Your Headshot is More Important Than You Think

I’m just going to leave this here for you dancers: your headshot is more important than you think. So important.

headshot rachel neville photographer

Here’s a quick test for you. Go online to your favorite dance company. Pick one, any one. Now go to the company page and look up the dancers.

Pick out the following characters among them:

1) The diva

2) The artist

3) The friendly

4) The model

5) The serious

6) The angry

If you are on a smaller company website, there may be 7) The ‘he who looks like they didn’t take the whole thing seriously and took a snapshot on a phone against a brick wall with bad light’ one.

Next exercise: Consider ‘the angry one’ or ‘the diva one’ – would you go up to them at a gala and feel comfortable chatting? Would you want to take a workshop or class from them? Would you buy a ticket to go see them if you didn’t know who they were ahead of time?

Let’s role play for a moment. If you were a company director and all these headshots just landed across your desk, you hadn’t seen them in an audition or class yet. Which ones are memorable? Which ones do you think you’d like to work with? Which ones do you think you’d have the easiest time making art with day in and day out?

blue eyes dancer photo rachel neville

I recently did a photo shoot for a dance wear company. We spent several days looking at submissions for casting. I found it really interesting that, while of course my client was looking for lovely ballet bodies, he chose the dancers he wanted based on their headshots, the energy in their faces and the expressions they chose. He completely dismissed any dancer that had a headshot that was ‘over the shoulder’ because they didn’t look ‘nice’.

If you didn’t have a professional headshot he dismissed you completely.

He turned down several ABT and NYCB dancers I was pulling for, for those reasons. And I fully understood and was on board with it. How can he know what the person hiring you know what he or she is getting if he can’t see it ahead of time in your marketing materials? To the dancer/model it was just one day of shooting and a few hundred dollars. To my client it was weeks of preparation, endless hours of crafting his product, sourcing materials, fitting, designing, dreaming, flying to NY to shoot, and the full weight of his line and marketing. Huge time and money. He must know exactly what he is getting before he signs your contract.

dance photos headshots for dancers rachel neville

No matter what you are going after, whether it’s a dance company contract, a modeling job, or any other job for that matter, you will not be taken seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously. Period. The directors, casting agents, hiring managers who are hiring you just don’t have the time and money to take a chance on people they are not sure are exactly right for their job.

Ok it’s me. Did you think I’d end this without some tips? Of course not.

Here are my Headshot To Dos from a Dance Photographer:

1) When you have a headshot session, make sure that you and your photographer know who you are targeting and what types of looks are going to be best for you.

Then prepare. Bring the right clothing. Get a makeup artist. Know how you want to look and communicate it.

2) Don’t just select the shots that you like your look in. Consider who is going to see them and what is going to work for them.

Even though you may not like yourself smiling, not everyone is attracted to a serious look and vice versa.

3) Pay attention to what your body language is saying. Most headshots focus on getting your face to look good, your expression and eyes to pop. Yes that’s a huge part of it, but don’t discount what your arm and shoulder line is saying.

Consider how you feel when you have a conversation with someone and they are leaning away from you with their arms crossed versus someone who is leaning in toward you and listening intently. Which would you hire?

Ok guys, now do me a favor. Pull out your own dance headshot. What does it say to you? Be honest. What adjectives come to mind?

Would you hire you?

You never know when something comes up and you will need to submit a shot, don’t wait until it’s too late to get a job because you didn’t have an appropriate headshot photo on hand to send in.

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