Selecting Your Headshots! / by Christian Webb

 Nicolette

Nicolette

Let's dive right in here folks!  

Much of the fun and participation for the actor takes place during the headshot session. (well, it should be fun and they should be participating but, that's another blog!) But when the session is complete, the job is only half done.  Now it's time to actually go through the 200, 300, 400 plus images and narrow down the choices that will be ultimately used for your headshot.  This of course can be fun too but it's a lot of work and requires a certain eye. 

If you don't have the option to sit down with your photographer and go through images together, you're left to figure it all out for yourself and then get back to him or her with your choices to be retouched.  Or, if they don't do their retouching, you're left to choose your shots and then send them out to be retouched somewhere.  Perhaps your photographer will correspond with you via email and send you his choices and even discuss options via the phone (this is the second best option next to actually sitting with him)  This is all going to depend on how your photographer works and what their process is.  Some actually charge you to sit and go through your images. I don't quite understand that but, that's another story. 

So, let's just say you're left basically pick your best images.  Pretty simple yeah? I mean, it's YOU, your shots, you know what's best yeah?  Well, not always.  Let's take a look at what I mean. 

The image above is from a recent session with an incredibly gorgeous and talented young lady named Nicolette.   The shot is SOOC (straight out of camera) and it's literally the 14th shot of the session.  I was still tweaking the light here and had barely gotten started.  Actually,  this was also a shot where I specifically directed her to keep her head up and sit natural as she would if posing for a picture on her own.  Now,  it's not a bad shot and she's of course.....gorgeous.  However, it's no where near what I would consider even useable as a headshot.  But, guess what?  She picked this shot as one of her selections to use.  It was nothing more than a still warming up shot and we hadn't even really started getting into the groove.  Let's move on to the very next shot that was taken right after this:

 Nicolette 

Nicolette 

In this shot, I coached her to drop her head/chin some and to lean in a bit.  It's a subtle move but look at the impact it has on the shot.  This is also a SOOC shot.  Other than the car lights being gone in the background, it's basically the same shot but with a drastically different effect just based on that head move.  Still though,  expression wise, this doesn't cut it and she's looking a bit blank yeah?  Let's move on to the next shot:

 Nicolette

Nicolette

Here we have Nic' just a few shots later after some coaching on how to use her eyes and mouth to get great, engaging expressions.  Personally,  I didn't pick this shot as a final image but looking at it now,  it's most certainly a useable shot for her purposes.  It's not my favorite but, it's got personality, she looks engaged with the camera, she's got that thing in her eyes, that slight smile and she looks confident.  

So, why did Nic' choose that first shot above?  Well, she looks beautiful.  It's a bit of a serious, nice dramatic look and mature.  We spoke about it and these are some of the things that she looked at and liked.  That is where the issues come in.  Actors, and people in general will look at their photos and assess them based on how "good" they look in the photo.  They look at their features and decide if they like how their nose looks or their hair or their ears.  In fact, most people by nature look at a photo of themselves and are immediately drawn to their flaws and the things they DON'T like about themselves.  You are studying your beauty and making a decision based on that pretty much.  What's more is,  when selecting images to use as headshots,  most actors show their pics to their friends, family, boyfriend, girlfriend and whomever and ask their opinions.  Most of those people will judge the photos by the same criteria; how gorgeous you do or don't look in the photo.  In Nic's case here,  there's no denying how beautiful she is.  I could have shot her under exposed, with bad lighting and out of focus and she'd STILL be fine!  But, it's not about that. You need to be mindful of what will work as a headshot.  You want casting directors and the like to come across your photo and be interested in you.  Being really pretty won't overcome a blank expression, no personality, nothing to say, boring look on your face.      

As a photographer that works with actors almost exclusively and works with agents,  I've learned the things to look for and I know what will work and won't.  It's part of my job.  As an actor,  your job isn't to study these things necessarily but it's worth while to do so.  Start to understand expression and personality in a shot.  Work with photographers who hopefully understand these things and more important, can coach you during your sessions to get those shots.  If you're apprehensive about choosing your shots,  make sure your photographer offers you assistance with doing so and really can guide you.  In the end, that headshot has to go out and get you work.  Make sure that it says something and grabs someone's attention!  As I always say:

"They should look into you, not at you!"  

For more tips/guidance on your headshots, feel free to join me at The Actor's Headshot group on Facebook!   And feel free to share this with your actor friends!