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Actor Headshot sessions : some questions and even some answers!

If you are an actor you may have many questions you want to ask about headshots and the shoots. I was asked some questions by a student studying at Media City and University of Salford  about my approach to photographing actors so below you may find answers to some of your questions…..though I’m sure there may be many more!


1) What top 3 tips would you give to photographers who are trying to achieve the ‘perfect’ headshot?

Understand light and how it can change the shape, mood and character of a face. Create the right atmosphere to allow conversation and creativity to flow. Understand the person you’re photographing and what each shot aims to achieve.


2) Are there any techniques you have learnt that are vital to creating a good photograph?

Not letting the camera become a barrier between you and your subject.


3) How do you prepare customers for a headshot? Is there anything to advise they do prior to the shoot? E.g. The time they should arrive etc

They need to think about who they are as an actor, where they fit in the industry and if they have particular casting strengths. I advise they bring a range of tops from darker tones/colours to lighter/brighter. Changing appearance during a shot can increase an actor’s casting range and age so they need to think about how their clothes can affect these aspects, how a facial hair/clean shaven look for men can drastically change face shape, age etc. and putting hair up if long (men and women) can do the same. Oh….and they should arrive on time and feeling positive!


4) How do you direct your customers whilst taking their headshot? How many photos on average do you take per person?

Most actors are a little unsure in front of a still camera so as well as generally talking throughout the shoot I will direct them in terms of their position to the camera, whether it’s getting the chin up or down a little or turning the head more to camera or just getting them to think of something that brings a little sparkle to the eyes. I’m always encouraging them with positive responses to what they are doing. The number of shots taken varies but I send at least 150 images to view after the shoot.


5) In terms of equipment, is there any specific kit you would recommend? Equally, are there any good quality cameras out there that you know of that would benefit people who are on more of a budget?

It may sound odd coming from someone who has been a photographer all of their professional life but I don’t take much interest in cameras. I know what I need and that’s about it! I stick to the main brands and use good quality prime lenses, not zooms. However you can get away with a relatively inexpensive camera system when starting out but as you progress as a photographer you’ll soon realise the limitations, particularly of cheap lenses. That is where you need to invest your earnings.


6) Is there anything significant you have learnt over the years about headshot photography and working with people?

I only work with actors and I learnt very early on that most actors would prefer not to have their headshots taken so it goes back to what I mentioned earlier about creating the right environment and atmosphere to allow everything to work. That’s probably the most significant thing I’ve learnt how to do.


7) What advice would you give to budding photographers or people who are just starting out?

Be passionate about photography and be daring in how you approach it. Break the rules! Love what you do even if you’re photographing challenging subject matter. Think how you can be creative in any situation and how you can keep improving.


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