Lessons: 15Length: 1.8 hours

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2.1 Actor Headshots

If you want to become a headshot photographer, the first thing you’ll want to decide is what kind of headshots you will offer. In this lesson you will learn about actor headshots. We will cover the differences between commercial headshots and theatrical headshots. You will also learn about pre-production and post-production of actor headshots.

2.1 Actor Headshots

Hi, I'm Scott Chanson. Welcome back to Headshot Photography. When I think of the word headshot, the first thing that usually comes to my mind is actors' headshots. And I think that for many of you, this is the first thing that you think of. Now, I live in Los Angeles California, and it really is amazing to me, how many people in this city are working actors, or aspire to be working actors. From reality TV to classic theater, from stand up comedians to commercial actors, there are a ton of people who are trying to become the next big star. And one of the most important first steps for each of these people is to get quality headshots. In this lesson, you're going to learn all about actors' headshots, which happens to be one of my specialties because of my location just down the street from Hollywood. I love shooting actors' headshots because you get to meet so many interesting people. And you get to be such an integral part of their career and their journey to becoming a star. I love it when a past client schedules a new headshot session with me to update their look. Because it's so fun to catch up with them and see what they've been working on and the cool jobs that they've gotten using your headshots. It really is rewarding to see the value of your headshots. Because there are so many different kinds of acting jobs, there are several different kinds of actors' headshots that you will want to master. There are two main categories of actors' headshots, which are theatrical headshots and then commercial headshots. And each of these categories has nuances that go along with them. A theatrical headshot is used for roles in feature films, plays, or television shows and is usually shot in a very straightforward, confident, and friendly way. When a casting director is looking to hire an actor for a feature or TV show, they're looking for a professional. They want someone that will be dependable and reliable, and will always show up ready to work. That is why the headshot for these roles tend to be a little less smiley, and lean towards a little bit more of a professional look. Don't get me wrong, there's still a little room for a smile or smirk here and there. But for your actors, they may never know what roles they're gonna be considered for. And if a casting director's looking for a hit man, a big smiley headshot's probably gonna put off the wrong vibe for the part. There are so many roles to be played that a nice neutral expression is probably the best way to go for your headshot. If your client has an agent, it's important to make sure that you do your homework, and find out what kind of headshots their agent wants. Not only do you want your client to be confident in the headshots that they're presenting, but you want their agent to also be excited to show off your headshots to casting directors. Here are a few examples of theatrical headshots that I've shot. And I think they work really well. The other main type of actors' headshot is a commercial headshot. A commercial headshot is just what it sounds like. It's a headshot that your client and their agent will use to get casted for TV commercials. Many times, these headshots will also be used for print and magazine advertisements as well. For an actor, the best case scenario is to land a national ad campaign, because this is where the big bucks are. And if you've watched any TV or read any magazines lately, you've probably noticed that almost every actor in these ads is good looking and very happy. Which of course makes sense, because almost every ad wants you to believe that buying their product will make you look better and make you happier. The way that this translates to your headshot photography is that you will want to bring out the shiny, happy person inside of your actor. You want a big, warm smile, flattering lighting, and bright outfit colors. As the photographer, you will not only have to use your camera and lighting skills, but you will need to rely heavily on your people skills to bring out the shiniest, happiest person you can in your client. This is where I like to tell some jokes, maybe play some upbeat music, and get both of us in the mood to get compelling commercial headshots. Here are a few examples of the difference between theatrical and commercial headshots. The shots on the left are all theatrical, and the ones on the right are all commercial. I think it's easy to see how small changes give each photo its unique feel. Within each of the two main categories, there are what we call looks. The good news for you, if you are planning to get into the business as a headshot photographer, is that most actors will need several looks to round out their headshot portfolio. The most basic definition of a look is a change of clothing. But in reality, a look is actually a change in the character type that accompanies the change in clothes. The reason that having several different looks in important to actors is that a typical casting call for a role will have a very brief description of the character that's being cast. It may say something like female, 25 to 35, any ethnicity, and then give a description such as Jenny is a young mother who is trying to find a new job in a new city. Or it could say male 45 to 55, ethnicity Japanese, and then give the description, George is the father of the main character James. George is always trying to get James to give up his silly dreams and join his law firm to follow in his footsteps. In each of these casting calls, your actor can cheat just a little bit by sending in a headshot that matches the character they're trying to get. For the part of Jenny, our client would want to wear clothes that are casual and feminine. Probably something a little brighter, maybe a little bit colorful, and we'd want our client to show a little bit more smile and friendliness. On the other hand, for the part of George, our client would probably want to wear a suit and tie, and be nicely groomed. We would want our client to give a neutral expression, or maybe even a little bit of a serious or dramatic look. The key to making different looks work Is to be very subtle. You always want to stay away from costumes or any uniforms. Doing this will only insult the casting director and send your client's headshots straight to the bin. Another reason not to be too specific or on-the-nose is that a headshot in a police uniform would only be usable for casting for police officers. Or a headshot in scrubs would only be usable for parts as doctors and nurses. Instead of uniforms, you want to imagine what these characters wear when they weren't working. Here are some examples of specific characters that I've shot for without being too on the nose. Here's a young mom, or an FBI agent. Or how about an evil villain? And then there's always the boy next door and the girl next door. And how about a gangster? As you can see, there's a lot of variety you can get with just subtle differences to create different looks. For me, a typical headshot session for an actor will include one or two commercial looks and three to five theatrical looks. It usually takes me about two to three hours to complete a session. And I shoot a ton of frames to make sure that my clients have lots of choices. I like to sit with my client during the shoot and pick out several shots from each look. Doing it this way cuts down on the proofing time after the shoot, and for some clients, it allows me to coach them as we go through the shoot. It also helps to make sure that everyone is happy with the photos from a look before we move onto the next look. After the shoot, I upload their favorites from each look, unretouched, to my proofing site. This gives them the ability to get the opinion of friends and agents and family members as to which ones will work best for them. Once they pick the one that's their favorite from each look, I process and retouch each of those final images and prep them for delivery. The final product that gets delivered will vary quite a bit. And it's best to keep this in mind while you're shooting and processing. Most casting directors are using websites and email to find and communicate with actors and agents, which means that you should definitely plan on delivering digital copies of the final retouched images. There is however still a small number of agents and casting directors who prefer an 8x10 print with the name of the actor on it that looks something like this. The actor would usually attach their resume to the back of the printed headshot as well. Because of this, I like to create an 8x10 version of each final photo as well. But since there are so many places in Los Angeles that print 8x10 headshots for practically nothing, I just hand over digital files and a couple referrals for where to get them printed. Here's an example of a finished and delivered headshot job. It's five fully retouched photos and five printable copies. I usually place them in a folder, compress that folder, and then send it to my client through Dropbox. So, that pretty much covers the basics and theory behind photographing great actors' head shots. In later lessons, you will get to go behind the scenes and see how these photos are actually created. For our next lesson, we're going to cover the basics and theories behind corporate headshot photography.

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