Headshots – Action VS Presence

At Christmastime, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to England and Paris; I came back home to Vancouver completely energized and back in the zone of taking actors headshots.  I had a day to wash away my jetlags, recharge my camera batteries, and warm up the lights in my studio.  Starting January 9, I have been fully booked with a lot of really fun shoots with some pretty amazing people.  Before the holidays, I signed on with Vancouver Film School to start taking headshots for their graduated students.  This has been a riveting experience, as it was only five years ago that I graduated from the year-long acting program at Vancouver Film School.

Working with students who are so excited to jump into the wonderful world of acting has been absolutely rejuvenating and I have had so much fun helping to bring out their truth and teach them how easy it can be to take a great headshot.

Headshots are about as simple as you can get.  I take my time in headshot shoots for actors because I believe we have a unique opportunity to take important photographs that evoke truth, inner monologue, relationship, focus, and story.  I believe a headshot should be a photograph that looks like you with an inner monologue that says “This is who I am, I am damn proud of it, but I don’t take myself too seriously.”

Before I even pick up the camera to begin our shoot, I start by sitting down with you, the actor, and have a conversation.  We talk about who you are and what you want a casting director to think when they look into your eyes.  Personally, I want them to stare into your eyes and wonder what the hell you are thinking about.  A portrait should be thoughtful, which literally means full of thought.  I want them to say “I need to see him/her in the room.”  I’ve been in that room so many times that I know that that split second can mean all the difference in the world.

It is important to me that actors feel comfortable with me standing in front of them with the soulless being called the “camera.”  I usually act like a bit of a geek so you know it is okay for you to be one too. We begin by warming up and getting used to the camera.  I watch you and see where our headshot journey starts and begin to make game-time decisions to direct where our shoot will go.

Action VS Presence

When you pick up your sides for a scene, you work it from every possible angle.  You write down how it makes you feel, what are you doing, who is in the scene with you, who are you talking to, where are you, where were you, who wins and loses the scene, what is the story, etc etc etc, and then you rehearse your work a million different ways until you think you have found your scene.  After that, you’re supposed to throw ALL that work away and act in the moment.

This is what we do in my headshot photo shoots.  We start by getting action, where we try many different techniques for you to get you in the zone of communicating strong messages like “this is who I am,” “I am going to book this %$#@ role,” “God, I love acting,” etc.  These strong feelings allow you to get into action, to make your objective come alive in your eyes in relationship with the eyes you are looking into.

After a while, you start to get into a zone where you don’t have to do that anymore.  You throw away the work and just look into the camera with intention.  Simple.  It is usually about an hour into a shoot when I ask an actor after a great photograph, “what are you doing?”  Their response is always, 100% of the time, “Nothing.”

Headshots are simple.  Your best work as an actor is when you throw away your work and just listen to your scene partner; there is nothing different here.

To view my headshots, go to Brandon Hart Photography – Headshots

To book your headshots, email mail@brandon-hart.com

Stay tuned for my next blog, “How to Look into the Camera.”

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