Everything You Need To Know About Headshots
Recently we went through our talent database to monitor the overall situation there. And the one conclusion we came to was -- the lack of main photos or even worse - the amount of snapchat-filtered and horrible quality photos in talent profiles is mindblowing. We cannot stress this enough -- your portfolio is your business card, so treat it that way. Casting directors, producers, writers, and directors use headshots to get a quick look at actors to see if they have the right physical attributes for a given role.
The headshot is the most important tool of any actor for their visibility in the acting community. Knowing when to send it, how to use it and what’s the best kind of headshot is going to keep your face in the minds of casting people and if done well, your headshot is going to be the tool that will help you gain more than one part.
"Do you know the difference between a selfie and a headshot" -- we asked that question on our facebook page and the results were stunning. Many a talent think that an overprocessed selfie is good enough (ugh!), they think that a selfie is equivalent to headshot. Oh, but it's not. What is a headshot then? It is nothing more than a very good photo. Your headshot usually will have two components: an 8x10 close-up picture of your face and a copy of your resume, aka your list of credits. A shot of your head, full face, frontal head pose, of you, looking straight into the camera. Most agents like to see the headshot with a smile that shows your teeth -- never underestimate the value of good dental hygiene.
Many aspiring actors have more than one headshot, depending on the part they are seeking. If your photo shows a very sexy female and you walk into the room after sending them that headshot, looking like a tomboy who hasn't showered for days, they’re probably going to send you home.
Your headshot should be a clear photo that looks like you - retouching it would be misleading since your "imperfections" might just be what the casting people are looking for, or if you retouch the living hell out of your photo just to look "prettier"... you get the idea. Your headshot should look like you - just as you are.
A few things you don’t want in your headshot? Anything that really detracts from you, the person, or takes away from your features and face. Huge earrings and excessive makeup are probably not the things to wear for the shoot. Keep it clean, so that the only thing that gets noticed in the headshot is you. Looking straight into the camera, maybe squinting a bit.
Getting an acting gig starts by getting in the door of a casting director's office. Regardless of how great your acting skills are if you don't have a headshot to use as your comp card, no one might ever know you exist. Make sure to give your headshot the attention it deserves:
Hire a Professional
Your headshot should be taken by a professional photographer. You want it to put you in the best light possible—literally. Lighting is key to having a good headshot, and contrary to a popular belief by some of our talents, amateur headshots are pretty obvious and should be avoided. There is a plethora of professional headshot photographers out there who will give you a good headshot at an affordable price—usually in the range of $100 to $200, and believe me, these are going to be a hundred bucks you won't regret spending.
You want to find a photographer who specializes in headshots. Use referrals from other actors and casting directors, rather than just finding someone through a blind search. A lot of shady people out there are just looking to take advantage of inexperienced actors, so do find someone with a good reputation and samples to show you.
Strike a pose
The pose in your headshot is important because you want it to exude your personality. Those looking at your headshot should be able to discern the kind of actor or person you are simply by taking a glance at the photo. For example, if you're a comedian, make sure your pose isn't overly dramatic, sad, or angry.
Have a couple different versions of your headshot, such as one with you smiling and a more serious one. Remember, a while ago we already told you why it's important to be versatile.
What You Should Wear
Wear a solid color in your headshot and be sure the background is simple and not too distracting. You want people to focus on your face and what you look like rather than on what you're wearing or what might be going on behind you. This is why photographers usually choose to shoot headshots up against a wall or some other solid background.
It helps to have your name somewhere on the photo, usually printed on the bottom of it. This isn't mandatory, but it often helps in the event your resume gets lost.
5 TERRIBLE TRENDS WE ARE SEEING IN HEADSHOTS
TANK TOPS For some reason, we are seeing more and more headshots where the actors (men and women) are wearing tank tops. Unless it is a fitness shot, DON'T WEAR TANK TOPS IN YOUR HEADSHOTS! We have heard from a dozen offices, half commercial, half theatrical lamenting this trend. Why? Because bare arms in photos make women look wider.
SUPER CLOSE-UP HEADSHOTS Yes, we know it is called a headshot, but you don't need to be so literal. A good headshot should actually be about chest or waist up. Why? Because (especially for commercial shots) we need context. The thing about casting is that they are trying to imagine you as a specific character but they aren't going to stop and say, can she play a mom? They need to see it right away. The thing that allows them to see it is context.
CLEAVAGE Ladies if you are showing cleavage in a photo, that's all Casting is looking at. And let's be honest, it just looks cheap and desperate. Unless you are in a bathing suit there is no good reason for this. The interesting stuff should be in your face. So, no cleavage shots unless you wish to get typecast as a... you know.
OVERLY TOUCHED UP PHOTOS No one's face is flawless. Yes, get the zit touched out of your photo. DO NOT get your photos so retouched that you have no lines at all on your face or you have no freckles. If your skin looks unrealistically good, casting is going to think the photo isn't realistic and they don't know what to expect in the room. They want a realistic looking picture of a realistic looking person.