Actors headshots

Time for Some Action! - Headshot Action! by Christian Webb



I want to take a quick minute to discuss a few things when it comes to positioning of a subject for a headshot.  So by now, if you're familiar with my work,  you see that I shoot everything landscape orientation and I tend to shoot very tight.  As I primarily shoot actors,  I like my headshots to look like close up television or film stills.  Television and film of course is all about action.  But how do you create or convey action in a still image like a headshot? Well, it's all about  avoiding "pose" per se and focusing on what I call the "poised position!"   If you look at the shot above,  she looks as if she's about ready to spring into action as opposed to just standing there in a nice pose looking gorgeous.  The slight lean forward and position of her shoulders suggest that she's coming at you and engaged with you.  This is what's most critical for me when shooting a headshot.  Casting directors and the like will go through god knows how many headshots on a daily basis.  What I want is for them to get to my clients shots and feel as if the actor is coming toward them.  I have seen many headshots out there that more or less look like modeling shots and the focus tends to be on the pose and capturing the clients good looks.  I'm guilty of having some shots like that in my portfolio as well.   While we most certainly want to capture the look and personality of a client, it's  really important to not forget that within that tiny fraction of a second that someone looks at the photo, they need to see more than just....a pretty picture.  A headshot needs to grab attention and pull someone in.  A headshot for an actor needs to get them work on television, in film or theater and all three are mediums of action.  

 In addition to the actual pose, the expression needs to convey action as well.  How is that done?  Simply by having your subjects truly interacting with you and creating the action.  Try this experiment - Have a conversation with someone and just notice how their face looks and changes as you speak.  You'll notice the slight changes and movement in their eyes, eyebrows and mouth as they listen to you.  They're "in action" as they listen to you. (assuming of course you're not boring them with a cat story or some kind!)   They're interested in what you're saying and even if not genuinely interested,  they're hopefully at least trying to "look" interested.  Besides that, many people are just waiting for their turn to actually speak which naturally puts them in the "poised" mode mentally which eventually translates to their physical expression.  Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes, it's very obvious that they can't wait to chime in and speak their mind.  This is basically what you want to work toward in your headshots.  Each shot should almost look as if the subject has something to say, something to offer and something worth finding out about.  There are of course many different types of expressions/emotions to convey but which ones you're going for will be determined by the goal of the shot. 

The combination of a really genuine and interesting facial expression with just the right amount of lean in toward camera can make all the difference in your clients getting looked at with consideration or being tossed aside with all the other...pretty pictures.    

If you want to know more about positioning your subjects in headshots and some more on expression,  feel free to visit my Facebook page and leave me a message. 

Actors - Your Headshot should reflect YOU! by Christian Webb

The mad cool Nicolette from Aligned Stars Talent agency Atlanta.   Christian Webb Photo

The mad cool Nicolette from Aligned Stars Talent agency Atlanta.   Christian Webb Photo

 Okay, so you're an  actor about to get new headshots.  You tell your photographer that you want your "new" headshot to be completely different so you can get other roles. Sounds okay yeah?  I mean, no one wants to be type cast right?  WRONG!  Let me explain.

During my Mastering The Headshot workshop, we were fortunate enough to get a few actors from a local talent agency in NY.  One of the actresses stood at about 5'1" (if that) and had a tiny frame and  could play 15 years young even though she was 25.  She had huge doe eyes and a perpetual look of pure innocence on her face no matter what she was doing.  Of course though, she came in and wanted the students to shoot her to make her look "BAD ASS!"   Now, let me just say that yes, I think some versatility in an actor's headshot is fine.  You may want to reflect a maximum of 2 looks. Those looks usually being the more dramatic vs friendlier, more commercial.  Dramatic however doesn't mean going the distance to look total opposite to your normal look.  You might now be asking "well, why not? I'm an actor yeah? Shouldn't I show range?"  No. Not really.  The best headshots are ones that reflect how an actor looks in real life and captures some of their character.  Shooting the girl mentioned above for example to look like Lara Croft wouldn't serve her any good when she shows up to casting looking like Mini-Mouse. (both gorgeous ladies of course!)  I want my actor's to walk into a casting and be the same person as in the headshot that got them into the room  in the first place.  

There are some actors who can play on that line between both bad ass and more subdued innocent.  But if you naturally look like the super bad ass looking, rough, tough character type in person and then try to make yourself look like a soft, sweet, boy or girl next door type, this is NOT a good idea.   Some may ask "well, how does someone get different roles?"  The answer: THEY DON'T Just kidding.  Look, as an actor you need to truthfully analyze yourself and KNOW your type.  You have to know how you're going to be perceived in castings and do your best to own your type.  That's YOUR brand.  That's how you will market yourself.   It doesn't mean that you can never get cast as a complete opposite to your  "normal" look.  It happens.  There are many factors that go into that.  Early on in your career, you may not have the option to play against your type as many A listers do later in their careers.  Also, if you just simply get great shots that reflect who you are,  later, if you're talented enough you can  audition and campaign for roles that you normally wouldn't get.   

So, keep it simple.  KNOW WHO YOU ARE!  KNOW YOUR TYPE and BE YOU. Make sure your photographer knows WHO YOU ARE prior to your shoot. This is essential in getting great headshots and will ensure that you're getting shots that will ultimately get you called in again and again and again!  

Shooting Actor Headshots - Some questions by Christian Webb

Christian Webb Photo, Headshots, Actor Headshots, NYC I've been receiving a lot of wonderful feedback as of late from various enthusiasts and professionals within the photography communities I'm a part of.   First,  I'll say it's an awesome feeling to receive the amount of positive energy and love from so many people I don't even know!  Even more awesome is that many are professionals that I admire greatly!  With all of that said,  I've also received a lot of inquires relating to my work and how some of the photos are shot.  Questions ranging from my set up,  how I work during a shoot and what my post processing involves.  So,  I've decided to take a few of those question and answer them here on my blog.  Now, my blog receives very little traffic! lol.  I've yet to figure out how to make this work and I spend little time focused on it.  However, it's easier to  write such long winded posts here and then, share via my other social media outlets.  (all of which I'm no where near mastering either!)

Okay, so today's question(s) comes from a photographer in London named Nina.  It's regarding the shot posted above.  Here's her original question(s) as it appeared on my FB:



1.) How much instruction to the clients when it comes to posing, expression and such?  

A LOT!  I  can't stress that enough!   Many people, including actors are not comfortable sitting down for a headshot.  As a result, they tend to stiffen up and also, have little idea of what to do    with themselves.  Most haven't studied posing and photography either and are not                       conscious of the fact that slight movements of their head, their body angle can change an           entire shot.  After make-up / hair is done and they first get in front of the camera,  I spend a         good five minutes or so just discussing the nuance of movement and different angles.  I talk       about what I'll be telling them throughout the shoot and help them to understand why I'm           coaching them as I am.  One quick example -  I tell the client to sit as they'd like, natural but         as they normally would to have their photo taken.  Just about EVERYONE sits upright and             lift their heads, chins and lean back and away from the camera.  I take a quick shot.  Then, I         instruct them to drop their head, drop their chin some and lean in slightly toward me.   I take that shot and show then show them both pics.  They're AMAZED at the difference and it helps for the rest of the shoot.  With regard to expression,  it's probably THE single most important thing during the shoot.   It takes A LOT of work, A LOT of coaching and A LOT of communication to get what you need, what they need.  Sometimes,  you get people who just....get it....and they're great with bringing a range of emotions and different looks.  They're fun, dynamic with their looks and extremely versatile and know how to work the camera.  Sometimes though, a lot of times, you get people who have one maybe two looks in their arsenal and THAT'S IT! You have to spend time getting them to open up and to feel comfortable enough to go through ranges of emotions.  For the most part,  it's all fun!  It's just knowing how to talk, have fun and relate to the clients.  Often times, you have to go above and beyond to get them going but hey, that's all part of the magic!  

Christian Webb Photo, BTS

2. )  Camera alignment:

I try to stay pretty level with the client.  There are times when I do get slight angles from above based on how much I have the client leaning in toward me.  I usually make adjustments in my stance and such to accommodate the movements though.  I spend a good amount of time dancing around and shuffling my feet/stance!  I don't like extreme angles from above and definitely not from below!

Christian Webb Photo actors headshots NYC

3.)  The variance in blur between background & subject - is it achieved or modified in post:

I shoot at an aperture of 3.2 with a 70-200mm lens zoomed all the way out to 200mm so everything blurs.  This plus the fact that my clients are not sitting against any particular backgrounds outside is how the look is achieved.  I do absolutely nothing in the post processing regarding the backgrounds.  If anything,  I will occasionally need to clone stamp, crop out or blur random blurred items or distracting elements but other than that,  the shots are as is when they come from the camera.

Christian Webb Photo, actors headshots NYC

So, hope I've shed some light on things and answered the questions thoroughly.  "Thank You" to Nina for the question and hopefully others will find this post informative.

~ Christian



Mark of a professional by Christian Webb

Christian Webb Photo NYC, Headshots
Christian Webb Photo NYC, Headshots

Andrew has been in the business for 30 years.  It was no surprise then that when he got in front of my camera for his new headshots,  he was dead on with his posing and quite comfortable.  A few pre shoot directions and some coaching regarding my emphasis on head / chin positioning was all that was needed and he got it right away!  When he showed up,  he looked as if he just finished running a marathon.   He was scruffy, hair a mess and even had nicked himself shaving and was bleeding a bit here and there.   Now, all of that sounds like a mess yeah? However,  Andrew's look, his casting range tends to be the rough, older, everyday type of guy.  He brought along a few t-shirts, a jacket and it all worked.  I think if I had shot him with a fresh haircut and shave, it would have been great but with less character.   This is what it's all about - Knowing your client.  Knowing their type and how to best represent that in their photos.  Had a great time and because of Andrew's comfort level and experience in front of the camera,  it was a breeze of a shoot.