Taking A Perfect Headshot Without Breaking The Bank

For anyone that is looking to break into the arts world, the headshot is the calling card that you need to be considered serious. However, the headshot is not just for actors and performers anymore. In the world of digital media and digital impressions, your head shot can and should be used all over the professional and official pages and platforms as well as having a head shot as an actor or performer. These days your likeability comes from your headshot photo. You need to invest time in making sure that your headshot photo is amazing.

Getting an amazing headshot does not mean that you need to be glamorous, overdone, or create an image of someone that you are not. An amazing headshot is a photo that puts the best you forward. A great headshot can help you build confidence. A great headshot gives a person an inside look at who you are because they can see your personality in the shot. A Headshot is your "first impresssion" so you want to make it as great as you can.

A great headshot is one that carries a few key elements: a) the photo is shot from the chest up. b) There are no weird shadows on the face. c) The background is not overpowering the shot, the background is neutral. d) Shows personality that is needed for the photo. (Comedians need a different photo than models or singers as an example.)


1. Block out time to take a great photo. Your headshot is meant to be the equivalent of your job resume in a lot of professions arts and not arts (think of real estate agents). This is not a photo that you want to rush through. Rather than building it to be something that you are going to be doing last minute, schedule your headshot (even if you are scheduling with yourself) so that you are uninterrupted and that you have the time to make the right photo. Photographers will block an hour or more to take a professional headshot and they are building these shots as a profession. If you are a novice, you need to give yourself the same repsect. I would block out two hours or more.

2. Take time to make yourself look awesome. The first thing to looking great is to understand that the purpose of a headshot is not to make everyone look like a supermodel. The purpose of the headshot is to give the onlooker the best "you" you can be. When you are taking time to make yourself look awesome, this means that you are not going to just roll out bed and start taking photos. This is your calling card so it is OK to fuss over yourself. Make sure to take time to take a shower, get dressed, do your hair, and do your makeup.

3. An honest look at your makeup is necessary. If you are not a makeup wearer, you might want to accent yourself so your features pop (like lipstick, mascara and blush). If you have coverup, you might want to lightly cover your blemishes and dark circles under your eyes. (NOTE: If you are using a flash, any foundation with UV protection in it can reflect back into the camera giving you a more washed out face or a ghost face depending on the camera.) If you are a makeup caker, you need to be honest with how much of that makeup is needed to show your personality. It is important to not get lost in your warpaint. Your headshot is about seeing you (Unless it is a promotional shot for being a drag queen. Then you should live your dreams.)

4. Set your Stage for your photo. You will want to pick a place generally indoors with good lighting. You will want to put a solid color sheet behind you to create the backdrop and grab a tripod or a friend to help you take the photo. (A lot of times, you can hang the sheet on your shower curtain rod because your bathroom generally has the best light in the house.) You want to try to get the best light so you don't have weird shadows on your face. If you have access to photo lighting great. (Amazon Prime sells a selfie light ring for $26.00 that is very effective.)

5. Set up your phone to take great photos. Most of the current cell phones have great cameras installed in them already. There are plenty of free apps that can be downloaded for cameras to help you line up the shot, time when the shot is going to be taken, and help clean up blemishes that may still show through. Also make sure that you have enough space on your camera to take a ton of photos. You only need one good one, but you might take a ton of photos to get the right one. When you take the photos, you will want them to be on a steady surface and likely about three feet away from your face.

6. Practice. This sounds crazy, but if you take some time and look at yourself in the mirror and make different faces, you will be able to see closely what your face does. The more you understand your face as a photographer, the more you can help yourself get a great photo.

7. Loosen up, point, shoot. Turn on music and start taking photos. If you have timer and burst features, you can take 5 photos a second that can help you if you are a nervous blinker. Stop to review your photos often and if you are worried about space, delete the ones where your eyes are closed or you know you would never pick it. As you are reviewing, take note in what is working for you so you can do that over and over to get great shots.

8. Mix up your poses. Most of the time, the best photos are when your body is slightly anged, but your face is directly into the camera. You need to make this as fun as you can because this is how you get your personality to shine through. Without being too theatrical, you will want to make yourself laugh, smile, maybe talk or sing to yourself to give your face different poses.

9. Work until you feel like you have 20 usable photos. While you take these photos, you should change your shirt a couple times because you might find out that one photos better than another. The reason you want to pick 20 great ones is because you need to have choices to review with your friends. You are generally your worst critic, so being able to get feedback from friends and family will help you pick the right ones.

10. With your 20 chosen photos, edit. Download an app that can help you with after effects to make your headshot look just right. (Afterlight is very user friendly and costs $.99) This photo is your business card, your storefront, and your opportunity for business so it is important to make sure that you are taking the effort and care to make yourself look great.

When you build your own headshots, you have the ability to also update your headshots more often. The more your practice, the better your shots will become. As a casting director, a bad headshot is a terrible calling card. In a normal casting day for open calls, I might see over a hundred people. That "calling card" might be the only way I remember a performance, so making your calling card count is essential.

When you print your headshot, you should print an 8.5 x 11. You can have these printed for about a dollar at Staples (Gloss cardstock is best, but regular cardstock is OK too). If you are an artist, you should always have three or four in your car, just in case you need them. You should always bring them to an audition or a meet up so you can give someone an idea of who you are. You can also build a 5x7 media card to keep with you at all times as well. To market yourself, you need to always be ready. You never know who might be at Starbucks ordering the same coffee as you. Prepare yourself for your future by working on great headshot photos. You might even find a new talent.

#headshottips #greatselfieheadshots #peteythepirate #thisisencore #artschool #performerscalifornia #professionalartistdevelopment #encorehighschool #selfies

Petey the Pirate is the author of this blog for Encore Education Corporation. Part of Encore Education Corporation is Encore High School, a free public performing arts regional high school in Southern California grades 7 - 12. Encore's Professional Artist Development program is currently taking applications for the fall 2020 enrollment. www.encorehighschool.com. Where arts and academics grow together. WASC Accredtied. Copyright 2020.

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