If you are a job seeker looking for an awesome career or an actor looking to land a life-changing role in LA this article is for you.
Some of you may know this and some of you may not but headshots are critical to your success.
A perfect headshot conveys a wealth of information in a fraction of a second…
Is this person a good representation of my company?
Would she be a great fit for my next movie?
These are just some questions that go through the mind of casting agents and recruiters every day in Los Angeles.
To put it simple, people want to connect with people they feel would best represent their company or next entertainment production.
The main purpose of your headshots is to get you opportunities that will open doors to auditions and work. It will be your primary marketing tool to promote yourself.
As a professional photographer, specializing in entertainment and professional headshots I’ve learned a few lessons along the way about how to create a strong entertainment headshot and a professional LinkedIn profile picture.
Here’s my advice on what to look for in a headshot that will land you that next gig without going broke.
But before we get started let’s go over the basics…shall we?
What is LinkedIn?
I know I mentioned LinkedIn in the opening of this article and I realize some of you may not know what that is or the importance of it. So let me quickly explain–LinkedIn is one of the most important websites for finding a job and a good paying one at that in LA.
So why is it so important?
Because LinkedIn is where all the HR managers and recruiters are hanging out looking for people like you to fill empty positions in their company. In a recent study, a whopping 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet and search for job candidates.
So having a good professional photo that you use on LinkedIn and across all of your professional networks says a great deal about you–It demonstrates that you are professional and care about your public image.
What makes a good headshot?
An awesome headshot contains several key factors:
The first essential component is that the photo must be pleasing to the eye. It catches the attention of the viewer. Professional headshot and portrait photographers understand that many factors including composition, background, and lighting need to come together to create a striking image of an individual.
The second piece of the puzzle is utility. Do you need commercial looks? Theatrical is the term for the more dramatic shots here in LA (“Legit” in NYC) Do you need both? Are you are looking to do more Indie roles? Maybe you’re spot-on for the sitcom world. Your looks should be specific enough that one can see your potential for casting in a certain genre, but not so particular that you are limited to one role. In any case, casting directors, agents, and managers need to be able to instantly visualize you for these potential roles through your awesome headshot.
Perhaps the most important facet is the personality of the image. We the viewers want to know exactly what it was you were thinking when that moment was captured. A small squint in the eyes or a genuine grin can be cause for some pretty powerful shots.
The effective merging of these factors is a sure-fire recipe for headshot success. A knowledgeable photographer is capable of creating an environment comfortable enough to achieve these results time after time.
For Professional Job Seekers
First of all, have an actual photo on your LinkedIn profile. No one will take you seriously if you have the default image. Hire a professional to take your shot. They will get the lighting right, coach you to a good expression and if you’re lucky they may even have a makeup artist in tow. If you want to be perceived as a professional, you have to act like one. It’s clearly obvious if you snapped a selfie or cropped yourself out of a group shot you took in Cancun on spring break.
What can I do to prepare for my session?
Do your best to get a full night of sleep before the day of your shoot. Give yourself plenty of travel time before the session in case you get stuck in LA traffic. Also, don’t plan anything too soon after. You don’t want to be stressing your next appointment while in front of the camera.
Clothing for Actors
Your clothing choices are important considerations as well. You certainly want to allude to the roles you’re right for, but no one needs to see your fake police badge here. Basic clothing with little to no pattern seems to read best on camera. Do your best to vary the necklines in your looks. You can also use layering to change up the vibe.
Vibrant color is great for commercial looks, while muted tones do well for drama. Make sure to plan accordingly if you’d like to shoot ¾ length photos. See what clothing you’re already working with and wear what you love. The photographer should be able to help you with choosing clothing if you’re really struggling. Lastly, if you just love your Cosby sweater…bring it!
Everyone has that one piece that is out of left field. I encourage my clients to bring that piece into my studio. Happy accidents are the stuff of headshot dreams.
Tip: for added versatility of looks, women can arrive with straight hair and curl it halfway through. Likewise, men can arrive with scruff and shave during the session.
Clothing for Professional Job Seekers
It really depends; a tank top and flip flops are great for the guy who works at the surf shop on Venice Beach. Suits and ties are perfect for many on the corporate side of the entertainment industry. Since your clothing can vary just ask yourself “What do people in my industry wear?”
If you are worried or unsure, err on the side of caution and dress up a little. It never hurts to have clean, new garments. Remember to look like yourself, but yourself on your best day.
What about after the shoot?
You will most likely be given login information for a gallery of your images. Sometimes it’s hard to decide on one or two choices from upwards of a hundred photos. It’s useful to ask friends and family as well as agents and managers for feedback. These are people that know and see you on a regular basis and can help decide the top picks.
Retouching and Printing
If you’ve hired a professional photographer the last thing you want to do is sell yourself short by not getting your images retouched and printed by professionals. You want to look like you on the best of days. Good hair, great skin, plenty of sleep, etc.
If you’re an actor, I would also advise against uploading any unedited headshots on your social media profiles for casting directors and everyone else to potentially see. You never want anyone to randomly find an unedited professional photo that does not represent you properly. Image is everything in LA.
There are also high quality print shops in LA. They handle large quantities of headshots on a daily basis. A one-hour photo at the local pharmacy is not the place to reproduce your new headshot. Do it right and you’ll feel that much better about your new marketing tool. There is no better feeling than walking into an audition with a headshot that you know rocks.
Is that it?
Yep. As I said, it can be a big process, but it can also be an encouraging and productive experience. I hope the above information has settled some nerves about getting new headshots. Being in LA and carving out a career here is challenging. If you’re doing all the things that are necessary to succeed here, a quality headshot should compliment your hard work. Take that Cosby sweater with you, and you might even have fun!
A Special for all IMTLA Readers
For all of you LA newbies, for a limited time I’m offering a special IMTLA professional headshot package to get your career started on the right foot. Most professional photographers’ can be quite expensive (including myself 🙂 ) but I love to give back to the city I call home. And what better way to embrace the next generation of LA than to share my passion for photography with you and most importantly without you going broke.