duckAs all aspiring actors know, headshots are an essential feature of this industry and it is important to get them right. Often your headshot is the first round of an audition that can immediately eliminate you if you don’t have the right look. It is essential to get shots that accurately show not only what you look like, but also your suitability for the parts that fit your casting.

I also got an interesting piece of advice from the head of my theatre company. He described how getting your headshots done by someone who has credence in the acting world is like wearing a good suit; it shows you have an understanding of the industry, have done your research,and are serious about the world you are immersing yourself in.

For me personally, I decided early on that this was something I was happy to invest a decent amount of money in to make sure I got it right. This is a profession plagued with insecurity and you don’t want to feel unsure about your headshots. If you know you have done your headshots properly then you can feel happy in the knowledge that you are missing out on auditions for the right reasons.

I looked around at a number of photographers and originally opted for one who was very well recognised (her prices reflected this). However, after three emails over the space of a couple of months I still hadn’t received a response. This was a sobering reminder of how tough this world is; even people who you are asking to give hundreds of pounds to simply to take your picture, are so oversubscribed that they can pick and choose who they want. So then I searched a little deeper, looking at a large number of photographers and their pictures to see if they produced good shots of people with a similar look to me. I’m very glad I did.

I ended up going with a guy called Nicholas Dawkes, who was fantastic. It is worth having a good idea of what you want from your headshots; I met him and we spent the first half an hour or so discussing my casting, background, what I was looking for, where I was hoping to place myself within the industry etc. It is also a good idea to take a large number of clothing choices with you; the clothes I expected to work well did not, and those I had brought along for the mere sake of choice were the ones that gave me my headshots.

It was fascinating talking to him: he had a great sense of humour and a very relaxed manner whilst photographing. It helped put me at ease and give me a bank of shots that I had trouble cutting down to three to be retouched, for all the right reasons. When I asked him about it after, he said that sometimes he has to spend a couple of hours carefully calming his clients down in order to find the best shots that showed their true personality. Apparently the duck pout isn’t limited exclusively to Facebook.

The good news is most people, like me, will highly recommend the person who has done their shots. But spending the time doing a bit of research can enable you to nail this small, but essential, requirement.

Photo by Flickr user bfishadow under a Creative Commons Licence.