I’m always looking for the next great headshot photographer. Being a photographer myself, if I have any talent at all (other than a natural eye) it’s because of the thousands of photo shoots I have put myself through (and even got paid for) as a model/actress. While I take pleasure in modeling, sitting for “the paid headshot session” is the bane of my existence. I think many actors can attest to this banal but necessary process, so I’m sharing my tumultuous journey to achieving the grand old “very castable” headshot, by sharing some of my “interesting” choices for self-branding (AKA: My Old, Unusable Headshots).
Click to start slideshow. Read my comments below each photograph to get the full story:
2002, North Carolina. Someone thought it was a good idea to braid my hair like Pocahontas. Later on in life, I started booking a lot of Native American roles, so I just went with it. These were my very first modeling shots, in North Carolina. I actually went to modeling SCHOOL. I should have gone straight to Hollywood and hit the pavement!
2004: The New York years. “The Tough Chick:” This was my favorite shot for many years. I wore that top everywhere, and the photographer was a friend of mine. I was fresh out of college and starting a new life in NYC. It’s actually a great pic, because it’s ME.
2005: “The Rebel.” Seriously. I flipped the bird. #NoAuditions
2005. This was my model comp card for a while. I don’t know why I sexed it up so much in every photo shoot from 2005-2007. NY agents totally don’t go for this!! #noauditions
2006: “The Ghoul” this shot happened during my “haunted house” years. I wanted a “Scream Queen” look as I started doing a lot of indie horror films. I just look weird here.
2006: Trying to recreate that popular style everyone and their mother paid well over 1K for in NY. Got to shoot with him years later and was unimpressed. This “fake” is no worse than the real thing!
2006. Wet hair? In a headshot? Not a trend. Just a risk. Going for the “Demi Moore” 90s modeling look. #NoMeetings
2007. “The Gangster” really not sure what I was thinking here. I look like a character from a Roger Rabbit movie. #nohats #noauditions
2007. FAKE fur. But seriously, what’s with that angry expression?
2007. This is when I gained 20 pounds for no reason. This photographer & MUA loved flattening my face out. No auditions.
2008: “The Business Bitch.” Weird hairstyle combined with starchy white background and another flat-face. Boring. No auditions. And the photographer was telling racist jokes, so that explains my “I want to beat you” expression.
2009: TOO CLOSE.
2009: I love this shot. Some idiot told me that it was too romantic and not commercial enough. Sorry lady, but this is my brand. I’m a fantasy, deal with it.
2009: Same shoot. This was my drama school graduation headshot. I guess I thought I was headed straight for the Oscars after grad! An “acting career coach” also said I should change my name because I look Caucasian, so I just went by “Satu.” I listen to the wrong people.
2009. “The Ethnic Shot” I like this shot. Got me a ton of auditions as an Indian woman. Unfortunately I’m always in competition with the brown girls and I never get the part. Wish casting would see that to be “Indian” means a lot of things. That, and I’m not looking at the camera.
2010: “The CSI Shot” this is me trying to look like I’m investigating a crime scene. Not too bad, actually. But… #NoAuditions
2010. “The Fairytale.” I wear this dress everywhere. It’s my princess dress. I got it at a thrift shop and it fits me perfectly. But “The Princess” is not an archetype casting calls in, unfortunately!
2010: “Terminator.” I’m really proud of this shot. Photo by Joao Carlos, fashion photographer. Wouldn’t you know, a NY fashion photographer took the best headshot I ever had. I think it’s because he hated the word “headshot” as much as I did. Also, we didn’t get along very much, but that tension got us some great expressions. I broke down and cried during a few of them.
2011: “The Hair Cut.” I just moved to LA and the photos got brighter and more colorful. Some acting career coach told me to cut my hair to book more jobs. I aged myself 15 years with this haircut. Got called in a LOT. Didn’t book anything because I was still too young for “Young Mom.”
2011: Trying to make “The Haircut” work. Here I am wearing the same dress as my graduation headshot. It is very flattering and this actually got me called in a few times. I booked my first feature film, “The Coalition” off this headshot. Photo by Anthony Moore.
2011: “The Good Detective” I wanted to be on Rizzoli and Isles SO bad. Growing my hair out from “The Haircut.” This expression is strange. No auditions.
2011, “The Holiday Card.” I couldn’t bleach my face any more than this highly exposed shot! I changed my name to “Satu Makeda” and got #noauditions because everyone thought it was Japanese. I did start getting called in for Japanese roles though. I’m very flattered but no much for the real thing!
2011: “The Trendsetter” everyone and their mother got their headshots with a white background this year. It looks good but I had no chemistry with the photographer. Dead expression and I was near passing out from low blood sugar. Annoyed because I had to shoot with 5 other people first as this was a workshop he was teaching. I was toast by the time I got to him.
2012: My “Dexter” look. It’s actually not bad, except, why would a cop wear a bikini under her button-down?
2012: Great shot and great smile…but what’s with the gun & bullets Betsey Johnson t-shirt? Shot by Adrian Barrios (my good friend).
2012: “The Fangirl.” I LOVED this shoot. In a way this look was really me. Just, “Fangirl.” This set the stage for brand identity, and production company, Final Fangirl Productions. Photo by David Muller.
2013: “Too Masculine.” Got great advice from a major publicist that referred me to a HUGE manager. They rejected me before even meeting me. She said this photo is “Too Masculine.” But maybe…that’s just what my brand is? #NeedAdvice
2013. Definitely trying to get on “True Blood” here.
2013: “The Edgy Rocker Chick.” Getting closer to my brand/type for casting. I adore this photo. Almost no retouching on the face. Though on my end, it’s a bit too “modely.” Photo by Jenn Hoffman.
2014: My current headshot. Gets me in the door. Maybe I’m getting closer to my goal. But I am still searching for THE ULTIMATE HEADSHOT. I want a more cinematic look now. It’s TIME to start booking!
I love watching the changing trends and I’m glad I got started soon after black and white had become extinct. Taking up the hobby myself, at www.satuphotostudio,com, I have surely learned a lot throughout the years of being in front of the camera. I just wish I could take my own photo. But there is one inescapable characteristic of a great headshot, and that’s the soul of the actor coming to life. And, like a great director, it takes a great photographer to get that going!
The Quest for the Impossibly Great Headshot
Your actress (and photographer), Satu Runa.
I’m always looking for the next great headshot photographer. Being a photographer myself, if I have any talent at all (other than a natural eye) it’s because of the thousands of photo shoots I have put myself through (and even got paid for) as a model/actress.