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How to prepare for great headshots

Kelsey Jackson/Dana Patrick photo credit

For an actor (and yes, for real estate agents, etc.) your headshot is your calling card. It’s job is to let people know what you look like.

So the #1 most important thing about a headshot is that IT LOOKS LIKE YOU! It should look like you on a good day. I know that may sound obvious, but we aren’t all comfortable with our own looks, and that can sometimes get in our way. When I look at my own headshot, I easily see things I would change about my face if I could - things I will not list here. But the thing is, it looks like me.

The best thing anyone can ever say about your headshot is, “You look just like your headshot!”

So how do you get a headshot that looks like you?

  1. Meet with photographers and pick a photographer you LIKE. You need to be comfortable with this person! Also, look at samples of his/her work and see if you like the look of the work they do. Do they shoot people with your coloring well? Do their subjects look alive, alert, friendly? Do they have samples of work that “‘feels” the way you want your headshots to “feel”?

  2. Eat and drink normally before your shoot. Don’t try to get great headshots on an empty stomach when your blood sugar is low. Some people recommend a glass of wine before a shoot. I would say just do what works for you to manage any anxiety that may be present. Probably a huge quantity of caffeine is a bad idea, as you want your body - and therefore your face - to be as relaxed as possible. The main thing is you want to be FULLY PRESENT and ENGAGED.

  3. Do your makeup the way you normally do. If you hire a makeup person (which can be a very good idea), bring your own makeup to the shoot and ask that they do your makeup in a similar way to the way YOU do your makeup - only possibly a bit better. Better yet, WEAR your makeup to the shoot and take a picture of yourself made up so that he/she has something to work with.

  4. Ladies, wear a bit of lip color - just a touch. It will bring the focus to your eyes and add finish to your look.

  5. Wear solid colored clothing that does not call attention to itself and away from your face. This does not mean your clothing should be drab. Different people are flattered by different shades and intensities of color. Bring a few outfits to the shoot. Bring only things you love and then accept the guidance of the photographer. Wear colors you look and feel good in. Ideally, work with an image consultant and find out what your best colors, makeup, and accessories are. If you are a pro, this is a good investment in your career.

  6. Wear jewelry that flatters you and does not detract from your face. Ideally, it should draw attention in some way to your eyes - or whatever the best thing is about you. Bring a few items to the shoot. Bring only things you love and accept the guidance of the photographer.

  7. Style your hair in a way that you normally wear it, and get it out of your eyes. A headshot is about your face, so it needs to show.

  8. Inhale and then exhale when the shot is taken. Mainly, just BREATHE. A good photographer will shoot you on an exhale. People who are holding their breath look stiff, unapproachable, and non-receptive.

  9. It’s really best if your lips are parted in some slight way - or very gently closed. This takes some practice, so practice! Notice what it feels like to have your teeth apart and get used to it. This is what you want to do in photographs - it looks friendlier and more receptive.

  10. Rather than looking at the camera or the camera lens, look THROUGH the lens to a person you LIKE. If you have done Terrel Presence Training work, this translates as imagining the camera as the “face” and connecting with the column of the imaginary person. This works like MAGIC.

  11. Hands in a headshot are distracting. You may do some “personality shots” that could have hands in them, but for your basic headshot, keep them out of the frame.

  12. Even if you are not a “smiley” person, you need to get some smiley headshots while you’re at it. They may not be the ones you select, but give it a shot.

  13. Sit or stand upright. Hunching forward in a headshot looks, well, “hunch-y.” It is common to want to sit on a step and wrap our arms around our legs - I see it a LOT. And it’s rarely flattering. So just don’t take any that way.

  14. If you have a great body, take some 3/4 shots. This doesn’t mean

revealing lots of skin. It means let them see what your body looks like - wear flattering clothing that skims your body without showing lots of skin. These may not become basic headshots, but they might!

Natalie Blain/Tony Papandrea


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