Spotlight on…creating a new head & body shot portfolio for actor Sam Smith of Waterloo Road and Vikings
Last month, I spent an enjoyable morning shooting with actor Sam Smith.
Sam’s had a great run of work recently, including leads in Waterloo Road and Casualty, not to mention appearing in blood-and-guts, Emmy-nominated, US hit Vikings (though the games geek in me was more excited that he’s recording a lead character for the new Assassin’s Creed…)
That’s exposed him to a lot more US castings than before, and meant he came to the session with a fairly specific brief for both headshots and body shots.
I thought it’d be interesting reflect on the results a little, because it illustrates how an actor can have substantial input into the success of session with any photographer.
Capturing playing range
Rather fresh-faced, Sam can play young, and certainly has done in his career to date. So, he was keen to give his agent, Conway van Gelder Grant, headshots capturing both youthfulness and a degree more ‘edge’ and maturity.
Not to mis-represent him of course, but to help them sell Sam to employers across the range of the 16-25 age bracket he has listed on Spotlight.
As you can hopefully see from the set of three above we achieved this by keeping a little bit of stubble throughout for definition and to age Sam up a fraction, as well as by carefully varying outfits, lighting conditions, hair and Sam’s address to camera.
The blue shirt-shot – with hair almost entirely off the forehead and shouders slanted away from camera to suggest a slighter build – is younger and more ‘wholesome’, while the other two, shot straight on and with warmer, more mischievous/stronger thoughts help Sam show a slightly older, edgier casting.
I’d say the right-hand shot is a nice half-way house between the two ‘extremes’.
- Without such a brief from Sam, we’d have got him some lovely general shots, but his specificity meant we were able to zero on on exactly what he and his agent needed.
- That’s the sort of detail you should be able to throw confidently at any good headshot photographer – they will use their skills and technical ability to help you tell those casting stories.
Build & Bodyshots
It seems increasingly common for UK actors getting a lot of US castings to need 3/4 length, full-length and even body shots – I guess Stateside producers want to see the full package, and with series like Game of Thrones making on-screen male nudity de riguer, full-package means almost everything on show…
At 5’8″, Sam’s no half-pint, but having bulked up for a recent role, he wanted some dramatic bodyshots showing off this toned physique.
So we worked on something with the photographic vernacular of men’s health or fitness shots (see the 3/4 length above), as well as something with a moodier, more ‘fashiony’ set up (see the full-length above).
These aren’t going to be first up in Sam’s Spotlight portfolio, but they are useful tools to have in the armoury when specific castings arise.
- In the UK there’s a little bit of historical snobbery about 3/4 or full-length shots in casting – as straightforward descriptive shots they tend to be associated with extras and walk-on artists.
- But as our headshot approach gradually takes on more US stylings, I do think there can be a place in an actor’s promotional portfolio for good quality longer shots, with a fashion or lifestyle photography vibe. Not least because they can offer an accurate preview of build.
- Check out headshot photographers like Nicholas Dawkes, Mug Photography and Faye Thomas, who all offer their takes on 3/4 length or full-length promotional shots for actors.
“Having the space to relax and get comfortable before and during the shoot made a big difference – the knowledge that you allow for time to get the best possible shots immediately put me at ease. I was delighted with the finished shots, as was my agent.”
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