Aug 05

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words – Headshots 101

By Maison Kelly

We all know that a successful audition is vital to landing a role. But what gets you that audition in the first place? What represents what kind of actor you are before you even walk in the room? Your headshot. If a picture is a worth a thousand words, your headshot could be worth a thousand auditions. You want to make sure that it is professional, updated, and accurately reflects the kind of actor you are!

Let’s start with the basics:

  • It should generally be an 8×10 photograph.
  • It should be framed to show shoulders and above.
  • Horizontal headshots are inconvenient for casting directors to flip through, vertical is much better.
  • Black and white headshots are not recommended; color printing is affordable now!
  • General rule: For the stage, 2 headshots are recommended- a “comedic” one and a “dramatic” one. For the screen, an array of different shots are recommended. If you are auditioning for commercials, that should be separate, as well.
  • Dramatic headshots don’t have to be an angry frown and comedic headshots don’t have to be a huge grin. Just make sure that you are thinking something that coincides with the type of headshot that you are going for. This will make sure that you don’t have ‘dead eyes.’ Always have a thought (sort of ‘in character’) behind every pose.
  • A common trend in headshots is having a blurred background that further contributes to your type. Just don’t let it be distracting from what the focus of the headshot is- YOU!
  • Don’t wear solid black, white, or red because it messes with the balance of the camera. Wear something that goes well with your eye and skin tone!

You want to make sure that you are presenting your most marketable self in your headshot. If you are most often cast in off-beat, quirky, and comedic roles, you won’t want to submit a dramatic, glamorous headshot. Also keep in mind that although you want to present the most castable version of yourself, you want the casting agent to be able to recognize you in the room! Don’t distort and enhance your appearance so much that it looks more like a publicity photoshoot rather than a headshot. Your headshot should show you looking normal, not all done up!

Finding your photographer:

  • Preferably, you should find a Headshot Photographer. If you just go to someone who does school portraits, you will end up getting a school portrait. The next best thing is a senior picture photographer.
  • General pricing is anywhere from $200- $500 for the FULL PACKAGE. Big names may charge more, but be careful, they may not be worth more.
  • Full Package = consultation, shoot, initial photos, and most importantly, PRINTING RIGHTS. If the photographer does not give you printing rights, then every single time you want to print your headshot, you have to do it through that company. That can be expensive.
  • Get someone you are comfortable with! You will be spending hours with this photographer, and if you are not comfortable, it will show through the photo.

Make sure you update your headshot every few years, or every time you change your look (hair color or cut, etc.) drastically. Remember that as an actor, you are your own product. You have to think of your headshot as a marketing technique. Once you realize your type, do all that you can to successfully sell it!

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