What Goes Into a Good Headshot?

Heard of business cards? I’m sure. Well as you know, as an actor,  the headshot is your business card. It is the single most important thing you can have to market yourself to industry professionals. Before knowing who you are, a casting director is looking at a picture of you, this business card, and they are thinking one of two things: “I really like their look, I will bring them in for a project at some point.” Or, to put it simply, “where’s the trash.”

So why is it harder for some to find a headshot that they can get work off of, or at the very least be seen for an audition? There’s a myriad of reasons. For the sake of understanding, let’s review a headshot as if you were the casting director and the person just walked into the audition room. The first thing you are going to hope is that they look like their headshot. Their hair, is it the same color or at least the same style/length?

   Once you’ve made your determination on that, next up is the quality of the headshot. Are they lit well? How’s the background? Is it too busy? Is the subject matching it too much? Or maybe even you ask yourself if the headshot looks like the photographer knows how to shoot actors.

  If your opinion on this audition hopeful is leaning towards amateur based on the way you answered the above questions, then you now have some insight on how a casting director views your work.

   This is why it is imperative to do some research on headshot photographers before landing upon your choice. Go back and look at their previous work. A good photographer should know how to bring about your intensity where your eyes are the focal point, if you’re aiming for a great theatrical shot. Or your easy and warm smile if you’re the girl next door type.

   Here’s a small test. The next time you are with friends have each of them write down your top characteristic traits. It could be anything from charismatic and warm to goofy and obnoxious. Then have 3 strangers do the same thing. Perhaps you can find these “strangers” from a social setting. Maybe it’s the first day of your acting class or you just joined a new church…etc. What you will find is that what your friends say about you and what these new networks say won’t generally match up. Isn’t that how we are in life anyway? After getting to know you, someone will tell you when they first met you they thought you would be a certain way, but you’re the complete opposite from that. How this will help you is that it determines who you are and what type of work you can generally go for. If your friends’ consensus opinion says that you are silly and that of these ‘strangers’ says that you seem warm and inviting, then make sure you show both of these in your headshots as these are the quintessential essence of you.

   Let’s recap: Determine your type by self and outside evaluation of you. Choose a photographer by reviewing their previous work, ensuring that they know the look that you are going for. Choose a style (hair and wardrobe) that fits this type and one that you won’t have to work hard to upkeep on a day to day basis. And lastly, relax and have fun. You spend your hard earned money on these headshots. The last thing you want to do is portray stressed and overworked when you are suppose to be warm and charismatic. Some of these tasks can seem a bit tedious, but if done carefully and correctly will yield the results you’ve been dreaming about. So what are you waiting for?

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