How to prepare for a photo shoot by David Spowart

The birds are chirping, the days are longer, and the temperature’s…well, not quite rising, but getting there! To any layperson, spring is in the air.

But if you’ve been missing these glorious signs of rebirth, chances are, you're probably an actor, wrapped up in a different type of season—pilot season.

Although traditionally pilot season runs from January to April, we’re seeing more and more pilots appearing throughout the year as the television game evolves. So in light of this ever-changing art form where a pilot can drop anytime, I’ve decided to launch my blog with the single-most important item for the actor during pilot season: the headshot.

Here you’ll find some tips on how to prepare for your photo session. Best of luck!

Before the shoot

It may seem like common sense, but when it comes to your headshot, you have to look good. This will take some prep work (so no all-nighters—these aren’t your school exams!).

Focus on getting a good night’s sleep for at least three days prior to the session and avoid alcohol during this time as well. Your skin and eyes will look brighter. If your hair looks best 10 days after being cut, make sure you’ve booked your appointment a week and a half before your shoot.

An air of relaxed confidence makes for the most successful and interesting photos—even if it means bringing in some music or a cheeky glass of wine to get you to that point.

During the shoot

A session will generally take around three hours. Be prepared to discuss your needs, your casting, and what you want to get out of the shoot. Most photographers will let you view some shots on the camera so you can see how you look and make any necessary changes. 

What to bring

Have previous headshots on hand to show your photographer and discuss what you liked or didn’t like, how successful they were for you, and how accurately they reflected your casting.

Clothing is very important. You want to make sure you’re the focus of the photograph, not your clothes. It’s a good idea to wear something fitted since baggy clothes can add weight to your photo.

Don’t forget to bring options! I usually prefer if actors provide 10 alternative changes. We may only shoot five, but it’s never a bad thing to have lots of choices. Men, bring at least one collared shirt with sleeves. Industry hack #1: Buy a bunch of outfits for the shoot, but leave the tags on and return them afterwards.

Bright reds and oranges often oversaturate on camera, but if you feel these are your best colours, bring one or two examples and we can work with them.

As always, keep it simple. Avoid strong patters that can warp or overpower you. Stay classic. That being said, if you have a very individual style, feel free to bring some items that represent it. We can also include quirky accessories towards the end of the shoot.

Men, bring a razor, shaving kit, and towel if you’d like photos taken with and without facial hair.

Hair and makeup

Find out if your photographer provides hair and make up. If not, you can either book a hair and makeup artist for your shoot, or do it yourself. Industry hack #2: Places like MAC or Sephora offer inexpensive tips and techniques for use on camera, which can be an inexpensive way to make sure you get it right. Your makeup should show your face. Stick with neutral, natural tones. Non-pearlised colours generally work better with lighting.

Even if you book a hair stylist for the shoot, arrive with your hair done the way you like it. The stylist can then tweak throughout.

I’ve worked with a few stylists and would recommend the following: Jessica Whyte, Elena PacienzaCarly gatto and Ashley Vieira