How to prepare for a headshot session
Updated: Apr 2
Keeping in mind that a headshot session is an acting gig where you are presenting your most CASTABLE self, here are some acting tips to help you prepare.
Create a list of your character. Keep it simple: corporate executive, upscale woman, bouncer, Mom, Dad, rocker, etc. (Remember, you are leaning into who you are rolling out of bed—with better hair—as well as the casting types that you have been discovering in your acting class.)
Most headshot sessions are priced based on number of looks, which is usually wardrobe changes. When you are planning your wardrobe, remember that character types can overlap, for example, the corporate executive outfit can double for Doctor. It's all about your attitude and inner monologue.
Make a list of adjectives and emotional connections for each character. For example, Mom: loving, nurturing, happy, wise, compassionate, etc.
Now that you have your list of adjectives, creating one or several Mantras is a very effective tool. (I explain the Mantra concept in detail in my book "Act ALIVE: The Essential Guide to Igniting and
Sustaining Your Working Actor Career".) In brief, it is a sentence that your character holds as an inner monologue and uses for an emotional spine. Mom's Mantra could be "I love you," or "I'm so proud of you." Your "loving" characters would have similar Mantras. A corporate executive's Mantra could be "I rule my empire," "I own you," or a similar power-based Mantra. How to switch to Doctor in the same wardrobe? Switch the Mantra. The Doctor's Mantra could be "You can trust me," or "I will take care of you."
Keep your adjectives and your Mantras handy throughout your headshot session, either on your phone or a notepad. A good headshot photographer also knows this is an acting session, and might be able to help you sustain these Mantras during your shoot. If you feel yourself getting tired after several clicks, take a moment, look away, close your eyes, revisit your Mantra, and turn back into the camera. Again, a good photographer will likely guide you to do so anyway.
Remember, these are internal thoughts. This is not about doing "face acting," or showing us what you're thinking. Just think it, and use your eyes to connect to the person behind the camera lens. Which leads me to...
Your list of Hot Persons for each of your characters—which is my studio's vernacular for the people in your life who really light your emotional fire (also thoroughly explained in my book). For Mom? Your kids. For corporate executive? That weasel who's trying to take your job. For Doctor? The person who needs your help.
With this combination of your castable characters, the appropriate wardrobe suggesting the character (no white lab coats for Doctor, please), your Mantras, your Hot Persons, and a good photographer who knows how to work with you as an actor, you are setting yourself up for a successful headshot session.
Break a leg out there! And if you want more tips like this that have started the careers of hundreds of actors, buy my book!