Headshot and portrait cheat sheet for actors, actresses and bands

There are things that I need to do but also there are things that you need to do to make a headshot photography session go really well. The last 30 minutes of a shoot are nearly always the best because you’re a lot more relaxed by then. Here are some tips to help make you stand out with your headshot.

TIP 1 – Dress for your types of role(s)

Avoid stripes and patterns where possible. Wear whatever colour you think brings out the best in you. If you love wearing a green top, wear it. Just make sure it’s plain. Pastel colours and darker colours are usually good choices.

If you are often cast for a certain type of role, say a stay-at-home mum, don’t arrive in a business suit. Try to match your outfits to the types of roles you play are may be cast for. If you have varying roles bring outfits that help portray those roles in the photos.

TIP 2 – Avoid bling and writing on clothes

Your face has to be the main focus. Anything you wear that distracts that focus is a bad thing. Wear plain outfits with no writing. With jewellery, make sure it isn’t big, overpowering or distracting. Keep jewellery at a minimum.

TIP 3 – Arrive early

Arrive at least 10-20 minutes early so you can relax after your travel and help get you into your role.

TIP 4 – Be positive!

If you come to the headshot photoshoot with a hangover, in a bad mood or half asleep, those emotions and feelings will come through in the photos. I can help with nerves, but can’t make the photos look like you aren’t hungover or half asleep. That’s all down to you. Get a good night’s sleep. If you tire easily make the shoot in the morning instead of the late evening when you are more tired.

TIP 5 – Give feedback throughout the shoot

I know good postures and lighting but you also know your face and your roles far better than I do. A headshot photoshoot has to be a two-way street. When giving feedback, say the reason ‘why’ you dislike a certain pose. Instead of saying “I don’t like that pose” say something like “I don’t like that pose because the role I portray is a moody business person. This pose looks more like ‘happy shop worker'”. Give me something to work with if you don’t like a shot. As we fine-tune the session it will get better and better if we keep communicating.

TIP 6 – Specify the type of shoot

Someone actors/bands like outdoor shoots, some in a studio, some with a white background, some with a pattern background. If you have a style in mind, let me know beforehand.

TIP 7 – Let me know what music you like

I enjoy background music while I work and edit. If you have a genre of music that helps you relax let me know beforehand what you like listening to.

TIP 8 – Keep in mind the aspect ratio

Most actor headshot dimensions are 10 x 8 which means there may only be a couple of inches of your top on show. A low cut top can look very different with this aspect ratio. Likewise, a thick coat with collars up can look disproportionate when you can only see a small part of the coat.

It would be a good idea to check your outfits on your phone with that ratio so you have a really good idea on how it will look.

TIP 9 – Bring outfit changes with you

Don’t limit yourself to a single outfit if you don’t want to. There is usually time for at least one outfit change.

TIP 10 – Check your clothing before you leave home

  • If you have pets, check for hairs.
  • Make sure you iron your outfits a couple of days in advance and have a way of getting them to the photoshoot without creasing them.
  • Double-check you have every part of an outfit with you.

I hope these 10 tips help you and I really look forward to seeing you soon!

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Simon Day

If you have a wedding, portrait, event or festival coming up please contact me. Likewise for portraits. Check out my social media channels: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter