Advice and Tips for Actors Helpful thoughts on acting from someone who wasn't the least successful actor of all time.

December 19, 2007

How to Take a Good Polaroid

Filed under: commercial,eitan's writings — Eitan @ 12:52 pm

Commercial actors get their Polaroids taken at almost every single audition. Why? So the casting office can have some pictorial identification on your paperwork and because the ad agency might ask for the guy in the “red Hawaiian shirt” instead of asking for “Eitan Loewenstein.” No, I don’t actually own a red Hawaiian shirt.  But I should.

So if you’re making your living (or trying to) as a commercial actor you’ll get hundreds of Polaroids taken over the course of your career. Commercial casting directors often swear that no one has ever lost a job because of a bad Polaroid. But I don’t believe them. I’ve seen some of those photos and they look like the devil himself has taken them to torture actors who take great pride in their appearances. Very few actors have learned how to minimize the chances of looking like they have been woken up in the middle of a nap for their snapshot.

Here are a few techniques that I’ve learned/stolen over the years to have your Polaroid not suck (mostly from models, they all know how to have a good picture taken):

  • Get down to or below the level of the photographer. I’m tall. Tall people know that they look really silly in photos because the photographer is typically below their eye level when they shoot. In the photography business this is referred to as shooting “up someone’s nose.” The bottom of the chin is featured as well as anything that happens to be living in the actors nasal passages. The way to combat this is to get down so your eyes are at the level of the camera or even an inch or two below. The best way to achieve this is to spread your legs apart so you don’t have to hunch over.
  • Don’t let your chin fly away. For some reason when you aim the camera at people they tend to throw their heads back trying to look like a “badass gangsta.” Well, it’s just as bad as being shot from below, so don’t do it. Tilt your head down slightly. Very slightly. Think of aiming your nose at the bottom of the camera.
  • Don’t point your nose directly at the camera. Polaroids are wide angel cameras. They’re meant for shooting big group photos. So they distort things at close range (where most commercial audition pictures are taken). So by aiming your nose slightly to the right or left of the camera (and still looking straight at the camera) you prevent your nose from looking bigger than it actually is. This is a very slight tilt, don’t overdo it. Aim at the left or right side of the camera with your nose. That’s it, perfect, you look beautiful.
  • Get away from that wall. Every session runner shoots photos against a wall because it makes for a neutral background. But they also use a flash which casts a shadow on the wall. You want to avoid a dark, sharp shadow floating behind you. So make sure you’re not leaning against the wall. A trick I learned was to put your hand behind you to feel the wall. Try to space yourself six inches to a foot away from the wall to minimize the shadow but not annoy the photographer.
  • Relax. These tips are helpful but every commercial actor has booked a job with a horrid Polaroid. It’s not a make or break moment for you but it’s nice to lead with your best foot forward. No one’s expecting these to look as polished as your headshot.

1 Comment »

  1. These are some really good tips!

    Comment by Bon — December 26, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Powered by WordPress