Scheduling a headshot session is an actor’s first step to re-vamping their career. It sounds like something that should be fairly simple, but I see TONS of mistakes every day that not only delay the booking process, but can make the people on the receiving end of your emails wary. After two years of managing a headshot photographer’s schedule, I’ve complied a list of do’s and do not’s that should help make this process as pain-free as possible for you and the person you’re scheduling with.
1) DO plan ahead!
Headshot photographers, especially those in major markets like LA and NYC are busy! No one is sitting around waiting for you to need new headshots, so please plan ahead. For us, we book up anywhere from 6-8 weeks in advance and that’s pretty standard. Even if that’s not standard for the photographer you want to shoot with, I promise they’ll appreciate you being proactive and giving them a few weeks notice, rather than reaching out the week before asking for a date that’s been booked for months.
2) DO know what you want!
Before you reach out, know what kind of session you want! I can’t schedule you if you don’t know how many looks you want to shoot or if you’re on the fence about hair and makeup. Our schedule is based on these two factors, so please figure that out before sending your first email.
3) DON’T ask me what I think you should do!
I’m not a good resource. I’ve never met you and don’t know what you look like, where you are in your career, or what you typically go out for, so I can’t tell you how many looks you should shoot or what those looks should be. That’s something you need to talk to your representation about. Don’t have representation? Ask your friends and family for their opinion! Take a poll: What’s my age range? What shows could you see me on? What product would you buy if my face were selling it? What working actors do I remind you of? What colors do I look best in? Etc…
4) DO get hair and makeup!
This is one blanket statement I am going to make regardless of your type/experience/preference. Get hair and makeup! If you’re shooting with an established photographer in a major market, they are working with amazingmakeup artists that have been doing hair and makeup specifically for headshots for years, and your photographer has probably been working with the same couple of MUA’s for years, so they make a great team and know how to work together to accomplish all of your looks.
a) But I want my shots to look like me and if I get hair and makeup, I won’t be able to copy what they do when I have an audition! A great MUA will never make you look like something you aren’t. Makeup artists who specialize in headshots are great at keeping things light and natural and fresh, if that’s what you’re after. In headshots, you want to look like you on your best day. That requires a second set of (professional) eyes.
b) I never wear makeup to auditions, so why would I need it for headshots? Because we’re taking a still frame of your face, very close up, under lots of lights (both natural and studio lighting). Would you walk onto a set and expect to not get hair and makeup before you start shooting? No! If a camera is going to be capturing your face, still or moving, you need a makeup artist to make sure everything looks good.
c) But, it’s so expensive! If you torn between doing three looks, no hair and makeup, and two looks with hair and makeup, do less looks with hair and makeup. Not only are MUA’s great at making you look your best, they are also there to give you a lot of variety with each look by changing up the hair and makeup to accommodate what you’re trying to capture. Doing three looks without hair and makeup won’t give you that variety.
d) In Summary… I don’t get a kick back for booking session with hair and makeup. Whether you choose to have an MUA here for your shoot or not, doesn’t make a difference to me and most likely, your photographer feels the same way. We’re just tired of hearing “I wish I had gotten hair and makeup” when a client sees their photos. For everyone we’ve ever shot without hair and makeup, I’d say 98% wish they had booked one of our makeup artists for their shoot.
5) DO READ YOUR EMAILS!
Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes an assistant crazier than a person who asks a question that’s been answered in a previous email. Please read over every email you get from your photographer. If a question comes up before your shoot, re-read previous emails to make sure it’s not something we’ve already gone over.
a) DO proofread your emails! When you have between 15 and 20 confirmation emails to send every week, while at the same time, you’re answering phones, and uploading sessions, and scheduling new clients and rescheduling existing clients… typos happen. I remember one specific time, I had sent a client a confirmation email and put the wrong start time for that session in the email. Instead of emailing me back for clarification or to say “I thought I had booked 1130am, not 9am, can you let me know?”, this client just showed up at the time in the confirmation email and then had to wait until the time they had originally booked. Should I have sent her the right information? Of course! But sometimes, stuff happens, and I rely on you to correct me if I make a mistake. We’re in this together, so don’t ever be afraid to point out an error if I make one!
6) DON’T freak out!
Yes, headshots are important, yes you’re investing a lot of money and want the best outcome, we get it, but don’t over prepare and don’t drive yourself crazy! If you go crazy, we go crazy, and that won’t make for a successful shoot.
7) DON’T send your photographer your vision board before your shoot.
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with a few of the previous rules. One thing actors do A LOT is they’ll send us their vision board and polaroids and emails from their agents about their looks. We don’t need to know that in advance. We shoot multiple clients a week, if everyone sent us a bunch of info weeks before their shoot and expected us to look that over and give feedback, we’d never leave the studio. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to see it though, so bring it with you on the day of your shoot! If you have photo inspirations, a vision board, instructions from reps, let us see it when you get to the studio and we’re finalizing your looks with you!
8) DON’T zone out during the post shoot!
I go over everything that happens after your shoot and I email you that same info with your viewing gallery, please listen to what I’m saying and read everything I send. It will save both of us a lot of time.
9) DO learn the assistant’s name.
This rule applies to every one you meet in this industry. Being an assistant is a tough, sometimes thankless job. Remembering the assistant’s name goes a long way.
10) Be. Kind.
It’s cool. We appreciate it and we reciprocate it. This also means being respectful of your photographer’s time and talent. If you’ve booked a one-look session, that shouldn’t take three hours, don’t be late (but if you are, please let us know), don’t book one look and then bring in four variations of that one look and insist on doing all four of those layers. Give us a heads up if you want to shave and that’s going to take you a while because you have a full beard. Ask me how much time we’ve allotted for your session so you can plan accordingly. We want you to have a good experience, we want you to love your photos, we want you to love working with us, and we want to love working with you!