Actor headshots are meant to look natural - so many people new to the industry come to the conclusion that makeup and photo editing aren’t necessary - or even potentially taboo. They want to see what you really look like, right?
Not quite! When done correctly, hair, makeup, and professional photo editing work together to showcase your natural features, have a polished final headshot, and help you stand out in a positive way.
Light, natural makeup helps your skin look fresh, moisturized, and clear of temporary blemishes. You don’t want the casting director’s eyes to go straight to the pimple that inevitably happens the morning you need to go take your headshot, and it wouldn’t still be there when performance day happens. It’s completely normal and acceptable to have light makeup.
And yes - both men and women can wear makeup for a headshot. A professional artist will make it look like you aren’t wearing anything - so using their services for a polished look is completely gender neutral.
Light photo editing can also enhance the level of polish and professionalism in the headshot, and make sure eyes stay focused where they should be. It can remove distracting elements to keep the background clean, smooth clothing wrinkles, erase stray hairs, or make other small adjustments that work together for big impact on the final headshot. Taking a great headshot has everything to do with paying attention to details. Makeup and photo editing are two elements that are often overlooked, but play a significant role in getting a headshot that makes an impact.
I am so incredibly proud to announce that this portrait won bronze in an international, prestigious photography competition. This 12 year old girl had never done professional portraits before, and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I provided the dress, location, and guidance - but I was so proud of how she truly opened up and became absolutely radiant during the process. She was an absolute natural.
The Portrait Masters Awards judge every detail of a portrait - expression, styling, color harmony, lighting, composition - and even down to what a portrait communicates to a viewer - the feelings and stories it expresses. To be judged on a global scale, amongst other phenomenal artists from around the world and thousands of entries, and to be ranked at bronze is an honor and accomplishment that can’t entirely be put to words. Thank you to my amazing clients - you enspire me, every day, to continue to create and be better than the day before.
A portrait session is certainly not an everyday event for most people, let alone a fantasy portrait session. It’s no surprise that many people end up feeling unsure about how to plan for one. Taking the time to prepare my clients and help everyone feel confident is part of the process for all of my sessions, and you can always contact me, but here’s a few tips for those who like to plan ahead.
1. Have at least a general concept in mind.
Do you love fairies, renaissance, wizards and magic, elvish queens, an indoor garden sci-fi dreams, or something else you’ve always imagined? You certainly don’t need every detail planned out, but a general concept we can run with goes a long way in getting the look you’ll love.
2. Think about the underthings.
You would be surprised how often this gets missed! If you know you’re going to have shoulders showing, a bra with straps won’t do well for you. If you know your outfit has a thin fabric, be conscious about the color of your undergarments - bright pink with a thin white gown, for instance, will not be your friend. Something that helps keeps things tucked in where you want them, like some spanx, can make a big difference. It’s okay to wait on this step if you’re not sure yet what you’ll be wearing, but have it in the back of your mind while outfit decisions are being made.
3. Become a vampire. (Not really, but kinda. Avoid the sun!)
Sunburns, or even tan lines, can become very eye catching in not the best way in photographs! Stay in the shade, or at least be aware of how long you spend in the sun, leading up to your portraits.
Take care of yourself and your skin, which includes using a great moisturizer daily. Dry skin looks noticeably different in camera. Palmers cocoa butter is an easy go to. Make sure to keep your lips hydrated with a good chapstick, too.
5. Get a haircut or trim.
A fresh trim, at minimum, the week of the session makes a huge difference. Split and uneven ends can be very noticeable in a portrait. If you dye your hair, a refresher on the color the week of so you don’t have roots showing is recommended.
6. Treat yourself to a mani-pedi!
Hands are like arrows in a portrait. They direct your eyes. Clean and trimmed nails are a must, but if you’d like to add a cute color or design, go for it! If you know the color of your outfit, a matching nail color can add tremendously to the image. However, a plain neutral color or even a French manicure are safe bets if you’re unsure. Bare feet can work great in images, so don’t forget to add in that pedi, too.
7. Plan on having a healthy meal before your session.
Portrait sessions are like a workout. They take energy, and any time you’re expelling energy, you need fuel to keep going safely and comfortably. The last thing you want is to plan a fun fantasy session, only to have a hunger headache half way through!
8. Think about props and accessories.
A great image is all about the details. Complimentary rings, jewelry, head pieces, or other accessories can add significantly to the final WOW factor. However, it’s always good to run them by the photographer - sometimes certain colors, reflections, etc, can clash with the image making process. Other times, props can over power the image so that it becomes more about the prop than the person. Communication with the photographer is key here!
9. Character stories!
If you’re doing portraits of an original character, write about them, and share it with the photographer. If it’s purely a self portrait, write about yourself, and what you’d like people to see when they look at your portrait. Images are powerful, and everything from colors to lighting can work together to tell your story. Share your writing with your photographer, and you’ll be amazed watching it come to life.
10. Communicate any special considerations to the photographer.
If you have any physical insecurities or limitations, let the photographer know. There are often accommodations that can be made, or even lens or lighting tricks that can work like magic when you want to emphasize, minimize, or “cheat” a look. The photographer is there not only to make you look amazing - but also to feel amazing, too. If they haven’t made you feel comfortable discussing your needs, they may not be the right fit for you.
In summary, communication and self care are the biggest elements to plan on for your fantasy portraits. A session is a great excuse to focus on some self love. Enjoy the process, enjoy your session, and have fun!