In the age when casting so often wants to have “real people” for their commercials and print ads, actors are finding themselves having to have a variety of lifestyle pictures both in their portfolio and on their social media. Recently, I was submitted for a print ad in which the casting wanted pictures of me doing my hobbies and links to my social media accounts. I have plenty of hobbies, but unfortunately am really bad at taking pictures when I am doing anything. This living in the moment in life is starting to bite my acting branding in the tuckus. I also checked out my social media, and I while I have great shots, they are more industry related and not hobby related. Also it should be noted I have not mastered the “selfie”. Since time was of the essence, I used my husband as photographer and had to re-create hobbies such as reading, cooking, dancing etc in order to submit. Now knowing how much I need these sort of active lifestyle photographs in my arsenal, I decided to sit down with photographer Allen Zaki to get his advice on how to achieve these lifestyle pictures so I am better equipped in the future.
As actors we are asked more and more to provide lifestyle shots for casting. In your opinion what are three key aspects that make a great lifestyle picture?
Zaki: To me a great lifestyle photo has three key parts to it,
1. Great personality
2. Great production value
3. Great photography, (lighting, location, editing).
The first part has to do with each actor, in any lifestyle scenario you’re looking to bring a great sense of personality that’s going to make the photo shine. The second is great production value, although an actor may not have the budget to put together a largely produced shoot for their portfolio, getting the wardrobe, makeup/hair and props right is key to creating a great environment for your lifestyle photos. Last, but definitely not least, great photography, this is where I come in; having beautiful lighting, location and retouching are also very important in making YOU (the star) stand out and shine. Choosing the location and lighting are critical to encapsulating the feel and mood of your images. My biggest pet peeve when I see actors photos are OVERLY retouched images of their face, eyes and skin. Don’t overly “Facetune” or retouch yourself, its unprofessional and makes it very obvious. An image that has been retouched properly will look like nothing has really been done to it, but it has been enhanced to make the actor pop off the page.
What sort of lifestyle shots should every actor have in their portfolio?
Zaki: I think every actor should have a few options in their portfolio. Lifestyle is hard to describe sometimes, because each casting director, agent, and actor are going to give you different ideas of what they think is best for you. I recommend actors have a few looks in their portfolio, something that is athletic/workout, this is LA after-all (yoga, workout, dancing, etc), at home (cooking, interior design, artist, etc) and outdoors (swimming, hiking, picnic/party with friends, etc). Any type of hobby or passion of yours is the best way to express yourself through your lifestyle photos. You’re looking to create a little hyper surreal version of yourself within the lifestyle photos.
Since social media is part of an actors branding and marketing, how important is it to put these lifestyle photos on Instagram or Facebook?
Zaki: I’m a HUGE proponent of social media, and actors who use Instagram and FB to promote themselves are smart to do so. It’s free marketing/promotion and a fantastic way to be seen by casting directors, agents and potential clients. But, knowing how to use them to your advantage, and posting a mixture of professional lifestyle photos along with personal photos (selfies, travel, activities, etc) is key to showing a fully rounded actor’s life. Without showing your professional photos you’ve had taken, your social media becomes a personal blog of “look what I did” instead of “look what great content I’ve created.”
What is the biggest mistake you see with actors or models and their lifestyle shots?
Zaki: The biggest mistake I’ve seen in actors’ lifestyle photos are, as I mentioned, overly retouched images and overly produced photos (meaning too many props, poor choice of wardrobe, too much makeup, etc). The key to any lifestyle shoot is best summed up by the synonym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). You’re acting out a scenario, it needs to feel real with a little extra polishing. No need to over do it!
How can actors get lifestyle shots? Do they need to find a photographer that specializes in lifestyle or can they take their own?
Zaki: Being that I’m a professional photographer, I recommend you hire someone who’s work you like. That doesn’t mean they have to specialize in lifestyle photography, but rather you love the images they create and it matches your style/esthetic. There is something to say about a low depth of field (out of focus background) image shot on an DSLR (pro) camera that just gives a professional look and feel to your photos. That being said, today’s cell phone cameras are powerful tools to create beautiful imagery, if in the right hands. If you or your friend have a good eye and a mastery of the camera phone, I say go for it!
Any last tips?
Zaki: ALWAYS remember that these photo sessions and images you’re creating should be FUN! You’re creating a lifestyle scenario that you want to be in.
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.”
– Robert Frank
*Photos courtesy of Allen Zaki
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