Actor Headshots: What Makes The Best Headshot?

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If you’re an actor, your headshot is your single most important marketing tool. If you want to be taken seriously by casting agents, and when it lands on that decision maker’s desk or computer monitor you want the reaction to be “Wow! Let’s see that person!”

When shooting headshots for actors, I often get the question “What are they supposed to look like?”  or “how do you know you are getting the best headshot?”

The simple answer is… the best headshot for you is the one that fits your style and the look you are achieving.  Headshots can be on black or white backgrounds, and in natural or studio light. The standard white backdrop is gradually being replaced with a cinematic outdoor (but well-lit) setting, but both are acceptable as long as the image highlights YOU.  The focal point here is your personality. As long as you are not upstaged by a busy background the setting is not as important as the quality of the photograph and its ability to present the image you want.

Yes, there are some rules when it comes to actor headshots – and these fluctuate according to the type of work you are trying to get – stage, commercial, TV drama, etc.  Do some research in the field for which you are auditioning and make sure the technical details are there (print vs. file, cropping, etc). Bring all this to your photographer and make sure you leave your session with what you need.2017-01-16_0001

Christian Webb,  a renowned NYC Headshot photographers points out what I believe is the most important criteria for selecting a photographer for you actor headshot, “…make sure that the photographer is actually BEST for you regarding comfortability.  When searching for someone to shoot your headshots, it’s important to get a sense of the photographer’s personality and their way of working.  Checking referrals,  reading their info on their website,  asking around from others who have shot with them before can help in making the decision as to whether a particular photographer is BEST for YOU to work with.”

Because ultimately, you want to be comfortable in your session. After all, you may be living with this shot for quite a while and you want it to showcase you and your ability.

When I photograph actors I discuss the type of roles they are going for, whether they are looking for the commercial “I can sell cereal and cars” image or you want that big part in a then next hit Netflix mystery drama.

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A headshot session should be a fun, collaborative process with your photographer. Killer images will make the casting agents stop for just that extra second to pause and consider your image.

 

 

Paige’s Senior Session: Peak Fall in the Park

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If you are over 40  like me, you may remember the the “Brek Girl” shampoo ads back in the day in your “Seventeen” Magazines. They were usually beautiful blondes with the sun backlighting their long hair and a wide smile. This is what I kept thinking as I shot this stunning senior, although the antiquated reference was lost on her.

I also know that Paige is much more than a pretty face, since I’ve practically watched her grow up – a fierce competitor on the soccer field and basketball court. I enjoy seeing these girls out of ponytails and their varsity uniforms, and she is just as comfortable in the wedge sandals as in cleats.

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Another small world story: her mom, Debra and worked together “BF” (before kids) and although our paths have wandered back and forth throughout the years, it was so fun to have her along on the shoot: to hold a reflector when needed and catch up on the old days.  You can see where this senior gets her looks!

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We rescheduled this session back from a September date and managed to land on a warm November morning, and although a little past peak foliage – this park had so many great locations and backdrops that we got some stunning fall color for her session!

2016-11-26_0004Debra captured some photos of me in action, and Paige took one of us together.

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Headshot Session for Shelter House and the Purple Purse Challenge

Last month I took these headshots of executives of Shelter  House, a community-based, non-profit organization serving homeless families in Fairfax County, Virginia.

They were gearing up to participate in the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge, and even though it ends on October 25, I wanted to help spread the word and also share a little more about the Shelter House organization. Shelter House  was formed in 1981, when several ecumenical groups came together to better serve Fairfax County’s low-income population. In 1985, Shelter House’s facility was moved to its current location in Falls Church. In 2007, Shelter House was awarded Fairfax County’s contract to operate the Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter in Fairfax. In 2010, Shelter House became the first non-profit to operate Artemis House, Fairfax County’s only 24 hour Domestic Violence Shelter.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I want to share information with you that unfortunately has been or currently is a reality for 1 in 4 households in Fairfax County. 99% of victims of domestic violence experience financial/economic abuse and it is one of the tools of power and control wielded by an abuser. These are just a few examples of how this abuse occurs.For more information on the Purple Purse Challenge, https://www.crowdrise.com/shelterhouse-purplepurse2016.

I first heard about Shelter House when I went to a book reading by the author, Carene McCandless. Carene is the sister of the Chris McCandless, who was made infamous in John Krakauer’s book and  Sean Penn’s movie, Into the Wild. Shelter House helped sponsor the reading and Carene spoke about the domestic abuse that she grew up dealing with and pointed out organizations like Shelter House that works to combat domestic violence and abuse. It really struck a chord with me that what looks like a happy, healthy family on the outside, could be something very different underneath.

If you would like more information on how you can help, here is the Shelter House website: http://www.shelterhouse.org/

 

 

 

For Colorful Fall Family Portraits…Try an Urban Setting!

2016-10-17_0002At this time of year, most of the families calling me for fall family portraits are looking for peak fall foliage and the beautiful settings at the many parks in Fairfax County.

I am happy to shoot at any of these places, but sometimes it’s fun to switch it up and let the colorful outfits and fun expressions of the family brighten up an urban area. There are so many textures and cool backdrops to be found around towns and this fun family was willing to explore with me!

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Urban areas are a great place to focus on lifestyle. Kids can find a way to have fun in any area. Jumping, running, hugging…I like to play and once they know it’s ok to be silly, the posing stiffness goes away and I can capture their true nature and the relationships in the family.

Just like these ultra-cool kids – I love the way the littlest girl is so tiny, but you can tell she looms large in the family dynamic with three older brothers —  no shrinking violets here!

10 Tips for What to Wear for Family Portraits

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Fall is finally here and families are starting to book their  holiday sessions.

This is one of my favorite times to photograph.  It’s a chance for families to come together to celebrate each other and being a family.  I love seeing their joy and love as they  take this opportunity to hug and enjoy each other.

This is also the time that I start to get the questions about what to wear for family portraits. While I believe this is a personal preference and don’t really like to dictate the look of a session, I can offer the following suggestions from experience about what I’ve seen that looks nice and has worked well for families:

2016-09-19_0004Begin by thinking about what is the purpose of your portrait.

  • To update walls?
  • To announce an important life event?
  • Holiday cards?
  • To create gifts for extended family?

If the goal is to create art for your walls, think about how formal your home is, and match that style in your outfits. Naturally, people are most comfortable in comfortable clothes, but would that look right in a formal living room?

What colors do you love to decorate with? Earth-tones of brown, rust, gold, and cream? Bold pops of color on a neutral canvas?  Soft and pale tones (pastels)? Neutral tones of black, white, gray, and cream?

Which colors make you feel happy?

  • red, magenta, orange, yellow, yellow-green = energy, romance, and warmth
  • turquoise, green, blue, purple = cool, calm, tranquility, peace
  • black, gray, tan, brown, white = neutrals, foundation, classic

If your goal is for holiday cards, bright colors catch attention when they arrive in the mail, but avoid being simply the holiday red and green which may limit your opportunities to enjoy the images as year-round.

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Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Avoid being too “matchy, matchy.”  It’s okay to look semi-coordinated but don’t all arrive to your session wearing identical blue polos unless that is how you want to remember each other. Your family portrait may depict a blue shirted monster with 5 heads if you all wear the same exact color.
  2. Keep your location in mind. If you are planning to photograph in peak foliage season season, deep reds, oranges and greens look great.  You may want to save your pastels and icy blues for summer or more urban locations. Blacks and whites, although they make a nice statement, do not necessarily complement autumn colors, but if you are at a location with a lot of brick or stone could look great!
  3. Denim or not? Decide if this casual or semi casual look is what you’re after. If not, decide what will be worn for pants/ skirts/ etc. Too much denim an be overwhelming.
  4. Select a favorite color family. It is okay to have blue be your theme, but combine lights (tints) and darks (shades) with your main color to create variety and contrast.
  5. Textures photographs well!  Choose a few items that will add texture: a scarf, vest, fun boots, jacket, a woven cardigan, etc. Layers are great. Rather than just a boy in a T-shirt, add a layer by wearing a button up shirt  over the top. Belts, jewelry, watches all add to the “texture” element.
  6. Shop in your closet. Before you go out and buy an all new wardrobe, gather from your closets some samples of the colors you are considering  and line them up on a bed or couch and see how they look together. When you blur your eyes do you see lights and darks? What pops out? Save money by using clothing you already own, with the addition perhaps a new piece or two. After you’ve done your line up, see what is lacking (ie. another dark shirt, a complementary color, etc.) If you want your portrait to be authentic- avoid buying clothes that you know your family would never wear “in real life.”
  7. It’s okay mix solids and simple patterns.  I know a lot of photographers might argue with me on this one, but I like to think that SIMPLE patterns add interest and texture to a picture.  Three of the men above have patterned, buttoned-down shirts, and it works just fine with the solid colors.  If you stick to a color scheme, everything just naturally blends together.
  8. Think of the rule “Three Colors and a Pop” (credit to Orange County photographer Meghan Owens for this phrase). Pick three colors, with one being a neutral, and add a “pop” of color. It usually works best when it’s a bright color on one of your littlest family member (think red scarf or purple boots).clukey-1
  9. Colorful Accessories. Similar to the above tip, colorful accessories photograph best for all family members.  You want the focus to be on the faces more than the outfits. Similarly, a bright jacket or cardigan that can be put on or off works well!
  10. Watch the shoes. Even if they are your kids’ favorite shoes, character and light-up sneakers date a portrait. Even some of the “louder” sneakers can be distracting in a family portraits.

Think Timeless. Again, you want the focus on your faces, your emotions and your family. Not the outfits. Too styled a look can deter from the emotion that is displayed in the togetherness of your family.

So, that’s it!  Hopefully, the above tips will help you do a little advance planning for your family sessions to create beautiful family portraits. For even more ideas and tips, check out my Pinterest Board Family Portrait Outfit Ideas.