It is important to keep in mind that 'times change' and so do the expectations and requirements of our industry!
What Hollywood Agents and Casting Directors look for today may be different that what they wanted to see, say, ten years ago.
For instance, the head-shot of a ECU on one's face was superseded at one time by their desire/decree of expecting that a three-quarters photo submitted.
The reason here was that the actor might have a large head and a then torso . . . the face may be great, but the part did not call for someone who looked like a golf-ball on a tee. Not that this is a bad thing, but not what they were looking for in this case.
For commercials, there was/or is the "Composite Shot". This is where the actor attempts to show the powers-that-be that they can 'look the part'- many parts. One shot may be of the actor in an evening gown while the next picture (on the same 8X10 glossy) they might look like 'Rosie the Riveter' (young people can Google this . . ) Anyway, you get the picture. This, again, may be the right way to show yourself, or not, based on today's requirements.
A Casting Director once told me that it takes about 'SEVEN TIMES' to have your picture seen for your head-shot to be 'recognized' by a Casting Director. What this means to you is that you should have plenty of them and pass them out on a regular basis. SO . . . what are the criteria for submitting the picture that will set you apart for the other thousand and one photos flying around?
(PS: I capitalize Agent, Director and Casting Director as if the title represents royalty. That's because, in this biz- they ARE!)
Here are some things to think about when getting your head-shot updated, or created for the first time:
Any photographer is not necessarily the best photographer for you. In other words, anyone can push a camera button and call themselves a photographer. What you want is a photographer who specializes in doing this type of work. They may be a talented artist, but not the one you want or need to hire.
Although it is not legal for an Agent to tell who exactly who will do your head-shot, they are great for getting a list of photographers for you to VISIT and TALK TO before you make the choice! I suggest that you make an appointment for an interview. Simply take plenty of time to talk with your prospective photographer. If they seem impatient, or pushy- move on. There are MANY quality photographers to choose from. Yes, even in smaller towns.
It is critical that you are comfortable with her/him. You need, in my estimation, to actually LIKE the person. you need to feel relaxed and never intimidated in any way.
Lighting and suggesting the angles is their business. Being calm, comfortable and engaging the camera is your job. Give yourselves the best environment in which to work your magic.
Women, especially, know that looking good is important. Most women have had plenty of practice. Men know it, but may need some- tutoring? Ask another woman about how you do your hair, dress. Someone who will be objective (not your fiancee, or prime relative who knows that you listed then in your 'will') is so important because the Agent or Casting Director will be viewing you this way.
No one wants to 'hit the wall'! Getting older is a woman's dilemma, that we, in our culture are obsessed about. It is true that age can eventually work against us- but staying eternally young is for vampires or Peter Pan. I say this, to say that it is not a good idea for anyone to have a shot where one is 45 years old- but looks going on sixteen. Yes, make-up is necessary for most of us, but hiring a skilled air-brush artist that can make the 'Wicked Witch of the West' look like Goldilocks is not to your advantage. WHY! Because your head-shot is a tool that you use to represent yourself- not the person in your mind's mirror. It is both fictitious and basically can be a waste of time for anyone looking to cast you for a part. Idea: Ask around for someone who has experience in doing make-up for head-shots and take time to look at their work before plunking down more money.
Take along a dressing change or two. See if you can ask before your shoot what your photographer prefers. Perhaps the photographer will like you in a sweater, or a blazer. Have fun, and think about how you want to present yourself. Be open to suggestions. Wearing Levi's down to your knees may be 'groovy' (another Google assignment for you young'ns), but perhaps not the best AVERAGE look for you. Let the experts, the ones looking to cast you do what they do best- to visualize. The final role you are auditioning for may be far removed from how you see yourself, or relate to your peers.
Take time to relax, each session is a live-and-learn. It is all part of the wonderful experience of acting and performing for yourself and others.
As always, give yourself PLENTY of time to arrive, get relaxed, greet your chosen photographer politely, and share a joke- or two. Time is important, but taking the proper amount of time for you is taking time seriously. Sometimes I would go the day before, just to know where the location is so I don't jam myself up by getting 'lost' - especially in LA and in Hollywood traffic!
ROMANCE THE CAMERA! It is my personal belief that one can send energy right into the lens. Spooky? Maybe, but the lens is where you shine! Take time to look in a mirror. Do you squint without realizing it? Does you hair insist on crossing your right eye?
What is a smile, and what looks like a forced grin? Not an easy thing to do, but might consider doing it, but do NOT over-judge!
Look at others head-shots. If you see ones you like, ask the actor who shot them. It is OK to find out who you might 'gel' with by seeing their work. New actors, especially, can get into the hands of a clever entrepreneur who posses as your greatest link to become a 'star'.
Again, your Agent is you best friend! You have a mutual-admiration society partner when you have a legitimate one.
(Getting a quality Agent is another topic.)
WHO will 'own' the negatives? I always needed to know that I would have them. Letting the photographer own them leaves one open to depending on them keeping them ready. What if they crimp? You do not want to have to pay them each time you want to get more copies. Getting plenty of pictures is important and one does not want to pay twice when it is not necessary.
Probably the best advice anyone can give you is:
This is who you are, and the best part of you is expressed when you are enjoying yourself, doing the thing you love to do- ie., ACTING!
As always, this BLOG entry is here to offer guidance and, most of all, give our readers something to think about.
PLEASE, let us know what you think. Sharing your experiences, both positive as well as negative, can make the difference between a fellow artist going astray, losing time and money or enjoying the opportunities in this great industry.