A Road To Taking Headshots.

LOL Let me say right now that if you’re looking for a quick answer, a one-and-done, a wham bam thank you ma’am, “I just want to take headshots and not put any thought to it”, then stop reading right here LOL.

However, if you’re looking for a process, a systematic approach on how to prepare for your headshots, then continue reading. I got new theatrical headshots, and the road to them was productive and lengthy because I wanted to be prepared. I set a goal, “Shoot new theatrical headshots.” And I then created an administration plan to set myself up for success. In other words, pre-production. Keep reading below.

So, here’s the road I took to getting new theatrical headshots:

1. First, what castings am I going for in this new unit of time? What castings am I interested in? I needed to identify the kinds of castings I wanted to capture in my headshot session: Public school teacher. White-collar executive. Dad. Great. Ask the next question with these castings to get more specific. Keep reading below.

2. I looked at the auditions I went out for in the last two years to find consistency in the parts I generally go out for. How does the industry see me? What parts do I keep going out for? That was a great action to take for reference and revelation. Keep reading below.

3. I shared the castings from #1 and #2 with my trusted career administration group for feedback. I also asked them for shows where these castings exist so that I could study visual examples of them. And if possible, specific episodes to look out for. Keep reading below.

4. With the list that we generated, I watched a few episodes of different TV shows to study how these characters lived in their worlds. I also studied their subtext, their point of view, and the wardrobe they wore. Keep reading below.

5. I Googled still images of these same TV characters to find pictures that spoke to me and that I could then download as another source of reference and inspiration. Keep reading below.

6. I then uploaded those images into a headshot template that master teacher Richard Lawson created. The template helps us approach and embody the characters we want to shoot with specificity. These images visually represent the castings we are going for, and it helps the headshot photographer be on the same page to help us execute those castings. Next to each image, I typed in the essence and qualities of the character, plus two to three lines of what I thought they were thinking in that image (aka their subtext.) I also wrote down what they wore and their physical stance within the template. All of this information seduces me into the experience of these characters and how to embody them. As a result, the headshot photographer can better capture that experience and life on camera. I’m not just posing in front of the camera. I have a life that the photographer is capturing. Keep reading below.

7. I went on Google to find descriptions/biographies of the characters in my headshot template to deepen my understanding of them. For example, I Googled Mitchell Pritchett (a character from “Modern Family”) to get more insight into him. Why? Because there could be one word, one phrase, that the creator or writer uses that could be the key to unlocking who they are and how I can channel their essence and quality during the headshot session. If I found a keyword or phrase about the character that impinged me, I added it to my headshot template. Keep reading below.

8. I began window shopping for wardrobe that would be exactly/as close as possible to what the characters in my headshot template wore. Why? Because I want to match what Hollywood is buying and marketing on their shows. For example, one of my first circles of casting is a public school teacher. And I looked at different TV shows about teachers from “Abbott Elementary” to “A.P. Bio.” I eventually went with “Abbott Elementary” to be my source of inspiration. One thing that helped me was to ask Google where these characters shop for their wardrobe: “Where do the teachers at ‘Abbott Elementary’ shop for their clothes?” Keep reading below.

Boom. I found a Variety article that revealed where the show’s costume designer, Susan Michalek, shops for the wardrobe: “Created by Quinta Brunson, who also stars as Janine, ‘Abbott Elementary’ follows a group of teachers who work at an underfunded Philadelphia school, leading Brunson and Michalek to decide to constrain the show’s costumes to a realistic teacher’s budget. H&M, Zara, Target, and Old Navy became Michalek’s go-to stores, with occasional splurges at Anthropologie. ‘We really want to keep it at what these people could afford, as much as we possibly can,’ Michalek says.” Keep reading below.

Bingo! I went to OldNavy.com and bought a shirt that was nearly identical to one that Gregory (played by Tyler James Williams) wore in one of the pictures I uploaded into my headshot template. I even bought a lanyard to complete the look. Keep reading below.

9. I also found a couple of websites that lead you to stores where you can buy the same clothes worn on various TV shows: https://www.shopyourtv.com/ and https://www.pradux.com/tv Keep reading below.

10. I looked through Instagram pages to see what other actors wore in their headshots. Keep reading below.

11. I reached out to my headshot photographer (Emily Sandifer) to get her availability and deposit requirement. I got her availability and put down a deposit to hold my shoot date. Keep reading below.

12. I bought wardrobe for each casting. Keep reading below.

13. I created a musical playlist on Spotify for each casting as an additional way to get into the experience and belief of these characters. Keep reading below.

14. I did test shoots at home to make sure the wardrobe read and popped on camera. Keep reading below.

15. I practiced the subtext of my characters to make sure it impinged me and to make sure it read on camera. Keep reading below.

16. I booked out with my agent to keep my headshot date clear and open. Keep reading below.

17. I shared the headshot template with Emily so she could be on the same page with me. Keep reading below.

18. I shared the test shoots with Emily so that she could see the wardrobe that I purchased, and the options I had for a couple of the castings. Keep reading below.

19. I took my wardrobe to the cleaners to get them pressed. Keep reading below.

20. I picked up my wardrobe from the cleaners. Keep reading below.

21. I worked out three times a week in the month leading up to my shoot date. Keep reading below.

22. I practiced a skin regimen every night in the month leading up to my shoot date. Keep reading below.

23. I went to the dentist’s office to get a cleaning. Keep reading below.

24. No alcohol consumption in the week leading up to my shoot date. Keep reading below.

25. I got a good night’s sleep the night before my shoot date. Keep reading below.

26. Day of shoot: I ate a great breakfast for fuel and energy. I flossed, brushed my teeth, scraped my tongue, shaved my face, and showered. I arrived early. On the set itself, I had fun and let it go. I’ve done all this work, now let it go and be present with the photographer. Keep reading below.

The great thing about the specificity of the headshots I took is that they could also branch out into other characters within the same zip code. For example, one of my castings was a white-collar executive who is a truth seeker who challenges the status quo and fights for what is right. My visual inspiration from my headshot template was a lawyer. However, this same headshot can also extend to a Senator, a Congressman, a journalist, a reporter, the head of the board, etc. All of whom fight for what is right. Keep reading below.

So there you have it! Is it THE way to prepare for headshots? It is for me! It’s A way. Hopefully, you can draw inspiration from this and allow yourself to truly take the journey, the road, and the pre-production needed to take great, fulfilling headshots. Keep reading below.


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