How To Make Effective Head Shots

by William Lulow

Many people confuse head shots with portraits. A portrait is a person’s likeness recorded the way a photographer “sees” her subject. A headshot has a specific purpose. It is a photograph that is supposed to show a person at his or her best at a given time. It should be well-lit with little shadows.

In order to achieve this, the photographer must use all the tools at his or her disposal including: good lighting, sharp optics, hair and makeup and the psychology involved in the photography process. All this in an effort to arrive at something approaching a “natural” –looking image.

Casting directors want to see what the prospective actors actually look like. If the person doesn’t look like their headshots when they show up at the casting call, they will not be called back. It’s important for actors, therefore, to realize that their headshots should be updated on a regular basis. Most likely, they will be outdated in around five years or so, maybe sooner. It’s also important for photographers to be aware of what the casting directors are looking for. Photographers should provide the elements of the shoot listed above, but should also strive to make an image that is somehow different from the ordinary. There was a fairly successful headshot photographer who had a small studio and always had his lights set up in exactly the same place. The results he achieved were technically perfect, but each person’s shot looked exactly the same. Only the face was different. The same background and same lighting was used every time.

I think that photographers need to get to know their subjects a bit in order to make each headshot different. Whereas some may call for a studio shot, others might benefit by using a location. (A park, a wall, the sky). Even though there has been a trend lately for more casual types of headshots, directors still want to see what the person looks like.

These are some of my recent headshots:

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