How To Crush Your Headshot Session

Posted By Jordan

Headshots. You love having them taken and hate having them taken. When they “work,” you’re thrilled and can’t wait to share them with everyone, but when they don’t, you feel like you just wasted your hard-earned money and you have to make do until you can afford a new photographer.


So how, then, can you make sure you always get the shots that will be fantastic?

First, you MUST know and love (or at least embrace) your Main Archetype. It’s essential that you get enough shots that convey how the industry sees you.


Here’s exactly how to crush your headshot session: INFORMATION & EDUCATION about the process


Most headshot photographers are also actors or former actors. Typically, it’s the side gig many actors pick up so they don’t have to wait tables or bartend while still pursuing their acting careers. They’ve had their own photos done enough times that they feel like they’d know how to do it better. And in some cases, that can be true. However, in many, it’s definitely not true.


A good photographer must also be good director, like any good film/TV director. They must be able to direct you in a ways that draw something out of your organically, rather then telling you how to pose or give you technical adjustments, or “tricks” to help convey something. Sure, you might need minor adjustments, but it’s pulling out what’s inside of you that makes the difference.


Think of your headshot session as showing up to an actual set for a real acting gig rather than just getting your pictures taken. And if you ‘re getting more than one look, then get in the headspace of going to more than one set on the same day. Multiple looks = multiple differentperformances. And if the photographer isn’t a good director, your headshots will look boring because you’ll be uninspired.


Being a good director also means having a vision. Any monkey with a camera can take a good picture if conditions are right, but you’re not going for good, you want to stand out among a sea of other tiny thumbnails on a computer monitor. And that has to do with vision.


What I mean by vision is that every aspect of the photo must work together to convey what you want conveyed. The lighting, the wardrobe, the attitude (from being directed), the environment or background, the color scheme, the makeup and hair. An experienced film director thinks about every little detail of each shot. A pro photographer should be no different.


Every element sends a message which registers subconsciously to the person looking at the photo. If a single thing isn’t right, something will “feel off” and they won’t give you a second look. Everything single element in the photo needs to work.


If you’re going for a Badass Attorney archetype, then don’t shoot in a location with trees behind you, or in the street with cars behind you. Either shoot indoors with natural light, or studio lighting in a location or against a background that gives the impression of an office. It can be nondescript, but it has to feel like you’re somewhere. And the lighting should be a bit dramatic, especially for one-hour drama archetypes.

Stephanie Chloe Hepner

Stephanie Chloe Hepner

Now which looks more like the badass to you? Which one pops more? The right-side image is perfect for any of the “comic book” or supernatural shows, or dark, edgy show. It goes from a generic shot that makes no sense to something specific.

Reserve bright, poppy colors for comedy or commercial shots. Wearing a bright yellow shirt and red leather jacket for an edgy look won’t cut it.


Also know that when you’re sussing out photographers, when looking at their websites, they all choose the best images of the prettiest people and they’re all photoshopped. All of them.


Your headshots are not supposed to only be pretty and make you feel good about how you look, as if you’re trying to land a hot date. You’re shouldn’t always look pretty. Sometimes you need to look a little rough around the edges. If you’re going for the haggard detective, then you need to look a little haggard.

This will make it easier to cast you, or at least call you in for an audition.

Also know that YOU  are in charge, not the photographer. It’s your money, you’re hiring them, so make sure you get what you want. And how you get what you want is by having a preliminary conversation with any photographer you’re considering.


Tell them exactly what you’re going for within each look, and that you want variations in lighting, location (or background if in the studio), and in how they direct you. You can’t be directed the same for a drama archetype as you can for a comedy one. The person behind the camera must be skilled in drawing out your best performance for each role you’re having shots taken for. And if they aren’t a good director, and you find this out during your shoot, then you must manufacture an amazing performance by getting into the head of that character (archetype).


Don’t let the photographer only shoot what they want. This is your session, so you’re the boss. It’s okay to stop and have a gentle and inspiring conversation during the shoot to get the photographer on the same page.


It’s of the utmost importance that you do your research and due dilligence before booking a session. Good communication is key. And if they pass you off to an assistant, tell them that you want to talk to the photographer. If they refuse, that speaks volumes about their ego, and about how it’s going to go down. So just skip them and go to the next one.


Headshots are also extremely subjective. Every single person will have a different opinion, or want to see different things in any given shot. You can’t please everyone. If you have reps, get what they want since they’re the ones marketing and pitching you. Once you get all the ones they want, then do what you want. It’s also important that they get you, who you are, and your main archetypes. Everyone should be on the same page.


Remember, you’re the boss ?


I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below 👇🏻


I’m a multi-award-winning filmmaker & producer, serial entrepreneur, author, and artist.

Copyright © 2021 Jordan Ancel International, LLC All rights reserved.