Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
We hosted a wonderful and smart panel of industry professionals on October 23 at our free Casting Networks members Inside the Industry Seminar. The information shared was valuable and very enlightening! Each panelist gave out a handout with important points and reminders for attendees to take home. This is an overview of our seminar with the guests’ information handouts included below. The panelists were Clay Larsen, Jennifer Zide and Deidhra Fahey. Below are their bios-
Clay Larsen has worked as the Online Photo Manager for Casting Networks for three years. In addition, he also works as a headshot photographer and commercial actor.
Jennifer Zide has been a make-up artist for over 20 years specializing in beauty and period styling for television, film, print and commercials in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Her credits include Nash Bridges, The Shield, Brothers and Sisters, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration and Burlesque. Some of the faces she’s had a pleasure to work on have been Cathy Nijimy, CCH Pounder, Catherine Dent, Michael Chiklis, Sally Field, Emily Van Camp, Peter Coyote, Val Kilmer, Steven Weber, Glenn Close, Kevin Pollak and Cher.
Deidhra Fahey specializes in headshots, event, and personality photography. She understands the need to be comfortable to capture the real you. Deidhra is a casual, yet professional, Los Angeles based photographer/ You could add that I shot on the east coast for 10 years and have been shooting since 1983. I also shoot in Dallas, San Diego, and Albequerque.
Clay told us, “The first two things listed really are common sense and you would think that they are no brainers for actors; then it’s really, really important that your photos are retouched. Even if you get your final disk and think, ‘These look professional enough,’ a professional retoucher is going to be able to see things that aren’t immediately apparent on the surface to you. It’s extremely important because that’s one of the many ways that you can set yourself apart and it makes a difference when you get the thumbnail size version of your photo, which casting directors see on our site when they initially view your photo. The way they usually see you is in a grid of thumbnail images with a bunch of other actors who have also been submitted. You want to find ways to make yourself stand out.
I would also say to be very careful of the ‘web-sized’ photos. I don’t know if Deidhra does this (I don’t personally), but a lot of photographers will give you on the DVD they give you, the full size, print ready shots and then web-sized shots. The web-sized shots if they are large enough are great, that’s fine, but a lot of photographers’ web-sized shots actually are smaller than what we need at LA Casting and so it just gets into a big back and forth where you upload your web-sized shot. I, then, have to contact you back and say that ‘These are not large enough. We need larger versions.’ Then you have to take the time to send another email. It just takes up more of your day and it is an easily avoidable thing. That’s a general overview of my sheet.”
Deidhra began with, “Hi, I’m Deidhra Fahey. This is new for me, so if I stutter, please forgive me. I am always behind the camera. You guys are the ones that are good at this. On my handout, I basically have six bullet points. One is, ‘What is needed to take a great headshot?’ Obviously first, it’s you. What is really difficult as me as a photographer or anybody as a photographer is that you are so many dimensions, auras, personalities and are so diverse and everything. You need to bring all of that to the photographer. You need to ‘click’ with the photographer for that. We need to get that in one second. We don’t want you to be ‘acting’ like ‘Mr. Good Guy’ we want you to ‘be’ Mr. Good Guy, Mom or Young College Student. So your personality is probably the only thing we can’t do in PhotoShop. We can pretty much fix everything else. [laughter] So if you have a personality, bring it to the shoot.
Lighting is always good. The photographer should know that and you should also discuss that with your photographer. Look on other websites. Go on every photgraphers’ website you can think of and say ‘This person looks like me and I really like that composition and the way they lit that person.’ Don’t feel afraid to tell the photographer anything. I always like it when people bring stuff and say, ‘I like these’ and then we work together because it’s a team thing. It really is.
With composition, you know everybody has their ‘best side’. I find that really cute because nobody is perfectly symmetrical. I’ve only met one person who was really young who was perfectly symmetrical on both sides. Both of his eyes were the same size, his ears were perfect and stuff like that. When he smiled, it was perfect and it was scary for a while. I kind of stared at him for a while. [laughter] So, everybody has their best side, but I’m finding that the other side that you don’t like, is the rounder side but it is also the younger side. Practice in the mirror looking at your ‘non-good’ side because when I point the camera at you, you automatically… (Deidhra then tilted her head in a side pose) it’s always this way or that way. Go to the side that you’re not comfortable with, look in the mirror, get a really cool look…’yeah, I look good that way’ then close your eyes and memorize how it feels because that is going to be super, super important. Otherwise, you’re going to get the same shot, over and over and over again.
How can you take a great headshot? It’s about being comfortable. Comfortable with yourself and comfortable with the person that’s shooting you. If you walk in and start talking to the photographer that you’ve chosen and all of the sudden you get this knot in your stomach and you know yourself well enough to judge that, just say to them, ‘ You know, I don’t think that this is going to work.’ Walk out. It’s a waste of their time and your time. You’re paying for it. If it’s a job you’re getting paid for, you have to suck it up and just do it but if you’re paying for it, just go. I personally would like you to do that if this isn’t going to work.
With knowing how you are being marketed, talk to your agent. A lot of times, I’ll have agents call me afterward and say, ‘These are great, but this person is seventy and they are in a biker jacket.‘ [laughter] and I’ll say, ‘She’s kind of cool in that biker jacket and she said that you said that that’s what you wanted’ and that is not what it is. Get a print out from your agent on how they are marketing you. It will also bring you back into their focus because you might have fallen off their map. Call them and say that you are getting new headshots and that ‘I changed my hair a little bit’ or whatever you say to them and ask, ‘How do you think I should be marketed?’ and that brings you up-front again which is really, really cool. For the next process of going through your pictures and all that other stuff, you’ll probably get a lot more auditions. You really will. Even if you don’t have your (new) headshots yet. Don’t say that you are going to get new headshots and not get them though.
The last one is choosing the right photographer. That comes again with choosing one that you know that you’ll ‘click’ with. One point though is that I will have a lot of people call and ask to have a consultation. I don’t have time for consultations. I don’t know about other photographers, but if your agent and manager has recommended that photographer, go with it because you have hired your manager and your agent to do that work for you. Kind of trust it a little bit.”
Jen began, “I’m Jennifer Zide. I’ve been a make-up artist for over 20 years in film, television and headshots in San Francisco and here in LA. I’m very shy. I do a lot behind the camera as well. [laughter] In all my years of doing headshots and being on sets, there are definitely some things that stand out that I can tell you about.
First of all, less is more, okay? It’s not the ‘90s or the ‘80s anymore where there is a face full of make-up and lots of color. Everybody wants a very natural look now. It’s bigger than life now…it’s natural, natural, natural! ‘Natural’ doesn’t mean ‘nothing’. It just means doing the right things and doing it sheer enough to bring out the best features that you have and downplay the not so great features you know…the dark circles, blemishes or whatever. Also whoever your photographer is and knowing their light and angles make a big difference for me. If you show up on set and you’ve already got a face full of make-up, I’m going to have to spend a half an hour taking it off. Come in with a clean face and know that I’m not going to put on a ton of make-up. We’re going to let the best of you shine through.
There are products that are out now that work really well with the technology that is being used today as far as lighting and camera, film and photography. A lot of that is photo sensitive, light reflecting products, so you’re not trying to cover everything. You’re just trying to ‘bounce off. ‘ Does that make sense? Speaking of bouncing off, we don’t want to do the dewy look especially for photos because as soon as they go to get retouched, they are going to retouch that shine. That shine is going to be distracting from you. People are going to be looking at the shine on the tip of your nose as opposed to the light in your eyes. Let us powder you or powder yourself.
Eyebrows are very, very important. They frame your face and they give you expression. They take time to groom and to take care of. We don’t always have the luxury of that time on set or with a photographers’ schedule, so have your eyebrows groomed before you come for your appointment. Make your appointment with the make-up artist earlier in the day or the day before to get them done or do them yourself if you are confident to do that. We don’t want to take up everybody else’s time taking care of your eyebrows. This goes for men too. It’s very much a character, actually for women too, but often times, eyebrows are part of a character that you often will play and that the casting directors are looking for a character. If you have full eyebrows and they tend to use that as your character, let’s work it! Work those brows…seriously! [laughter] Make it part of who you are.
Last of all, respect the face. That’s not just the face. It’s the hair, it’s your wardrobe, it’s the photographer, it’s your agent…we’re all a team. It’s all a collaboration to make you look the best you can look and get you the jobs. If we do something to your face or hair or we want your shirt buttoned a certain way or wear a certain color, there’s a reason behind it. Like Clay said, ‘don’t be too self-aware’ trust us to do our jobs. Trust us to put you out there and make you look the best that you can look for your jobs, for your headshots and for set.
I had a funny story one time. I was working on a period piece. It was set post- Civil War and I did make-up on this background girl and you can imagine, it was a marketplace post-Civil War…you know, very, very ‘no make-up’ look. Beautiful girl. She leaves the trailer and I get to set and my boss just about was ready to kill me and he asked, ‘What did you do to that girl?’ and points to her. She had put on a dark purple lipstick after she had left the trailer. [laughter] Now…that is not respecting the face. I nearly got fired because of that! So if we make a hair, make-up or wardrobe choice for you, it’s definitely for a reason.
Jen also mentioned about actors eating after they have been made up and said, “I don’t expect you not to eat, but there is a time to eat and if you do need to eat and that’s your only moment to eat, come check in with me or your make-up artist and say, ‘Hey I had to eat something…can we re-do this?…or I wiped my face’. I can’t tell you how often I’ll do an actor’s face and she’ll get up from the chair lashes and all then (Jen motioned wiping her hand across her own face) ‘I just spent an hour on your face. Thank you very much.’ It is definitely a matter of respecting us as much as we respect you. When I am doing somebody’s make-up, I’m respecting that they have a ‘head space’ they need to get into for whatever they are about to do. Whether they are getting their headshots done and getting your energy into the right place to put on that smile or you’re about to go on set and do a crying scene, so I have the same respect for you. I’m not going to be Chatty Cathy while you’re trying to get into crying mode.
At the bottom of my sheet, I say most importantly, feel good. Smile, dance and breathe. Bring the music to your headshots that you want to listen to. If you’re going to be on set, feel free to put in your headphones. It doesn’t have to be social hour. It’s about you guys. It’s not about us. Do what you need to do. Sometimes on set, the PAs are bringing you guys breakfast while we’re trying to get your make-up and hair done. That’s fine. We need to do that. I would rather have you take bites in between me getting your foundation on than doing if after I’m done. It’s a teamwork. We’re all trying to get our jobs done and yes, eating is part of getting the job done. If you don’t eat, you’re not going to be on cue. It’s part of being healthy.”
Clay continued, “Regarding not being self-conscious about your shots, it reminded me of story I had. I’m a commercial actor also (along with being a headshot photographer). I had this photo the first time that I had headshots taken with my current agent. She chose this photo about three years ago that I hated! [laughter] It was a photo that we took as, like a joke. I was in a tie and I think I was coming in from the side of the photo and holding the tie. I had this smile with wide eyes. It was such a specific look. It was a face that I don’t really make that often in life so I hated the shot but my agent picked it and it was up (on LA Casting). I always hated seeing it on there, but it was my only shot she had for me on my LA Casting profile with a shirt and tie, so I knew that she was using it for those types of things. That year, I got so many auditions that were kind of like for THE OFFICE/John Krasinski type. I believe the first thing I ever booked was a job that I knew that she had used that as the main submission thing. That’s the kind of thing that I am talking about when I say don’t be self-conscious about your shots. Who cares if you don’t like the shot. You don’t have to look at it all the time!”
Deidhra added, “I’m going to reiterate that. When we, as photographers will go through and edit pictures. A lot of times, we’ll keep stuff that you say, ‘Oh my god. I hate that look.’ But it’s your ‘Mom’s smile’…the one that she is always saying, ‘Oh he looks so cute!’ Well the casting directors are going to say the same thing. After you get your disk, don’t go and edit your disk unless your manager or agent tells you to pick your best or favorite twenty. They are being lazy and you need to tell them that ‘No. I’d like you to see all of them and what’s the best way to do it? On an online gallery like Argentum or Reproductions? Anywhere that there is on online gallery or photo bucket. Send however many images you get. When you go and edit them or have your friends help you, it’s the same thing as having your friends take your headshots…usually after a couple of drinks…’Oh yeah. That’s awesome!’ [laughter] Then you send it off to your agent and they say, ‘Ummm…no.’ Just go with it. We aren’t going to put something in there that’s going to make you look bad. That’s not what the plan is. The plan is to get you working because when you make money, the agents and managers make money, then you come back to us for other things. It’s a really nice circle.”
Talk To Your Agent Before/After Getting Headshots
- Make sure you talk to your agent beforehand for information on the looks they’ll want from you, as well as which photographers they recommend…
- Then talk to them again after the shoot, to find out which photos they want to use. While other people’s opinions can be helpful for narrowing down your choices, your agent should always have the final say on which photos you use.
Don’t Be Self-Aware About Your Photos
- If your agent asks you to put up a photo you don’t like, still put up the photo.
- Agents are trying to sell you in a specific way; even if you don’t like the photo, they are choosing it for a reason, and it could get you work!
Get Your Photos Retouched
- Most photographers do not give you a DVD filled with final, ready-to-be-used photos; if they were, they would be charging you much, much more for the work that would entail.
- It is expected that you will get your final choices retouched and “finished”. Even if you think the photo looks “good enough”, you should take it to a professional to be gone over; they have an eye for elements of a photo that are easy to overlook.
Be Careful of “Web-Sized” Photos
- Some photographers include a smaller, “web-sized” versions of their photos on your disc. Before you upload these to your LA Casting profile, make sure they are large enough (at least 500 pixels tall) to be posted.
Look at a Small, Thumbnail of Your Photo
- When Casting Directors view your photo initially, they are viewing a thumbnail of your image, along with a large group of other actors. Know what they’re looking at, by viewing a smaller, thumbnail version of the photo you want to post, before uploading it.
- You can also improve this thumbnail by wearing bright colors, making sure the photo is retouched and at the appropriate brightness.
Less is more
- In today’s industry, it’s best to wear a more natural look. You can achieve a beautiful look using minimal make up and products that are made for today’s camera, lights and processing.
- Avoid the “dewy” look for headshots.
- Careful not to “date” your look with too much make up.
- Your brows frame your face…make them great!
- Come to set or your headshot appointment with your brows groomed. Often times, there are time constraints with getting your make up done so it’s best to have them done before you arrive. If you need to get them done, make an appointment with your make-up artist earlier in the day or the day before.
- If your brows are part of your “character”, be sure to enhance them.
- This goes for men, too!
Respect the face
Make-up, hair, actors, wardrobe and camera/photographers…we all work together. It is a collaboration to make you look great for your headshot or set.
Most importantly, feel good! Smile and dance and breathe.
Deidhra advises– (all described above)
What is needed to take a great headshot?
How can you take a great headshot?
- Be Comfortable
- Know How You Are Being Marketed
- Choose the Right Photographer