How to strike the perfect poses with your headshots

As any actor even vaguely familiar with the process of having headshots taken should know, a great headshot isn’t entirely the photographer’s work – and for the actor, certainly isn’t a case of just turning up and being snapped. 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.

I can understand, though, why you might be pretty nervous at the prospect of having to come up with your own poses. Even the most experienced actors can be made very anxious by this, so here are some tips to help you out.

There’s no ‘wrong’ way to pose

Yes, you may have read about various techniques online, but these are just techniques... strategies.

In truth, a given technique may not even be a brilliant match to the photographer you’re working with, as every actor’s headshot photographer has their own way of working and their own ‘vocabulary’.

Some may be very detailed and precise – making tiny adjustments – while others may be more casual and chat to you while they’re working. That doesn’t mean one particular approach or style produces better quality photos, of course, as much depends on exactly how you work with the photographer.

Get to know your face

If you’re an actor, you will probably be accustomed to spending a lot of time recording yourself and reflecting on your performances on film. That process enables you to quickly learn what works, what doesn’t, what’s too subtle, what’s over-the-top... and much the same can be said of posing for a headshot.

After all, a headshot session is a mini ‘performance’ in itself, and you need to practise your performances if you are to deliver the best one ‘on the day’.

So don’t be afraid to do just that in front of a mirror, with a camera phone or even a friend with an entry-level DSLR – whatever you need to do to truly get accustomed to the ins and outs of your face.

Make an effort!  

Guess what: simply sitting there passively in your headshot session, while simply following basic orders from the photographer, may well result in your shots looking slightly bored and detached.

As I mentioned above, your headshot session needs to involve you giving a small performance for the camera. I don’t necessarily mean an intense performance – it could be one of optimism, lightness, vulnerability or any number of other states or emotions.

Whatever – the really important thing is to give something of yourself to the camera. Also take some time to physically ‘reset’ yourself during brief interludes – perhaps by stretching or relaxing – so that you don’t end up simply holding the same (what may turn out to be undesirable or uninteresting) pose throughout the entire session.

Hopefully, the above will have given you a bit of ‘food for thought’ ahead of your coming session with an actor’s headshot photographer. Take a look at some of my own packages for a set of headshots – you may just be surprised by how much we can get done together in one session.