So here’s the deal:  I tried to find someone to coach me on this subject when I started submitting photos to professional agencies for my clients and I couldn’t find what I needed.  These are my Pro-Head Shot Photography tips after working with different talent agencies in the Los Angeles area.

A note to photographers: Keep in mind that agencies want crisp, clean photos and even light on the face. Whether in a studio or outdoors, the background needs to never detract from the model’s face.  The most important element of these headshots will always be the model’s eyes so make sure they’re conveying what they should be within that particular look, and that they’re in-focus.  Learning how to coach your models and put them at ease will serve you greatly in this field.

A note to models: Models should appear in the photographs AS they will appear at the time of auditions.  You need to look like yourself in the photo and if a client shows up looking different (hair color, hair length, beard trimmed or grown, too much makeup, etc.) they likely won’t accept the headshots.  Plain and solid clothing colors are also preferred.  Choose clothing that is timeless and classic.  Trendy or fashion-forward clothing will quickly make your headshots dated

Look #1:  Boyish Grin

I coached this handsome fella by telling him to think of a recent joyful memory with his girlfriend or with his buddies.  I got him to talk about how him and his buddies joke around and give each other a bad time.  Putting him at ease and getting him into the mindset of the shot is key for his success.

Look #2: Sultry Stare

Basically a normalized version of Zoolander’s “blue steel” .  This is serious, but soulful in the eyes.  I used examples of other portraits to show to this model and had him try and emulate the look.  I gave him words like “sultry, soulful, determined, business like, resolute, serious, solemn, steady” until he found one that resonated with him.

I also asked him to concentrate all of his emotion into his eyes so that it soaked through the lens and out into the viewer.  This helped him.  We also tucked his long hair behind his ears to show a more determined and resolute emotion.  He easily looks 10 years older in this headshot, just by changing his hair and emotion to be more contemplative.

Look #3: Easy Breezy Beautiful CoverBOY

I coached him into this look by telling him to think about the last funny thing someone said to him and to tell me about it.  When he lit up about it I yelled “that!” and asked him to freeze the look and emotion so that he could “feel” what his face was doing that I wanted it to.  This is a typical magazine/editorial look of casual confidence.

#4: Audible Laughter

When you look at this photo you can “hear” him laughing.  That’s what I’m going for here.  There are smiling photos and then there are laughing photos.  It’s important to have both.  His hair was swept over before the shot and I told him to look away, make himself laugh audibly, and then whip himself around and look at me.  The great result of making someone force himself to laugh is that he starts actually laughing and the photographer is then able to harness and capture that sound within the image.

#5. Subtle Smile, Happy Eyes

This one is harder than it looks.  The natural reaction when smiling with the eyes is to also smile with an open mouth.  It’s vital, however, to be able to provide different looks and convey different emotions to an agency.  We had to try this look a few different ways, but we were eventually successful with having him think of something he recently accomplished.  He thought of a hike he went on and the feeling he had when reaching the top and looking out over the vast forest below.  It’s a look that conveys contentment and a calm sense of accomplishment.  He looks confident and also at peace.

So now you have it.  Best of luck with your photographing and modeling!  Go crush it.