Picking the right clothes to show you at your best is always hard, the first place to start thinking about is where you want the photos to be seen, and what you want to portray.
For example, If you feel that you would be cast as a typical English rose, or dashing English gent, you should look at classical and simple garments rather than modern hoodies and t-shirts, and if you are grisly looking bald 6’5″ male you’re not going to be cast as the soft and vulnerable romantic teen love interest, sorry...
Before turning to a life behind the camera, I was an actor, and there was nothing I hated more than people pigeon holing me, I wanted to be as versatile as I could and play every part possible, but the sad truth is that everyone has a visual stereotype, so as versatile as you are as a performer, you need to bear your natural casting in the back of your mind, this does’t mean you can’t stretch your casting a bit though…
Using different tops to subtly suggest your casting means you can maximise your headshot shoot to get a portfolio that will sell your range. With websites and online casting tools at your disposal for publicity, it means you can have 5 or 6 different photos on there (I wouldn’t recommend more, it can be overwhelming) and they can all say slightly different things, just through the clothes you are wearing.
Lets face it, black is great. On everyone. For headshots it brings the focus to your face and is flattering in every way, however, does it say much? its good for being 'neutral', but how much character can you get from that shot?
I. LOVE. COLOUR. - We are officially in the age of the colour headshot. Its great, it has so much more vibrance and marketability behind it, it has been embraced by the industry, and if done properly, can really make you stand out from the crowd.
Have a think about what colours suit you, and your skin tone. What colour are your eyes and what colour compliments them? Have you worn a particular colour shot and everyone compliments you on it?
Can white suit me?
Hmmm... White can be a tricky one... It has the ability to show of darker skin tones brilliantly, it also has the ability to completely wash out lighter skin tones and make you look ghostly! Lighter colours work great under jackets, cardigans or jumpers as a layer where they are broken up, so think about that also.
High neck or low neck?
Round crewneck tops can sit well if you have a longer neck,they can make you appear broader sometimes too. Higher neckline t-shirts tend make you look younger, especially with brighter colours, very good for those people blessed with a younger playing age. Have a look at the range of necklines on women below.
Lower necklines like collared shirts and scoop or v-neck t-shirts can be a great choice, they can elongate the neck and frame your face well (and sometimes make you look a little bit taller too!).
Period or Modern?
It’s good to think of different periods as a starting point, are you going to be cast in modern drama or classic period drama? Look at the 5 women below and see
how a change of top and hair can effect the genre we place them in...
You could start with something that has a classical feel, detailed and soft with small frills or lace and then work your way up to something that feels much more modern, with bolder texture, necklines and patterns. You could then try something smarter and older looking, like a blouse or shirt, and a jacket giving almost a business feel.
As a little exercise, just look at the 6 images on the left and place them in a casting or period in history... See how a peice of clothing can change things?
Jackets can be an easy way to show different character castings. The texture and pattern that a jacket can add to a shot is great, but they generally tend to work better for TV & Film headshots than theatre. You can easily put a jacket over numerous tops to give off a different feel, and wear them in diferent ways too (collar up/down, open/closed)
As a general rule, suit jackets on men tend to make you look that bit older, and ties can feel quite corporate, where as the addition of something like a cardigan can work to soften you slightly and again add texture
Jackets can work exactly the same as V-Necks and shirts, in that they make the neck feel longer and bring focus into the face, so make sure you take a couple along to your session, they might not get used or be right, but whats the harm in taking them?
Hot or cold?
Keep in mind the time of year you are having headshots taken too, if you are wanting to shoot outdoors and it is winter, there is little use just bringing vest tops, as you will freeze. Try and take some thin layers to put under clothing if it is cold, but if its summer, try not to take lots of thick layers you will melt in!
It best to try and avoid thin strapped tops for ladies (spaghetti strap) as they can look slightly naked when cropped.
You need to feel comfortable in what you are wearing, there is no point borrowing a top from your friend the night before a session if it is going to make you feel uncomfortable. If you are in doubt, your photographer should be able to advise what will work with your look and skin-tone, and if you are in doubt and confused… take a suitcase!
Think about your hair, its such an important part of your image, it never gets enough thought in my opinion.
You need to be happy with your haircut, but try not to get it cut just before the shoot, you risk not being happy with it, and there is nothing you can do.
For ladies, think about your hair colouring (if you have any) and whether your roots will need doing before the shoot?
Consider changing your hair during your shoot, for short hair, this could be adding product as you go, wearing it up or down, and for long hair, it can tying or clipping it up, platting, puling to one side, or even changing your parting.
Practice some different styles in the weeks leading up to your shoot and match it with some of the clothes you will wear. Keep in mind your casting and how your hairstyle will reflect on that, and do it in front of someone that can tell you how it looks (looking front on in a mirror can be deceptive!)
Most importantly, pick a hairstyle that you are happy with, and that you want to represent you for the life of your headshots, for some people that can be up to 4 years, so don't get your headshots done after you have shaved your head on a dare!
So to summerise...
Work out your casting and what clothes are appropriate
Look at other headshots, and actors with similar casting to you, and what they are wearing
Think about coloured tops that work with your tones
Bring a varied range of neck lines and textures
Consider some additional layers, whether it be jackets, jumpers or cardigans
What are appropriate clothes for the weather that time of year
Bring under-layers for changing on location if you have to
Consider whether you are happy with your hair
Get a haircut/colour with ample time before your shoot
Don't be afraid to bring a selection of clothes and allow your photographer to choose what works!