Lights, Camera… Happiness!

Just “Shoot” Me
By Lauren Harper

Headshots.

This word was totally exciting when I moved to LA and now it makes me crack my knuckles out of frustration.

I know the majority of you are not actors but I know you’ve had your photo taken at least once in your life, if not a few times, then maybe even every day!

Perhaps you posed for a family Christmas portrait in embarrassing matching dresses alongside your sister, dog and a murky pond as the backdrop?

Maybe you tried to not smile in your yearbook photo because it was more badass but in reality it looked like a high quality mug shot with a glossy finish?

Oh, I know, did you make unnecessary strange faces with an assortment of gang signs when bar hopping with your friends?

I’ll be honest, I could write more of these photo disaster scenarios for days because it’s super fun naming things that I’ve already done. And yes, I realize my photo ops are not so relatable because they’re pretty specific. However,  you’ve had a family portrait or yearbook picture taken or took pictures with friends, so do you know what this means? You can relate to my headshot story! Let’s start this process…

First, let’s ask this question: what is a headshot?

Well, excellent question, glad you asked! A headshot is a picture of your face, and it can make or break you. Essentially for those who are not established in the industry this 8X10 photo is the first impression, the nice-to-meet-you handshake. If it doesn’t hit the mark or is not up to par with how you look in the flesh, it could cost you an audition, role, agent, etc.  It sounds high stakes because it is.

I’ve been told countless times by agents, casting directors, friends, family and strangers that my headshots don’t look like me.

Here is a conversation I had with a casting director one time:

Casting Director: “So how old are you Lauren?”
Me: “Early twenties.”
Casting Director: “I thought so but the headshot I have here, it looks like you could easily play the character’s mother.”
Me: “I guess that’s better than no role at all!”
Casting Director: “Yes, but do you want to play a mother from the beginning of your career to the end?”
Me: “Not really…”
Casting Director: “I’m telling you right now, get a new headshot. You look really old, and you look like a mom. Plus this is a weird angle and you look prettier in person.”
Me: “Umm, great. Will do!”

I went through some other headshot confrontation situations preceding that experience, and finally I decided, I’d had enough. I don’t want to look like a mom. I don’t want to look different in person. I don’t want weird angles. I don’t even know what I don’t want anymore! I went through different notable photographers, hair/makeup artists, and I spent too much money. I felt like I was on a carousel, spinning round and round and round with no end to the ride in sight and holding another admission ticket that will give me the same dizzy result.

The carnival ride came to a stop one month ago.

My mentality was to do everything differently from the last handful of shoots. No hair and makeup artist. No studio with special lighting. Wear blindingly bright shirts with patterns and go against the “headshot rules.” No fans blowing my hair. No hard poses. No, no, no. I was rebelling, and I didn’t even think twice.

I was lucky  that I’m already friends with my photographer, so the awkward “Hi, I’m Lauren, and I’m excited for this shoot today. What outfit should we do first?” was out of the way.

It was a hot day on Redondo Beach, and I knew it was going to be a long but very promising day. I had my best friend redbull by my side.

Snap, snap, smile, laugh, smile again, and bam! Mission accomplished.

It was such a liberating experience. I was my own boss. My own hair and makeup artist. The wind from nature was my personal fan. Instead of a studio, the shoot was in front of a multi-colored shopping center, and the sun was the light kit. Forget a changing room with a full-length mirror. I switched into my different outfits in a small Mexican restaurant bathroom. The mirror was very small. I loved every second of that day.

Raw, low maintenance and organic. It was the carefree attitude that was missing from prior shoots. I was beaming from the inside out because I didn’t give a damn, and I was myself.

The pictures say it all, and I think they are exploding with happiness. It’s amazing and so simple: when you actually start to not care, that’s when your true sensational self is able to shine through.

You can be the judge if I look like a mother now.

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About the Author: Lauren Harper is an L.A. woman with East Coast blood. Born in Greenwich, Connecticut, she is an actress and writer residing in the heart of Hollywood, California. Lauren graduated from Penn State University with a B.A. in journalism and a minor in French and Francophone Studies. Fast forward to 2012, she has continued to work, successfully carving a niche for herself in the entertainment industry. Lauren is excited to contribute to Happiness Series with Lights, Camera…Happiness and her interview series, Lights, Camera…Interview. Lauren hopes to further enlighten herself and you with each entry. Find out more about Lauren Harper | Twitter: @TheLaurenHarper | Official Site: http://thelaurenharper.com | e-mail: contact@thelaurenharper.com

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