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Headshot Hunter’s Guide to Headshots by Philip Duguid-McQuillan (founder of Headshot Hunters)

As an actor and agent, I know how essential it is to have a good headshot. When I started my search as a young aspiring actor to get my own headshots done, it was a big financial investment I was anxious to get right. I knew good headshots would be vital to get auditions and, ultimately, paid work.

It was difficult to choose a photographer who would suit me and give me the best results from the sea of professional photographers out there. It was extremely time-consuming trawling through photographer listings, then visiting their individual websites to find out what they offered. Photographers emphasised different aspects of their services so comparison was really tricky. All my drama school peers were experiencing the same problems.

My ideal would have been to have the details of all photographers on one website, but that didn’t exist, so I decided to develop a website service myself, and Headshot Hunter is the result!

 

Headshot Hunter

Headshot Hunter is a photographer search, comparison and review website that holds the details of around 70 headshot photographers from all over the UK. The website allows you to search for and compare photographers’ packages. You can refine your search and Headshot Hunter will identify photographers that fit your requirements in areas such as budget, location, style and turnaround time. You can also browse headshots for photographs that you like or feel would match your own style and create a shortlist, identifying suitable photographers.

There is plenty of advice on the website about what makes a good headshot and the factors you need to consider when deciding which photographer best suits your needs. Here is my guide to help you get started.

 

What style of photograph do you want?

Style is the most important aspect – if you like the photographer’s style of headshot, you are more likely to be happy with the end result from that photographer. Remember, you may have to live with it for several years.  The style needs to reflect the sort of castings you are looking for, eg classical theatre, aspirational commercial, urban, gritty TV etc.

Studio or natural lighting? Indoor or outdoor?

It really depends on your preferred style, there is no rule. I would say outside and the use of natural light can be more urban or natural, and studio is generally more dramatic or theatrical.

How much time do I need?

Frankly, the more time the better, especially if it’s your first time. You need at least one hour, but if you’re after a range of looks, you should be looking at at least one to two hours. If you’re comfortable with the photographer already or are only looking for one particular shot then less time is obviously fine.

What do professional headshots cost?

Prices range from £50 to £580. £150 is about standard price, for anything over £300 you are usually paying for the photographer’s reputation, which can be a good thing. Price does not necessarily mean quality or results, but if you find a photographer that you think can give you the results you need, then it may well be worth the money in the long run.

How should I prepare for a session?

Firstly, decide how you want your headshots to represent you – remember they are a marketing tool. Try to arrive with an idea of what you want from the session: what roles do you usually go up for? What roles do you want to go up for? If you already have headshots, do they need completely updating or do you just need a few new looks?  The more preparation you do the easier it will be.

Secondly, make sure you are physically and mentally ready for the shoot. Drink plenty of water the week prior to the shoot and don’t go out drinking the night before or this will show in your photos! It is helpful for the photographer to see any of your previous headshots. If you have any general headshots that you like, they can also be a good reference for the photographer. Go in prepared then just relax and enjoy the session. Any little blemishes on the day can be edited out so no need to panic!

What should I wear?

There are no set rules, but remember to wear something you feel good in and relaxed in. Being comfortable will show through in your photos. However, if you stuff your shirts in a bag they will look like they were stuffed in a bag for the shoot! Take a few tops. Generally, darker, solid colours tend to work best. Avoid bold patterns and logos as they are distracting. Bring a few options, with varied necklines, but not too wide or low, allowing the top to frame your face. If you wear glasses, bring them, although sometimes they can distract away from your eyes, so take contact lenses as well if you have them. Try to avoid accessories such as necklaces and earrings, they will take the focus away from your face.

What about hair and makeup?

Less is more. It’s always easier for people to imagine you with more makeup on, not so easy to imagine you with less. Unique features are what make you stand out and make others sit up and take notice so don’t hide those freckles or scars!

Wear your hair how you normally would, but do experiment with a few different styles before your shoot. For women, it’s always worth trying a few looks with your hair up, as it can affect your age range and can look very ‘period’ or ‘classical’. Don’t cut your hair the day before your shoot! Give your hair a few days to relax after a cut. Think about what your hairstyle says about you, your image and, ultimately, your casting. You want to look like you will when you turn up to the audition!

Black and white or colour?

Most agents and casting directors will want to see colour headshots as close to what you look like as possible. Very rarely, a black & white headshot may work for a very particular casting but colour headshots are now the norm and to not have them will go against you. If the photographer is shooting using a digital camera, then you should be able to have both at no extra cost, as turning an image to black and white is literally a click of a button. Saying this, if you do require black and white shots, many photographers can spend a lot of time converting images into black & white to give them the same quality of shooting with film.  Check this with the photographer first, it does make a difference.

How many headshots do I need?

You need one ‘main shot’: this is your best shot that should be engaging and says a bit of everything. However, it is worth having a couple of others to show your acting range. On your online actor profile, such as Spotlight, you can have around five or six different shots. Any more than this is too many.

Do I need prints?

Prints are very rarely used as part of the casting process anymore, so you don’t need them to be included in the package. A photographer is likely to set a higher fee if they are included. You can get prints as and when you need them from reproduction companies.

How should I put my portfolio together?

Whether looking at your contact sheet (often up to 200 shots) or looking at a selection of final touched images, don’t be afraid to ask for people’s opinions. They will help you get perspective as it is difficult to view your own shots objectively. Saying this, they are your headshots, you have

to live with them, so make sure you pick the shots that you are happy with. Unless, of course, your agent picks them for you, in which case, as long as you are happy with your agent, your work is done until the next time they need updating.

Choosing shots

You probably only need six or so photos to cover your range. More than that and they may be too similar. Two or three different shots are fine. Remember, a range is a subtle difference in look, not the same look in different tops. A mid-shot (ie from the waist up) is often a useful addition. One or two production stills, if they are good and interesting, can add to the mix nicely. In America it’s standard to have a full body shot which makes sense but that hasn’t kicked off here yet.

There is no exact science in choosing a headshot photographer, nor is there a formula for creating a killer headshot. It is an incredibly subjective process. Different photographers work in different ways and process different styles; what will work for some will not work for others. You can argue about what is in fashion, but a great headshot should always look like you when you walk through the audition room door and show you in your best light. You on a good day. Honest & Engaging. My hope is that www.headshothunter.co.uk will help all performers simplify the process of finding the right photographer for them and achieving great headshots.

 

Headshot Hunter User guide 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEqCi6XOkB0

Headshot Hunter

Acting Classes in Leicester for 16-21s

WHEN: WEDNESDAYS, 7-9pm

WHERE: QUAD STUDIOS, 

78 FRIDAY STREET, LEICESTER, LE1 3BW

AGE: 16-21

PRICE: £40 p/m

APPLY: kieran@urbanyoungactors.com

WEEKLY ACTING WORKSHOPS

Urban Young actors are opening a brand new class in Leicester for 16-21s. These weekly acting workshops will be led by me and focus on acting technique. Over the year we will work on multiple projects; previously Urban have worked on plays, films, devised theatre, variety performances and many other productions.

WHO ARE URBAN YOUNG ACTORS?

Urban Young Actors is a leading specialist drama group in Leicester. We have been running workshops for over 9 years, catering for young actors aged 8-21. Many of our members have enjoyed success in various projects including feature films, award winning short films, plays, TV shows and voice-overs, as well as going on to being accepted at some of the top drama schools in the UK.

Urban also operates as a casting agency and puts its members forward for any casting opportunities that arise.

http://www.urbanyoungactors.com/

Wednesday Acting Workshops

Wednesday Acting Workshops

A Guide to Being an Actor Outside of London by Katie Burchett

There’s a general consensus that London isn’t just the capital of the UK, but that it’s also the capital of business, fashion and (hold your horses because this is where it becomes relevant) the arts. One of the biggest questions for anyone outside of the city who wants to act is this: Do I need to be in London?

I trained as an actor at the Birmingham School of Acting and moved to London after graduating. I moved out of it in 2016 determined to prove to myself that being there isn’t the be all and end all. Whatever any Southerner tries to tell you, the world still turns beyond the Watford Gap and opportunity can be found if you know where to look. No two people’s paths will be the same, but I’ve put together a survival guide for making it work as an actor outside of London.

Competitions and festivals

14/48 Festival

14/48 is ‘the world’s quickest theatre festival’ and quite frankly the most fun I’ve ever had as an actor. Seven writers, seven directors and twenty-five actors put on fourteen plays in 48 hours. The festival is held twice a year in Leicester and Wolverhampton (and Seattle, if your commitment to not being near London is that strong). 14/48 is a wonderful opportunity to network, challenge yourself and marvel at how creativity can thrive on very little sleep! For more information on 14/48, follow: http://1448uk.com/

Monologue Slam

Most people will have heard of Monologue Slam. Run by the TriForce Creative Network, Monologue Slam describes itself as ‘THE industry showcase for actors from all backgrounds and profiles.’ If you’ve never heard of it, http://monologueslamuk.com should tell you all you need to know, but, in a nutshell, actors go head to head with their monologues whilst being judged by industry professionals. Auditions and Slams are held in Manchester, Birmingham, Luton, Leeds and Leicester and are completely free. They also hold occasional masterclasses which aren’t free to attend but do offer an excellent opportunity to work with some top coaches.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Arguably the most famous arts festival of the year, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs for three weeks every August and quite literally has something for everyone. The Fringe is an open access performing arts festival, which means that anyone can apply to perform, and the festival has been the springboard for some of the biggest names in the industry today. If you can get the sufficient funding, (and various other requirements, all of which are detailed here: https://www.edfringe.com/take-part), the Edinburgh Fringe is the perfect opportunity to showcase your work to a humble crowd of 2.3 million (based on tickets sold in 2015 for the festival in its entirety).

Theatres

Email. Email until you’re sick of the sight of your own name and you know your spotlight pin better than you know your mobile number. There are so very many fantastic theatres and theatre companies outside of London. To name a few in no particular order:

  • Royal and Derngate, Northampton
  • The Mercury Theatre, Colchester
  • The Worcester Rep, Worcester
  • Birmingham Rep, Birmingham
  • Curve Theatre, Leicester
  • Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham
  • Tread the Boards Theatre Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
  • Theatre by the Lake, Keswick
  • The West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
  • Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
  • The Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch
  • The Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Hull Truck Theatre, Hull

Some will cast primarily through Spotlight, others have in-house casting directors, some have their own acting company and some even post casting breakdowns on their websites. If a particular venue doesn’t specify their casting process, find a contact and get in touch anyway.

TV

It’s refreshing to know that some of the biggest television and radio companies have studios situated outside of London, or are at least based in London but commission to multiple UK regions. Channel 4 film Hollyoaks in Liverpool, Emmerdale is made in Yorkshire, the BBC’s Doctors films in Birmingham and Manchester is home to ITV’s Coronation Street and, if it’s tenuous domestic advice you’re seeking, The Jeremy Kyle Show. BBC radio can also be found in the centre of Birmingham and ITV has a production office in Leeds. It’s nice to think that if you got a job at one of these places you’d be the one popping down the road to work while the Londoners make the commute for a change.

Training

Classes and workshops

With the Actors’ Centre and Spotlight being primarily based in London, keeping up your skills if you’ve moved away might seem difficult. The Actors’ Lab is based in Manchester and runs a variety of workshops, focussing on elements including screen acting, TV casting, accents, voice and classical text. Their tutors are made up of TV and theatre directors, actors and casting directors and as well as running classes in Liverpool, Manchester and Chester, the Actors’ Lab also offers qualification courses.

Drama school

If you’re reading this as someone who’s considering acting training, don’t limit yourself by just looking at places in London, as you’re spoilt for choice in terms of drama schools elsewhere too.  As someone that trained at the Birmingham School of Acting, I can safely say that I never once felt that my acting training was anything less than of an extremely high calibre. Amongst others, BSA (or the Birmingham Conservatoire as it’s now known), Bristol Old Vic, LIPA, Royal Welsh and the Scottish Conservatoire all rank highly in the drama school league tables. One of the most beneficial things about training outside of London was having two third year showcases, one in Birmingham and one in London, allowing double the opportunity to be seen by agents and casting directors. Royal Welsh and Bristol Old Vic are also schools that give their students two showcases.

Social Media

Disclaimer: This section doesn’t include Snapchat or Tinder. For all its flaws, social media really and truly is a valuable tool. There are groups on Facebook dedicated solely to actors and performers in certain parts of the country. Groups like ‘Midlands Actors and Extras’ and ‘The Actors’ Guild, North West’ amongst others are a mixture of casting calls, contacts and opportunities, as well as being great platforms to promote your own work. Of course, not every post is going to be useful for you, but I know plenty of people who’ve obtained showreel material from short films they’ve applied for through one of these groups.

Final thoughts

Having said all of that, don’t close your mind to London. Some of the regional theatres I’ve mentioned, despite their location, hold their auditions in London, so your career will invariably take you there from time to time. London is the hub of the industry and, undeniably, is where a lot of the action happens. However, for those looking to enjoy the rest of the country whilst following their acting ambitions (and let’s face it, save some money!), I hope that this guide has given you a bit more confidence to do it. Being an actor outside of London is more than possible.

By Katie Burchett

 

Tales of an Actor Winning anecdotes submitted for the Backstage competition

It is the nature of the beast that an actor, over their career, will accrue a solid collection of anecdotes from training, auditions and rehearsals. I asked people to send in their tales of struggle, revelation and hilarity and the response was overwhelming. All the submissions were a joy to read, but here are some of the best ones. (Share yours in the comments section below!)

  1. Master of the House – James, East London
  2. Cows and Cats – Kieran, North London
  3. Supergirl – Anonymous, Essex
  4. Worth It – Hafsa, Seattle
  5. Crossing a Line – Rachael, Wolverhampton

 

“Master of the House” – James, East London

I once sang Master of the House from Les Miserables in an audition for a musical. One of the lines in the song is ‘3% for sleeping with the window shut’, now realising that this line was coming up and seeing out of the corner of my eye that there was indeed a window open, I decided to show a little bit of initiative and shut this window on the correct beat. Upon slamming the window shut I in fact broke said window into a thousand pieces. Safe to say I didn’t get the part…

 

“Cows and Cats” – Kieran, North London

I had a very interesting start to my voiceover career. Like most, when I was in my teens I decided to join an acting school to really learn the ropes of becoming an actor. Most teens go through that ‘Awkward Phase’ and, well, I was right slap bang in the middle. I started attending the evening classes and remember thinking ‘These guys (my classmates) are literally all mental!’ Those who had been attending the classes for a lot longer seemed to have just let go and lost their minds. At the time I didn’t quite get it but in hindsight it all makes sense.

So one evening I was on my way to another class and for some reason had a real moment of not caring about anything (listening to Rage Against the Machine as a teen does sometimes). Walking up to my class I could hear these strange noises coming from somewhere. It sounded as though a farmer had dragged all his cows from the local farm and parked them somewhere in the old Victorian building. I opened the door into my class and for a good minute or so I thought my class were possessed and that I had better call a priest or something. They were crawling around on the floor like cows and cats. Some meowing, some moo’ing, some just going barking mad! Now for some reason, despite my mindset, I thought ‘You know what, I am diving into this madness and will be the best cow or cat I can be!’ So without encouragement, I dropped my bag and jacket and dived right in.

I felt so liberated and free after that session. The reason behind that exercise is to let go and not be bothered what people think. My classmates were not mad…well…actually, they were, but letting go and giving your all is what’s important!

A decade later I now work full time as a voiceover artist and always think back to that turning point. Learning to let go is key to a good performance. It’s not easy to let go but if you try and succeed then it’s the most liberating feeling, which can lead to more opportunities and the best performances.

 

“Supergirl” – Anonymous, Essex

In the first year out of drama school, the angst kicks in pretty quickly about keeping your CV up to date with work and you soon find you can’t be selective with jobs. Being a little naive about the industry, I had no issues with being offered fight performance work for a day. The description was simple. ‘Looking for someone highly skilled in stage combat for a fight scene.’ It was only a day and the pay was good so I thought why not. The only thing they required of me was that I bring a Karate Gi (the traditional Karate uniform). I didn’t look too much into it as I already knew someone who had worked with this particular production company before and it started off alright. I was greeted and taken to the set where I met the DOP and the Director. Then things got a bit strange. First of all, I was fighting ‘supergirl’ who was dressed in a very suggestive version of her super suit. Second thing was, after looking at the rushes, there was a load of close-ups of cleavage and the like. The day, however, went without a hitch and I thought nothing of it until I had a look at the production company and realised they specialised in a particular fetish of porn. I couldn’t believe it and had no choice but to laugh and ponder the fate of Supergirl that day. It was safe to say that I did not include that particular job on my CV. Still, researching the production companies you are about to work for is a valuable lesson that I use to this day!

 

“Worth It” – Hafsa, Seattle

Growing up, I was raised in a very culturally homogenous family where gender segregation was strictly enforced and religion was our centre focus. So you can imagine how restrictive my life was. I was always interested in the arts; from acting to singing, that was my life as a child. I remember writing about how I liked to sing in my diary once and my father inevitably found out and forbade me from singing, convincing me it was bad, that music was bad. So I never sang again. This is just an example of the sheer restriction my life was surrounded with. As I got older my own views always conflicted with my parents’ and at some point, I stopped believing they knew everything and decided to think for myself a bit more. During High School I had a long conversation with one of my friends and that’s when I realised I wanted to act full time. And that was it, no ifs or buts or plan Bs. Naturally I struggled to tell my parents, knowing damn well I’d be disowned. I decided to secretly pursue my “vile” passion for acting and the months rolled by. I began to realise many things about myself and one of the things I asked myself the most was “How can I truly transform into a character when I was never able to truly be myself?” I’ve always had to pretend to be someone else, someone who my parents would be proud of, someone so far from who I really am, I like to sing and dance and most importantly act. She didn’t. She wouldn’t dare. While I did consider this an impediment and weakness I recently saw it as strength. I’ve been acting my whole life and I created this righteous character and became her, so much so that I lost myself in her and got comfortable being her. But I survived and managed to embrace the part of myself that my parents hated the most. Soon enough, I left the reign of my parents and set out in this wild world to pursue something so worth it that I sacrificed my family for it.

 

“Crossing a Line” – Rachael, Wolverhampton

After drama school, I landed my first professional role in a production in London and was excited to get my first taste of the industry. I distinctly remember, on our very first day of rehearsals, the director saying ‘If someone leaves this rehearsal process having not cried at some point then I’ll have failed.’ I didn’t really think much of that at the time (being young and eager to do well), other than ‘this sounds like it’ll be a bit of a challenge.’ As the days went by the director tended to rehearse separately with people, and people invariably left rehearsals having ‘been broken down’ after being pushed to access deep emotions and delve into past experiences. One day the director spoke to everyone playing a leading role individually, asking them about their personal life until they were satisfied that the actor was sufficiently distressed. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, the girl playing the lead role was really struggling with what was being asked of her to the point that she’d started to suffer panic attacks. The director decided to sit us all down and get her to ‘share’ with us how she was feeling. She got extremely upset;  she couldn’t really speak and ended up having to leave the room. Watching our friend be forced into having a near-breakdown in front of us stirred up a lot of anger, especially from one cast member in particular. This actor let his emotion loose in a genuine (and frightening) eruption of anger. Afterwards he was immediately forced into rehearsing one of his own scenes. His anger was absolutely real and uncontrollable and this, combined with the physical nature of the scene, put his scene partner in real danger of being hurt. It was only at this late stage of the rehearsals that it began to dawn on me the gravity of what was happening and actually how detrimental it was to the process.

In the end, the production was received poorly. To tell the truth; it was bad! We were dragging up emotions from situations deep within our own pasts and then forming tenuous links between how that made us feel and how our characters might feel. I know different things work for different people but in this particular case, I realised that emotional recall wasn’t for me. Luckily, I’ve never since encountered a director that’s worked in this way!

 

Share YOUR stories!

If you have a good anecdote, share it in the comment section below.