What’s the most important thing you can bring to a headshot session? You might think it’s clothes, or perhaps a list of character types, or something practical, or much more tangible. More and more, I’m discovering the most important thing you can bring to a headshot session is attitude.
That’s not to say that people bring bad attitudes to a headshot, nay, quite the contrary, the overwhelming majority of people I shoot are fun, happy, great company, and maybe occasionally a little nervous! With this aside, there is one extra element a lot of people don’t appreciate about actor headshots, and that is the attitude that they’re going to give it everything they’ve got to get a great headshot.
I understand that so many people these days don’t want the responsibility of things they aren’t familiar with. I’m no different, I don’t hire a plumber with the intention of having to take responsibility for the work being done, I want him to plumb is arse off while I go about my daily business. I want someone to blame if it goes wrong. It’s the same with headshots.
A headshot photographer is responsible for the shoot, they’re responsible for the lighting, the equipment, the overall flow of the shoot, but one thing they can’t be held responsible for is your face! You’ve got to be prepared to work it. People are understandably reluctant to let themselves go in front of the camera, just for the sheer fact that it’s being documented, but to stand a chance of getting that audition these days, your headshot has to stand out. Great lighting is everywhere now, and the things that used to make a headshot stand out are now considered completely standard and expected in a headshot. Back when most headshots were black and white, a headshot only had to be in colour to catch a casting director’s eye. Then the lighting started to get moody, etc.. now there’s only one thing left: the facial expression. It’s the one thing that is going to separate you from the pack. Unfortunately, though, expression is the one thing a photographer physically can’t control!
I’ve said before, if you shoot with London Headshots, you’re going to spend a significant portion of the session learning how to take a picture. We cover all bases: Movement, facial expression, what faces to pull and what not to, and most importantly, what to do with the eyes, and how to make them connect with the mouth and create a believable look. But after all of that, you’ve got to be prepared to put it all into practice.
I think what I’m really saying is that so many photographers make a point of selling their session on the basis that everything is going to be taken care of for the actor, but the reality is that there are certain things beyond our control. I like to think this is a good thing – pulling faces during the session is probably the most fun part. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong, don’t be afraid to look silly – the best headshots are the ones that came out of spontaneity, that fleeting moment where you forgot you were having your picture taken. These sessions are not serious, they’re absurd. Let’s treat them as such and not be afraid to experiment. I’m going to give a much more in depth post about this on my next update, with the intention to build a series about actor and photographer working as a team, and about creating a desired mood or feeling in the overall output of the session.
Stay tuned for more shit I’m forced to write in order to stay at the top of Google!