Are headshots that different for a Child Actor / Performer?

The simple answer is yes.  There’s a few additional considerations to be taken into consideration.  From the point of view of headshot photography, the process is mainly the same.  We want the same end result – a natural portrait or headshot of them looking their natural best.  The differences come in the way we get that end result.

Firstly, it’s vital that whoever is having their headshot taken is relaxed. I’ve found that the best way to do that is talking.  I talk. A lot.   The studio can be an intimidating environment for youngsters so I’m not even going to pick up the camera until I know that they are comfortable and relaxed.  We can play music and have a bit of a joke around and some fun (have a look at the last photograph below).

It all goes towards ensuring a natural headshot.  I have my own six year old daughter so I know exactly what it’s like trying to take a photograph when they aren’t  in the mood for it.  It’s not something you can learn in a classroom!

Children are lucky.  They have youth on their side so the photographs shouldn’t be spending too long in photoshop.   More often than not, all I edit in photoshop is a  tidy up of their hair.  I’ve spoken to a lot of agents and casting directors.  The last thing they want to see when they are auditioning for a child actor is a headshot that’s been over-retouched, or even worse….Makeup.  Just…no.    Teenagers are a different kettle of fish, but younger children don’t need it.  Agents and casting directors don’t want to see it.  We keep it as natural as possible.

A few tips

  1. Preparation: If you want to get the best results, make sure your kids are well rested and have had something to eat – If they are hungry or tired we’re not going to get the  best results.
  2. Time: Headshot sessions typically take 90 mins to 2 hours for adults.  For children, I don’t put a time limit on it.  Asking questions is how I find out about their personality and that’s what we want to shine through in their headshot or portrait.  We start taking photographs when they are ready, settled and happy.  We finish when we’ve got what we need, or when they’ve had enough – whichever comes first.
  3. What to wear:  Keep it simple.   Try to keep clothing logos and patterns to a minimum. The same with jewellery.  We don’t want anything to detract from the main point of the photographs and that’s their face and personality.
  4. Expression:  The worst way to get an expression from a child is to ask for it.  The moment you say “smile”, you get a fake smile – like a school photo.  The best way is to talk to them about something that provokes the reaction that you want.  Get them thinking about what makes them happy, or serious, or what makes them laugh.
  5. Find their level: I always work at their eye level & talk directly to them. I wouldn’t like it if someone asked my mum if they could brush my hair – why would they?  I explain what we’re doing, what all the kit does in a way they can understand.  I’ll even hand them the camera and let them take a few photographs of me before we start.

Child Safety

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a parent.  For us, these are non-negotiable…

  1. We won’t just ask for a parent or guardian to be present during the session, we will expect it.
  2. I and my wife, Fiona who assists sometimes and does all of the Newborn Photography as well as some of the editing both have a current CRB certificate and will happily produce it.
  3. Usage of any photographs online NEVER contains the child’s name.

Great photographs of children don’t come from more megapixels, brilliant lights or an extensive collection of backdrops.  They come from taking the time.  Talking and building a connection.  Children’s headshots are no different. We want you to leave with a selection of photographs, whether they are headshots for acting or portraits, that show personality.

If you’d like to find out more about how to book in for a portrait or headshot session for your young performer, please feel free to get in touch.