashes, and unnatural lipstick. There is never a need to have this much makeup on. What this reads to any industry professional is that you are more interested in playing yourself and not in the character they’re hiring you for. So keep it light, natural, and become like a blank canvas for casting directors and production teams to envision what they can build off of you.

Avoid this kind of makeup

In headshot photography, hair should be

polished and clean. There is only so much a professional headshots photographer can fix in a post and it takes so much time in a session to address hair issues when actors don’t adequately prepare for their sessions by bringing the necessary hair accessories like a brush or comb or when they have excessively oily hair that is unmanageable. When your hair looks improper, your headshots can make you look trashy.

4. Wanting Excessive Retouching Done

Sometimes after a client receives their headshot proofs and chooses which headshot images they want to be retouched, they will ask for certain fixes that will make them appear unnatural and not a true depiction of themselves. For example; wanting to look way younger by removing natural age lines, making them look drastically skinnier, whitening the teeth where there’s a night and day difference, overly smoothing out wrinkles, and removing birthmarks or scars. For actors' headshots, the rule of thumb is you should look exactly like you do in your headshot as you would walking into a casting audition. If you don’t, you may be embarrassed in front of casting directors. People will know you photoshopped your images to look nothing like yourself and casting directors and production teams have no time to waste on actors who try to catfish their way onto their projects. Let your professional headshot photographer decide what is best and natural for you.

5. Bringing The Worst Options For Clothing

Timelessness is essential in headshot photography. When it comes to clothes, you always want to go for timelessness UNLESS you’re going for a character look that is trendy and modern which is intentional. Timelessness means that the outfit does not look like it would read “that’s a picture from 2010 obviously by what they are wearing” but it means that it could be from any era. Your shirts should be fitted, the right color for your skin tone, and keep it simple. That means avoid trendy and fashionable clothes in your headshots. Avoid any clothes that fall under one of these categories:

1. Trendy & fashionable- oversized shirts and sweaters with drop sleeves or styles you see trending on Instagram that are street fashion and doesn’t work for headshots.

2. Graphic tees- never wear anything in headshots that have print or graphics because this will distract the viewer away from your face.

3. Tops that blend into your skin- you want to pop out not look flat, so in a headshot wear a color that pops on your skin and does not match it. No nude colors.

4. Ruffles, abstract cuts, textured, and lace- these are terrible for headshots because they are never flattering.

5. Black and white- typically these colors don’t fit the majority of actors in headshots unless you layer them. Black absorbs too much light and white reflects too much light that it often is overexposed which causes light on your skin to look blown out in headshots. Stick to grey or layer it with other colors so it doesn’t dominate the look. An exception is a black jacket with an undershirt that has some color or dark skin when wearing white.

6. Jewelry- Do not wear earrings, necklaces, bracelets, or watches in actors' headshots. In most cases, unless the piercing you have is important to the look you are doing for casting directors, remove it.

7. Wrinkled- IRON YOUR CLOTHES. This shouldn’t have to be said, but never show up with wrinkled clothes when taking actors' headshots. Not only is that tacky, but come on is that how you’re trying to represent your brand to casting directors?

6. Thinking It’s A Modeling Session As Opposed To An Acting Headshots Session

The cropping for most actors' headshots is from your belly button up to at least an inch above your head. The focus should be on your facial expressions and not necessarily your posing. The way you position your body in headshot photography does add to the character, but if you’re not feeling anything it will register in the camera and to casting directors. This isn’t supposed to be a glamour shoot or an Instagram pic so avoid trying to look like a model and instead be an actor. Showcase your different emotional ranges and use your facial muscles to give unique expressions in headshots.

7. Not Changing Up Your Looks Enough To Show Range

Sometimes actors will come into a headshots session and shoot 3 different actors' headshots looking exactly the same in every single one of them. Each shot is an opportunity to show range in your look for casting directors. Who can you transform into? Your headshots should show a different character or look that you can pull off for casting directors. It’s as simple as parting your hair differently, pushing your hair to the side, turning a different angle, or wearing a different color. Showcase the range your physical appearance can achieve without making it too obvious to casting directors. With acting headshots, simple and subtle are always key.

Brandon Andre - Headshots Photographer in Los Angeles & Phoenix

If you are in the Los Angeles or Phoenix area and need professional actor headshots, contact me for a photo session. I am 5-star rated, and one of the best headshot photographers in town. If you want more pricing information and how to book a session with me click HERE.

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Very good information about headshot! This is a must read for all beginner actors and intermediate actors and those wanting to know about industry tips.

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