Sunday, March 14, 2010

Free Samples

If I had known it was so easy, I wouldn't have waited fifteen years between sessions.

Yesterday morning I bit the bullet and had a professional take headshots. This is partially because I'm appearing in a play next month and I need something to put on the wall that doesn't look crummy next to the other actor's pictures; but also I've reached the stage where I honestly believe I can competently deliver a performance if asked, and therefore I'm serious about trying to get work. Plus I've lost almost thirty pounds since the divorce and I figure I'll never look this good again.

So headshots - what's the deal with them anyway?

You can look at them as a free sample of you. A good headshot represents you while you're out doing something else. It's like a preliminary interview. For example the picture above accurately depicts me (albeit at my maximum charm level) so if I send it in to a casting director they can either say, "give him a call" or "no, I want someone who looks more like Don Rickles". This is why you should minimally retouch head shots - if you show up and it turns out you DO look like Don Rickles when they wanted that guy above, they'll just bad-mouth you to the other casting people.

My photographer, Jesse Biltz, is interesting in that he only works in natural light and prefers midmorning bright sun. No extra lights, reflectors only if necessary. I'm fascinated by this because early morning is probably the worst time to photograph most actors, because of their dissipated lifestyles. Not to mention we had to re-schedule from the previous weekend, when it was raining. Then again in Southern California, you can pretty much count the days without bright sunlight on two hands.

But you can see how good the light is. It's very crisp. Biltz finds a  few spots in Studio City with big monochrome walls, puts you in a shaded area with reflected light bouncing at your face, and snaps away. We squeezed off a little more than three hundred shots in under an hour. When I had shots done in the nineties this would have been very expensive but now with digital photography, there's no expensive film to waste. Snap away! Print what works, delete what doesn't.

With these landscape shots, BTW, you can crop it so it makes a perfect little business card. All the text goes in that negative space to the right. Negative space here defined as space not occupied by me.

I think the next time I blog, it'll be about the usefulness of having a professional do this stuff.


  1. Oooh! I like the one on top-- That khaki shirt/dark jacket combo makes you look like a seasoned uniformed professional, a small-town sheriff or a WWII sub captain. But that's the idea, huh?

    Great work, I have to admit, especially considering it's all natural light. Is this the current trend for headshots, or are studio strobes and paper backdrop still the norm?

  2. To my knowledge it's still mostly studio work. Biltz (my photographer) is either an artistic genius or a guy trying to keep his operating costs low. Whatever.

    That first one... the eyes! I'm straight and even I feel like I want to gaze into them. Is that wrong?