I am often asked the question, and I have demanded it of myself when I am in front of the camera, whether to lose weight for my headshot session. Have you been through the same process in your career? Before jumping to conclusions, I would like to expose what I think is important in front of the camera. You want to:
1. Look engaged.
2. Look confident.
3. Look relaxed.
4. Look 'clean'.
As you can see none of the above express the need to be 'thin' or to look 'tan' or to look 'beautiful' for that matter. In today's acting market, there are many actors filing every niche. Therefore, you need to feel confident in your own skin. If you lose too much weight and stretch yourself too far into a space that you don't usually inhabit, you will not see yourself in your headshots, and what's worse, the casting director will not be able to recognize you from the shots you submitted.
If feeling slim is going to make you feel better about yourself, then by all means go for it. For me, it has worked inversely. I have taken the route of trying to shed a few pounds before a shoot, and by the time I get to the shoot I usually feel starved and tired, which is the worst way to enter a photo shoot. What happened was that I tried to change something in a few weeks that I didn't like about myself, and that had taken all my focus and exhausting me. My realization was that real deep change takes a little longer because we are talking about changing habits, and in my opinion that is where true artists should be heading to. If on the other hand you take your photo session as a snapshot of who you are at this moment in time, you will not feel the pressure to modify yourself. We all know that self improvement is something to strive for, but for those of us who are actors, self acceptance is crucial. Without it we lack confidence. I believe and have seen it in front of the camera that as an actor you have to do everything in your power to stay grounded and in your body at all times. This helps to stay present and alive during a shoot, and guarantee a successful session but has very little to do with losing weight.
In terms of being clean, obviously follow your look, bring to the photo session what you bring into the audition room. I have had some clients that didn't like the way their hair looked because they didn't plan well enough to come in with their hair ready and in good condition. Most of my clients also assume that the make-up artist will do everything for them. Be an artist, have a voice about your look. Establish dynamic communication with the make-up and hair person in the room and communicate whether the tones are too light, too intense... and he or she will let you know where the boundaries are for the type of photography we are doing. For me 'clean' means ready for work! Right this day, right this time, this very moment. And ladies, if your skin is prone to breaking out at that time of the month, plan around it. The bottom line is, no one can help you if you are not prepared in the set, and no photographer can do miracles if you are not ready for work!
So should you get in shape? Do what empowers you most, but please don't drain yourself the morning before the shoot by doing a monster weights session and get a good night sleep the days leading to this important date. Don't forget to drink and bring lots of water! Trust, I am writing from my own experience.