In this article, The Business of Stand-Up Comedy: Promotional Kit – Part 3, I’ll give some advice on getting the proper headshot. In my previous article, The Business of Stand-Up Comedy: Promotional Kit – Part 2, I showed how to create a compelling cover letter for your online and physical promo kits.
Nothing will create a first impression like a great headshot. A good one can help you get work, just as a bad one can hinder your chances. If your picture is amateurish, out of focus or presents you as unlikable, then your likelyhood of getting booked are narrowed.
Here are some tips for getting a great headshot. This picture should look like you and available to download from your website or epresskitz.
Go to a Professional Photographer
This isn’t as easy as it seems. There are hordes of bad professional photographers making a living at cranking out horrible headshots.
First of all, check out a prospective photographer by going to his or her studio to see the example headshots to make sure you like the kind of lighting and atmosphere. Some will specialize in outdoor shots, and some will work exclusively in a studio.
Avoid a photographer friend if he doesn’t know the business. Even if he takes a great picture of a tree in winter, this doesn’t mean he knows how to take a headshot. Invest in yourself. When done correctly, the bucks can add up quickly, so make sure you like the headshot before you go any further with production on it.
If you don’t like any of the pictures on the proofs, ask the photographer to take more. Most will honor this request because they want to protect their reputation. If they resist, push. You spent the money, you should get what you want, nothing less. If they won’t reshoot, go on Yelp.com and write a review to let others know to avoid this photographer.
Then, recommit and spend the money to get another set of pictures done. It’s cheaper to hire a photographer than it is to pay for the production of a bad picture that won’t get you work.
The reason pictures are so important to the Bookers is they will be placing the headshot in the lobby of the club and submitting it to the local newspaper and tv shows as part of the advertising and publicity.
Do a Normal Pose
Don’t let the photographer talk you into a goofy pose with your hand on your face or lying down or trying to make the picture funny. All of these things scream, “Amateur!” This is the business part of show business. It’s better to play it straight until you have a personal relationship with the Bookers.
Get Pictures in the Correct Style
This is a confusing area to give current advice. The requirements for picture are constantly changing for no apparent reason. Sometimes the style is black and white; other times it is color. Some Bookers will want shot of you from the waist up, while others will want an ordinary headshot.
How will you know the Booker’s preference? Ask. Part of being a professional is knowing what questions to ask. Yes, this means you’ll need several styles of pictures to place in your promo kit.
Make Sure Your Picture Looks like You
You look the way you look. Accept it. Make sure the Booker can recognize you by your headshot. This is especially true for women. Some photographers try to talk you into a glamour shot. Don’t do it. This is not to say not to look good, but to say, “Look like yourself.”
You will need to update your headshot every couple of years. There’s nothing more disconcerting to a Booker who hires a comic with a full head of hair and clean shaven, then the comic shows up with a shaved head, Amish beard, nose ring and tattooed ears.
Smile in Your Headshot
Don’t try to be coy, silly, outrageous or overly dramatic. The best picture is with an authentic smile. The one exception is if you are selling a specific character. Then allow the character to be him or herself. Remember, these are going to hang in the club lobby and used for publicity.
Place Your Name at the Bottom of Your Picture
Make the letters easily readable even when on the lobby wall. This is the one place where you can change the font used in the rest of your promo kit. Once you’ve chosen the font for your name, keep it consistent throughout your promo kit as it’s a part of branding your name.
Do Not Put Your Phone Number on Your Picture
If the headshot is in the lobby, you don’t want your number accessible to everyone who comes into the club. If some crazy person doesn’t like your material, opinions, or sense of humor you might end up with some pretty nasty phone calls.
Don’t Staple Your Resume to Your Picture in the Promo Kit
This seems like a good idea, but it creates a few problems. If your picture is being used for publicity, the newspaper will remove the staple which diminishes the quality of the photo because it will have holes, if not tears.
Leave your picture separate from your resume. The one exception to this rule is when your picture has the resume printed on the back. This is classy and appropriate. The one downside is that once your resume is out of date, you may still have a bunch of pictures with printed resumes left over that you can’t use.
Headshots in Your Promo Kit
Initially Bookers just want to make sure you’re not hideous looking. After that they’ll use the headshot in the marquee or lobby, sent to the local newspaper, and used on flyers. Place at least three headshots in your physical promo kit. For the online promo kit, it’s always good to offer multiple versions of headshots. Then the Bookers can select the one they want to use.
In my next article, The Business of Stand-Up Comedy: Promotional Kit – Part 4, I’ll move onto what makes an interesting resume.