Casting directors at Subtitle Film Festival spoke to Spotlight about what makes the ideal headshot for actors.
APHP member, Steve Lawton looks at how many headshots you need to include in your portfolio, and why.
The great architect, Mies Van Der Rohe was first attributed with the phrase; “Less is more” when describing the de-cluttered and powerfully direct style of early modern architecture. I think the same can be said for how actors present themselves on Spotlight or other actor platforms.
Along with a strong and impactful main profile image, my advice is to really only have one other image from the same headshot session in the gallery section. We want to avoid the idea that the full range of your emotional gamut and versatility will be represented by a string of different poses and set-ups from the hopefully excellent session with your APHP photographer. This will only undermine your presentation as a competent and self-posed professional who will always impress more in person or in self-tape than in photo-shoot - with all the implications of a managed outcome that that implies.
The gallery section of Spotlight is most effective when it shows images of you working, either stills from a film, television or theatre job. Your video showreel, if you have one, will then expand on the tone and character of that first key, main profile headshot.
If you are starting out in your career, resist the temptation to populate your profile with numerous headshot images. Exercise choice. Casting directors know the stage you’re at and are far more likely to call you in if they see a clear and professional statement of intent using a well-chosen, elegant choice of just two head-shots; one main and one gallery.
For men their main pictures should be their default presentation – how they are if we meet them in the street, albeit beautifully shot and lit. The gallery image should have a contrasting set-up and tone, perhaps with a beard or unshaven.
For women the same rule applies, with possibly the second image with hair alternatively up or down. Again, we’re hinting at versatility – NOT spoon-feeding – remember, “Less is more”!
Your headshot session should always include a range of tops and - again keep it simple. Combined with the tonal and lighting changes the photographer makes throughout the session, there should be plenty of choice. The differences of the shots may be subtle – but each picture will demonstrate a moment of uniqueness and character for you to consider – never an easy task as there are almost invariably a great spread of pictures.
I shoot anything up to 400 images in a session depending on the package booked. I then make two or three passes to boil them down to the best 120 – 200 which I forward to you on PDF contact sheets. Then the hours of consideration and comparison begin before you come back to me with your final choices. Good luck!
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What is truly important is ensuring that your current headshots reflect both what you actually look like, and what you wish to communicate to potential acting or business contacts.
The manner in which one particular headshot of yours is cropped may seem at first to be a relatively minor detail. However, there are various ways in which such a seemingly simple operation as cropping can enable just one of your headshots to serve multiple purposes.
Whether you are an actor, performer, businessperson or other worker, the instrumental role that the most professional headshots can play in maximising your career opportunities should never be overlooked.
With the end of 2017 looming, you may already be contemplating your New Year resolutions – one of which may be to hire a headshot photographer to take a new set of shots to take you through the next few years of your career.
It’s worth saying again that you do only have about half a second to make an impression on prospective employers and colleagues, so I would advise you not to take chances with your London headshots.
When considering which photographer may be best-suited to take your acting headshots, you may have also come across the term ‘portrait’ and wondered what the difference really is between a headshot and a portrait.
We realise that your headshots need to capture a distinct something about what it means to be human, and what it means to be you. This is why we take such great pride in cultivating what can be much better described as a mini, fast-track friendship than as a soulless business transaction.
Here are some of the things that I would advise you to avoid in the days and weeks leading up to your headshots session.
A lens, in close-up, can reveal the subject's inner life. The headshot's viewer will recognise this "reveal" as a secret moment of truth shared between the subject and the photographer; this can compel a casting director or agent to want to meet that person and learn more about them.
Headshots can be tweaked after they are captured, so resist dropping one too quickly that, with a little polish, could actually get you a dream casting!
An actor’s headshot photographer needs more from their subject than just a face and body to work with – they also need some great poses.
Five tips for increasing the likelihood of getting some truly great headshots out of your session with a professional headshot photographer.
You might not imagine that what you wear would necessarily make a big difference to the impression given by your headshot... The formal advice I give to those choosing me as their headshot photographer is basically to keep things simple.
A headshot may only take up a small amount of space on a screen or page, but it can nonetheless have a huge effect on how you are perceived. A great headshot shows you at your best. It doesn’t need to be overly glamorous, but it does need to be truthful, striking, natural and – of course – completely and utterly professional.