How To: Capture the Perfect Dance Headshot
Ahhh, the commercial dance headshot. If you're lucky, the perfect headshot will capture a Casting Director (CD) or agent's attention and will get you in the audition room. This item is the FIRST thing CDs see, and is THE most important implement in your toolbox. Invest wisely, pay close attention to the details, and make this photo say a thousand words for you so you don't have to.
Commercial Dance Headshot Examples:
Choosing the right photographer. In order to compete against the commercial dance elite, you must have a professional headshot captured by a professional photographer who specializes in commercial dance photos! This is the most important step! This is an investment in your career so spend the money! A professional photographer will usually charge $300-$1000. These rates vary based on their skill level, and package offerings. Look for a package that offers you 2-3 looks and at least 2 edits so you can add variation to your portfolio.
Photographers who specialize in commercial dance headshots also have a working relationship with agents. This means, they know exactly what the agent demands in their client's headshot, from lighting and background choice, to wardrobe and makeup. Trust the photographer and invest wisely! At the end of this article you will find my recommended list of commercial dance headshot photographers.
Wardrobe: Wear clothes that fit your body type. I can't stress this enough. As a professional dancer, you MUST know what clothes work best for YOUR body. Before you choose clothes, do a simple google search on your body type and how to dress it. Look at images of celebrities who share your beautiful physique and use their fashion choices as an inspiration for your photo shoot.
Once you have an idea of what clothes best fits your shape, you want to think about which colors best bring out your skin tone and eye color. Jewel tones usually work best. And if you want to add visual depth to your headshot consider wearing textured shirts, or layering your pieces (i.e leather jacket over a cami).
While you may wear the latest trends, or apply the brightest pink lipstick, the perfect dance headshot is about your eyes, personality and energy.
Shots you will need for your commercial dance portfolio (use photo above as a reference):
Commercial Headshot: This is a youthful & clean shot. This photo can be used at an audition for The Gap, Old Navy, or a "Girl Next Door" role. Makeup and accessories should be minimal and highlight your best features. At the most you can wear stud earrings and nude lipstick. But avoid eyeliner, bangles, necklaces, bright lipstick, body shimmer, and lip gloss.
Full body shot: Imagine this photo being used for a "Video Vixen" music video casting, or a "Stripper" role for a feature film. Makeup and accessories can be heightened to include a cat-eye, bolder lashes, a red lip, and hoop earrings/bangles. Wear clothes that reveal your body so they know what your true body shape is. Unfortunately, our industry is one of the only businesses in the country that still gets away with hiring based off of looks. Therefore, it is paramount that you embrace everything about your body and love yourself from head to toe. Because like Rupaul says, "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love someone else? Can I get an amen?"
Serious Headshot: This is the complete opposite of the commercial headshot. While still showing your personality you want to avoid big, teethy smiles and innocent eyes. Imagine this photo being used for a leading role in an HBO dramatic television show, or any other job that doesn't require a bubbly personality. Show them as many sides of you as possible and take this opportunity to tell them you mean business.
Other shots to consider: dance action shots, hip hop/urban shots.
Avoid putting hands on your face in closeup headshots. Hands distract and look larger than usual in photos. So change angles by using your shoulders, turning your head and placing your hands in different positions like crossing them in front of you or placing them in your pockets.
Accessories. For my commercial and serious headshots, I stick to minimal accessories like studs and a small necklace. For my "video vixen"/full body shot I pump up the accessories to include hoops, necklaces, rings, and necklaces. This is absolutely up to you but make sure the photo reflects your sense of style, taste, and sex appeal.
Hair. Hair should be clean, freshly styled, and in its natural state. Make sure it's polished as if you are working on a real set. Be very specific and wear your hair the way you would if you attend an audition. If you show up looking different than your photo the casting director won't know who they're looking at. So if you dye your hair blonde, you will need a headshot to reflect that change. If wearing your hair out, make sure it's styled in a way that prevents flyaways. The photographer doesn't want to spend a lot of time editing those annoying wispy hairs. If you pay for a package with multiple look options, consider pulling your hair back in a low pony tail or bun for one.
Do not dye or cut your hair 1 week prior to your scheduled shoot. This goes for plucking eyebrows and any body waxing/shaving. Your skin may become irritated and the redness/side effects will show in the photo. Eeek!
Makeup. I recommend spending the extra money to book the makeup artist who works directly with the photographer. They know how the photographer shoots and how to apply specific makeup that's best suitable for the lighting setup. If you can't afford to hire the professional makeup artist, I recommend waiting until you can. If that's not an option, pull photo references, ask the photographer for makeup tips PRIOR to your shoot, watch a ton of YouTube makeup tutorials, ask a Mac/Sephora specialist to do your makeup before the shoot, ask a friend who does makeup well, and practice a lot!
Styling. Most professional dance headshot photographers have stylists you can hire to work on set during your shoot. Their experience and expertise is worth the extra coin so you can focus on the prize at hand: capturing your golden headshot! If you do not hire a stylist, bring a suitcase full of clothing, shoe, and accessory options so you are prepared for everything. More is better in this case!
Avoid busy patterns and logos on your clothes and background.
Selecting the final shot. If you have an agent, they will do this for you. If not, you want to ask the photographer to narrow down the shots to his favorites. Once you have those photos, go through and make a note of YOUR favorite shots. The golden headshot is the one in which your eyes are in perfect focus and are speaking out to the viewer. It should say something about your energy and personality while giving us a glimpse into your soul (lol-creepy but accurate).
Commercial Dance Headshot Photographer List:
Photographers I've shot with and loved (all based in NY):
James Alonzo (no website)
Photographers I follow and love (based in LA or NY):
I hope you found all that information helpful! If you have any questions on how to capture the perfect commercial dance headshot please don't hesitate to ask me. You can also send me a quick DM on IG if you need swift answers. Good luck, and may the odd's forever be in your favor!