A crucial step in any successful business is marketing. That is, how you are presenting yourself to potential clients when they may only have a few seconds to consider what you are offering. In your headshot, who are you planning to tell casting that you are? Do you have a realistic concept of the types of roles for which you will be considered and can effectively portray? Knowing these things will help you to get a headshot that effectively markets you and doesn't waste a casting director's time. If you don't know, ask your agent, acting teacher or other industry professional.
It is a good idea to know who you will be shooting with. You are trusting this person to capture your personality at its best. If you're not comfortable with the person, you'll hold back your personality and this will most likely read in the photographs. One photographer that worked great for your friend may not be as effective for you. Try and have an in-person meeting with your potential photographer.
Rest and drink lots of water in the days leading up to your shoot. Not only will you feel better, but it also makes you look better. Don't go out partying it up the night before your photoshoot. If you know that you MUST have cocktails on the weekends, book a shoot during the week. If you can't book during the week, stay home and drink water. It won't kill you. The same people will be around next weekend.
Make-up should be natural (unless you are going for a character look). If you don't know how to do your own make-up, hire a make-up artist and request to see their work before the shoot. You want to look like the best version of yourself, not like you fell into a MAC make-up counter. I don't usually suggest make-up for guys, but if you have blemishes you might want to have them evened out. Most other minor imperfections can be corrected in photoshop.
Try to avoid stressful situations the day before or the day of your photoshoot. It's probably not a good idea to try and break up with your boyfriend / girlfriend the night before your shoot. A depressed or angry look might work once you book the job. You want to put forth the most charming, easy to work with version of yourself in photos.
Come to the shoot with your clothes camera ready, not rolled up in a ball and stuffed in a plastic bag. Wrinkled clothes look unprofessional. Stay away from clothes that are too bright, flashy, loose fitting or that may distract from you as the subject. The key point in a photograph should be the EYES, not the great ruffled neon Gucci sweater with the giant G's all over it. No ruffles, logos or distracting patterns that take the attention away from you. Choose colors that are good for your skin tone. If you have a unique eye color, wear something that will draw attention to them.
Be sure to have your hair in a style or length that you plan on keeping. Don't get your picture taken with long hair if you plan on getting it cut 5 inches or buzzed the next day. Never get your hair cut the morning of a shoot unless it is just to clean it up. The barber or stylist will, without fail, cut too much off and you'll be worried about your hair the entire shoot.
Authenticity is the #1 key to a striking and attention grabbing headshot. It jumps off of the page. Before you get to the shoot, have a few stories, thoughts or key words in mind that spark some sort of energy in you. The more specific you can be, the more authentic you will look in your headshot. Have fun! Don't be afraid to be silly in front of the camera. It's always easy to scale back. If there are any pictures where you feel you look ridiculous, no one has to see them.
Know what you look like on camera and what features you are trying to accent or downplay. Tell the photographer, as this will help him or her get a shot that you are happy with. Once you tell the photographer, let them do their magic. Don't spend the entire shoot wondering if you look OK. This always reads on camera and as a result you will always get the shot you were hoping to avoid. Your job, once shooting, is to deliver your personality and allow the photographer to capture it.
Your photographer wants you to have a great experience so that you walk away telling others about their services. If there is anything you are uncomfortable with during the shooting process, tell your photographer. If possible, review the photos every so often to get an idea of any adjustments you might need to make. Again, the more comfortable you feel with your photographer, the more authentic your pictures will look.
The entertainment business is just that... a business. In my experience, I have noticed that the key difference between the working actor and the non-working actor has been how seriously the individual treats themselves as a business. The key element in this business and your greatest tool is your headshot. You are the product, your headshot is your commercial. Even Coca Cola, a very successful and famous company, keeps a consistent and strong marketing presence and is conscious of the image it's putting out in each of its ads.
To see examples of Marc's work, visit: MarcCartwrightHeadshots.com