WHAT IS A HEADSHOT
It's not just a pretty picture of you or 8x10 photo with your name on it.
IT IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MARKETING TOOL AS AN ACTOR!
THIS INFORMATION IS WELL WORTH THE FEW MINUTES IT WILL TAKE YOU TO READ
Personal portraits and actor's headshots can be very similar in some aspects and vary quite a lot in others! A modeling portfolio varies to an even greater extent.
Learn as much as you can about the industry. It will help you achieve results that will get called for auditions in your range, more often.
An ACTOR'S HEADSHOT however, should possess a number of essential characteristics.
While there are several important technical elements that go into creating a great headshot, there are also a few very important personal questions that YOU need to consider:
1) Does your headshot look like you when you walk into an audition or is it a departure from your current look?
2) Does it market what you have to sell in terms of your age range and most importantly, your TYPE? Do you KNOW your type? If not, you should. Your type is usually what you get called in for the most....or what you tend to look like the most. Are you the rugged blue collar kind of guy? A meek accountant? A lawyer or banker? An FBI agent? A policman? Are you a high school cheerleader, a suburban Mom, a moody teen, district attorney, judge, a grandma, a loner, a floozy, a librarian? You must know your general type and your headshot should reflect or suggest that type. Your headshot is a lot about what you tend to look like in real life.
3) Does your expression have a natural or spontaneous and genuine look?
4) Does it grab the attention of and connect with the casting director when he or she is deciding who to call in?
5) Did you get high quality, professional 8x10 reproductions or are you using cheap copies of the original on regular copy paper?
6) Does your current headshot give you a measure of confidence when walking into an audition?
If you're getting called in for auditions and you no longer look like your headshot because you are older, or you have a completely different hair style, lost weight, gained weight or any other reason, a casting director may pass on you. You may look fantastic in your headshot, but if it's out of date, it's counterproductive. They may have had you in mind for a specific character based on the way you look in the headshot your agent submitted! Perhaps your hair was long in your headshot and now it's cut short! Maybe you were heavy and now you're thin. It's like ordering something by mail and when you open the box, it doesn't look like what you ordered! You're disappointed and ready to send it back.
These details can make a big difference. If you can't answer these questions with any level of certainty about your own headshot, you may not be landing as many auditions as you would like to and may very well need a new headshot! Casting directors look at hundreds of headshots on a regular basis and only spend an average of four seconds OR LESS looking at each one; you should have a headshot that makes them stop to take a closer look at you for the right reasons! Unfortunately, many actors often hang on to a headshot for all the wrong reasons.
You may be a very talented actor but casting can't always take the time to "rethink" what other role you are best suited for if you don't look like your headshot. When you are chosen from a huge stack of headshots, the casting director, for the most part, expects to see the same person at the audition...that is, the person best suited to play the character they had in mind for you! You know, the person in the headshot they looked at! That person.
You may be in love with your old headshot for some reason but if it doesn't look like you anymore, you are defeating the whole purpose of a headshot. Don't misunderstand, I think you should love your headshot; BUT, for all the right reasons mentioned here.
Your headshot should look like you do, the current you, the real you. Most importantly, it should capture your overall appearance in a marketable form that features your character type and age range. A headshot session is NOT, I repeat, NOT the time to act out extreme character roles or dress up in costumes or hats. It will make you look amateurish. Casting will decide on who you are best to play based on your natural features; so be yourself in your headshot and save the acting for your audition.
Certainly, you want to look your best for your session.....of course! You just don't want to go over the top with ultra-glamorous hair styles and so forth unless you plan to do that for every audition you go to. Again, your headshot should represent the real you and demonstrate your "type" as much as possible, accenting your best features at the same time. Getting called in is half the battle; what you choose to do at the audition is the other half. Starting out the process with a great headshot gives you an important edge!
Remember, you will be competing with other actors who take their profession and the quality of their headshot very seriously......and others who do not. Which category would you rather be in?
HERE ARE SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ACTOR'S HEADSHOTS
How many looks do I need, one, two, three, four?
Every actor has their own theory on this but if you want regular work, your headshot should clearly identify your character type. Your character type is what you will most often get called in for and you should stick with that. It's your look. Remember, a good headshot should establish your character type and identity or look. Your face should be fairly easy to visualize and when a character breakdown comes across the casting agent's desk.....hopefully, it will be you that pops into mind for a specific role. In reality, ONE really solid, up to date headshot is all you need to establish your look. HOWEVER, because many actors will audition for dramatic and commercial roles, the general guideline would be a max of two. Most actors feel having two and using the "audition appropriate" headshot will improve their odds of getting the role. One headshot that is warm and friendly with a pleasant smile for commercial work and perhaps another, more intense or serious character headshot for dramatic work. If having reproductions of two different headshots works for your budget, go for it. If not, one "standout" headshot is all you need and it should be one with a pleasant smile.....like the commercial headshot. It will work well for any audition. Don't like to smile? Don't do commercial work? Go with your general character type. Some actors will post too many images online thinking it will make them look more versatile and this can possibly work against them; upload too many looks and you may "dilute" your true character type. You may end up looking like an actor who is "acting". Again, have a solid headshot in hand and let casting decide what they want to do with your look. That is their job. It's your job to give them what they want when you audition!.
Do I have to look directly at the lens of the camera?
If you're an actor and the purpose of your session is an actor's headshot, then YES! You must look directly at the camera's lens. This is an industry standard! Eye contact with the camera means eye contact with whoever eventually looks at your headshot....and headshots are all about the eyes because they say so much about you as a person or character type. The energy and "story" in your eyes can make your headshot more captivating. You should never be looking away from the camera in an actor's headshot. Save that for modeling photos
How should my headshot be cropped? Just my head? My head and shoulders? Down to my bust line? Can it be a half-length?
While the industry standard for a headshot is generally head and shoulders, in some cases, the actor or performer may feel what they have to offer in terms of upper body should be included to better market themselves according to type. For example, it would be an injustice to provide an actor with a headshot of only head and shoulders if they have extremely muscular arms with tattoos. The muscles and tattoos may be considered a powerful selling point in terms of character type as well as body type and consequently land the actor more auditions in that range. Male or female, ultimately, the choice is yours. If you go with something below the bust line however, be it physical type or "posturing", there should be a good reason for it. Otherwise, your headshot begins to go in the direction of a half-length or body shot. On the flip side of the coin, having a headshot that is "over-cropped", cutting too much from the top of your head or elsewhere may not be a good idea either. Like I said, everyone has their own idea and style when it comes to headshots. You have to decide what works best for you.
Headshot Formats - Portrait or Landscape? (Vertical vs Horizontal)
Talk with Actors, talent agents, casting agents or photographers.....no matter who you ask, everyone has an opinion on these details and some with valid reasons why they recommend one over the other. However, before making the decision for one or the other with your headshot, an actor should consider a number of points that could make a difference in the future. For example, what format does your agent present all headshots on the agency website? How will that affect your decision? Will your image get cropped differently or not? Bad cropping can be a game-changer for your look. Where else on the web will your headshot appear? Will those sites affect the way your headshot looks if it gets re-cropped as a square perhaps? Invariably, they will. Think about it, does choosing either format truly compliment your image in some way? Does it have an impact on how you are perceived by casting agents? All very good questions! The trouble is, so many people have different answers, you may feel like it's difficult to make a decision that will yield positive results. Don't want to take a chance? I would suggest you take a look at any movie cast list on the IMDB; how are all the actor's headshots presented there? How are they formatted? You'll find that the cast list headshots are ALL presented in portrait format. Me? I'm a traditionalist when it comes to headshots and prefer portrait style formatting over landscape or horizontal. As I've said in reference to different backgrounds, it's more about your face. If you've got the look the casting person wants and you do well at your audition, the difference between portrait and landscape becomes a moot point. Additionally, when it comes to how your headshot is presented on different websites, having a format that is inconsistent with that can do more harm than good; so give it some consideration before moving forward with your actor's headshot. My advice? Go with standard PORTRAIT style formatting.
Should my Actor's Headshot be done in color or B&W?
COLOR! With the advent of digital photography and digital printing services, COLOR actor headshot print reproductions have become relatively inexpensive. There was a time when all actor headshots were shot and reproduced in B&W only. Reproductions were done using a master print and the repros wer made from a large negative of that print. Today, everything is computerized and COLOR is now considered industry standard; it is also what is expected by casting agents. While B&W Actor Headshots are still used by some theater professionals, it is no longer the case with feature film and television. However, if you want your headshot done in B&W for personal or special professional reasons, we will provide you with the best! Otherwise, go with COLOR reproductions of your headshot.
Should my headshot be done in a studio or outdoors?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question and it's a matter of client preference in terms of what makes YOU more comfortable. In most cases, a properly lit, head and shoulders headshot that looks like you do on most days of the week and possesses the other elements we discussed will do the job it is expected to do; this can be in studio or outdoors. When shooting outdoors, it is important however, that the background is not a major distraction. This is why when shooting an actor's headshot on location, our preference is to shoot with a fairly shallow depth of field...meaning, the background is extremely blurred out but your head and face are in focus. A headshot is after all, about your face and not the background. This is why a seamless, neutral gray or pure-white background is often used in studio because ALL of the attention is then on your face and only your face. Headshots with a wall full of easy to read graffiti in the background, cemeteries, junk yards and so forth may look cool to you and work well for a modeling portfolio but again, a headshot is not about the background, it's about your facial features. In a few cases, an actor's character features may actually be complimented by a specific background and natural daylight. This of course can vary quite a bit from actor to actor. If you're into TRENDS however, the general trend today seems to be shooting actor's headshots on location. It has been said that it gives the headshot more of an edge. In some cases this is true....usually because the actor is stiff in the studio but more comfortable out in the environment. In any case, if you are of a certain character type and your headshot is a professionally done reproduction, the casting person will be judging your character type by your face more than the background no matter what the background may be. Nevertheless, it remains a matter of client preference. We will do your session in our studio or at the location you think would work best for you. If I had to, I would recommend an outdoor shoot....simply because this is what everyone else is doing. Standing out from the crowd is okay, you just don't want anyone thinking you're not keeping up with the times. Same thing goes for B&W headshots. NOBODY is using B&W anymore....it's strictly color. Twenty years ago, a lot of actors were still using B&W but not anymore.
Headshot Trends - Good or not so good?
If you like to follow trends in headshot styles and formats, go for it. However, in the long run, you may find that it is counterproductive depending on the trend. Trends and styles come and go in every facet of our lifestyle and actor headshots are no different. Truth be told, having an up to date, well composed, well lit, sharply focused headshot that shows the casting director WHO you are and your CHARACTER TYPE, is all you will ever need. Let's face it though, actors want almost every role they audition for. SO.....in an attempt to "get the attention of the casting director", actors (and their photographers) will try all sorts of things; some work, others do not. Actor Headshots are often photographed from extremely odd angles; others have excessively unbalanced lighting and some are over-cropped or too close up; some others may have depth of field that is far too shallow. These "techniques" can be very useful to an extent, but you and your photographer must be careful not to overdo it or that's exactly what it will look like; overdone. In the case of formatting, a lot of Actors are now choosing the "landscape" or horizontal format for their headshot; they are utilizing the "negative space" concept and believe it "leads" the viewer's attention to their face, which is usually at the far right end of the image. Good trend or not so good? Well, don't upload that image to a site that displays images in portrait format or you may end up with only half your face in the shot.....or less! If your headshot is already over-cropped and your agent's website presents images as a "square", the image will end up being cropped even more. How will that affect your headshot? Borders or no borders? This is another trend that comes and goes. Once upon a time, a full bleed headshot with no border was considered "amateurish"....still it's something that comes and goes.
What if I don't have an agent?
If you do not have an agent, it will be difficult, if not impossible to get auditions for yourself beyond the role of "extra". You need an agent. In most cases, you will not be able to sign with one however, until you have your headshot done. In fact, it is recommended that you don't even attempt to sign with an agent until you have your headshot and your reproductions done.
Your headshot may be the first thing the agency asks to see when you interview with them. Handing the agent a stunning headshot of yourself when you meet will make you look more professional. Having a dozen extra ones to give them if they are interested in signing you will only make you look more prepared and professional. Otherwise, you're wasting their time and yours. It's like going to apply for a job without a pen to fill out the application.
Most actors will get 100 professional headshot reproductions done....twenty or thirty for the agent and the rest for you to use every time you go to an audition. Casting usually requires talent to bring two headshots to each audition; not two different ones, but two of what you are using as your principal headshot. The ones you give to your agent and the ones you take to an audition should always have your current resume stapled to the back of each at all four corners. While we do not provide multiple reproductions, there are many reproduction places listed on the internet in both NY and LA that you can choose from. If you like, we can always recommend a few for you. Otherwise, if you plan on getting headshot prints as you need them for auditions and your agent, we offer a special discount on high-quality 8x10 prints for actors with a minimum order of ten. Be sure to ask.
What if the agent doesn't like my headshot?
It happens. In some cases, the headshot you're using may not follow industry guidelines or the details we discussed regarding character type, age range etc. Maybe it just doesn't look like the real you. In other cases, the agent may see you differently than you see yourself; maybe the agent just insists on a smile as opposed to a serious look. Perhaps the agent has an associate who works as a photographer and wants him or her to shoot your headshot. In ANY case, it's usually not a good idea to argue with your agent or your prospective agent....they are after all, the gatekeeper when it comes to being seen and getting auditions. They WANT you to work because every time you work, they make a nice commission on whatever you get paid. Fact of the matter is, the agent wants you to qualify for as many auditions as possible...and a smile is pretty much a prerequisite for most commercial work. IF HOWEVER, your headshot meets industry guidelines, if it truly represents the "real you", REFLECTS YOUR CHARACTER TYPE, if it's an all around great image and if it gives you a certain measure of confidence in yourself; IF it meets all these guidelines, you MAY have to very, very politely tell the agent that you would prefer to move forward with the headshot you have in hand. Don't be afraid to give a valid reason....perhaps you rarely smile......okay, but the agent insists on a headshot with a smile; even though YOU believe a headshot with a smile in YOUR case would look unnatural or worse yet, a grimace. Perhaps another headshot is not in your budget at present. Again, whatever your reason, it should be valid; and if you handle this kind of situation politely and honestly, you should not have a problem. In the final analysis, if you are unable to communicate honestly and freely with your agent in the beginning, you may want to consider what the future may bring.......after you've signed a contract.
Why do I need to spend money on a hundred 8x10 reproductions anyway; can't I just print them on my own printer using regular copy paper?
Because it's the professional thing to do. It is an investment for professionals. Getting high quality reproductions of your headshot using the correct size of 8x10 is important; otherwise, you may be perceived as an amateur who doesn't know what they're doing. Why take that chance? As a professional actor, you should know what is required of you when you go to auditions and use every opportunity to always present yourself as a professional. That means having professionally reproduced 8x10 headshots with your resume stapled to the back. You should always take TWO with you when going to auditions....just in case, even if the last few times the agent said they didn't need them. Oh....and NEVER have your resume printed on the back of your headshot. It should be updated regularly and printed on plain 8x10 paper and stapled to the back of your headshot at all four corners.
If you expect to be considered for a role in a multi-million dollar film project, you should start by having your headshot meet industry standards, know your way around the set and certainly be able to deliver your lines in a consistent manner for every take they do OR be able to change your read to whatever the director asks you to do. If you start out by going to the audition with a headshot that doesn't meet the basic professional standards, how can you expect casting directors to think you know what you're doing?
Can I bring a few friends with me to the shoot?
This is definitely not recommended and generally will not work to your advantage. Friends and family can be a major distraction to you; especially if they are looking over the photographer's shoulder and directing the shoot, telling you to act like a tiger or some other ridiculous advice. HOWEVER, if you are under the age of 18, we REQUIRE you to have a parent or legal guardian present to sign paperwork and sit throughout the shoot. Otherwise, as a professional adult, you need to be focused on getting the best headshot possible. If you need reassurance that you will be working in a professional environment, we understand. Once you are comfortable with that, we ask that your friend wait for you somewhere else until you're done.
Our session fee always includes proofs online, minor touchups (like unexpected blemishes), cropping, border formatting, including your name, your final choice as a high resolution, ready-to-print file on disc and one 8x10 master PRINT for your duplication printer to use as an exposure guideline; all for only $150 in studio and $175 on location. We may be the only Actor's Headshot Photographer in the city that still offers a master PRINT included with your session fee!
If you've done your research, you know that actors in NY and LA will pay twice as much or even more for the same package and often charge $10-$20 extra for touch-ups, cropping and border formatting. Again, our session fee is all inclusive. Choice of studio or location, weather permitting.
If your new headshot helps you get just one job that you may have otherwise missed out on, it's worth it. Considering the SAG day player rate for film pays over $700 and commercials at over $500 plus residuals;
................it's well worth it!
Your headshot can be processed as COLOR or B&W. Even though industry preference has shifted toward color and is recommended by most casting agents and talent agents, you can decide which works best for you and your specific look. B&W has been the industry standard for so long, many theater performers in particular like the traditional look it provides. HOWEVER, natural features, like red hair, green eyes or blue eyes that should stand out as part of your marketing strategy demand color headshots. Unless your talent agent told you to go with B&W for some reason, you may want to stick with color.
Click the link below for more help, info and tips. If you haven't had a headshot session in a while or if this is your first,
we strongly recommend reading the section about
"HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR SESSION"
Click on the link now! It will help you properly prepare for your headshot session with even more helpful suggestions about wardrobe, make-up, hair, choosing a photographer and more. In short, it will help us help YOU get a better headshot. If you have any additional questions, please take a moment to send us an
with your questions about actor's headshot session.......we want to help you be successful with your acting career. Best Wishes.
If you're serious about working on a multi-million dollar film,
you should be willing to invest in professional headshots and quality reproductions that are the proper size.
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