Acting Headshot Basics

If you are reading this article chances are you already know what an acting headshot is so most of this info might not be for ya, however if you are brand new to the biz or perhaps you are in highschool and are considering a career as an actor, then this article is for you.

A headshot is an 8 x 10 picture of yourself, think of it as an actor’s business cards, which makes it really awkward cuz you do have to have one near you at all times, so it is not rare to see a messy car filled with headshots in los angeles.

What is the purpose of an acting headshot you might ask?

Well it is one of the most important aspects of an actor’s career. You see, when a casting director is casting commercials, TV, and or films, Casting Directors will go through hundreds of actor’s headshots to determined which actors they will bring in to audition.

Whether or not you get the part is a completely different story, that is up to many other factors that include your talent, chemistry with your co-star, how you look in camera, and even a casting director’s mood that day….yup it is what it is.

Now, i wish I can show you how fast casting directors actually look at headshots, it’s only a second or two because they are flipping through a lot of acting headshots until BAM! they come to a headshot that matches the character they are casting and that they can feel a connection with, hence the importance of a professional, eye-grabbing acting headshot. Your talent amounts to nothing if you don’t even have the opportunity to prove it in an audition right?

When casting directors are casting commercials is much worse, they don’t even have physical 8×10’s in on their desk to flip through, they go through electronic submissions, so they are looking at their computer monitor screen with a bunch of headshots on it, so you’re headshot is a little square on a small screen, and if they catch the eye of the casting director they’ll enlarge it, if not you’re gone.

I am telling this because there is a big debate of whether you should have your headshot, waist up, full body or just your face, for the reasons explained above I think you get the idea of what my preference and recommendation is, but to settle the debate even further it is called a “head-shot”?

Here is a tip, the audience really connects with an actor on screen through their close-ups, and guess what a headshot is a close up!

Now to wrap up this introduction to acting headshots I am going to close with this.

There are many tips and guidelines to shoot a successful headshot session but the two most important aspect of a killer eye-grabbing acting headshot are:

1. The headshot must look like YOU!

Many people make the mistake of over glamorizing themselves to take shots, this ain’t a beauty contest, sure you have to look good, but most importantly it has to look like you, because there are many roles to cast on Tv, commercials and Film, not just ridiculously-good-looking people (if you saw the movie Zoolander you got that one)

Moving on. Time and time again it happens that a casting director sees a headshot, brings the actor in and they go where is the person from the headshot, in which case you are out the door, and they will remember it and probably not call you for other stuff. This happens a lot to women who are entering a different age group, the touch ups and make up makes them look 10 years younger and that just isn’t you anymore, get an accurate portrait of who you are and you’ll book more, because you will be going out for roles that are tailored for you.

2. They have to look professional, this is not a place to sacrifice quality for price, sure you don’t have to spend a thousand dollars like some do, or like some photographers would have you believe, but a picture taken by your buddy with a good camera won’t make the cut, a 6.5 megapixel may look like a fancy crisp shot to you, but remember that casting directors look at hundreds of headshots each and every week, so they can tell right away which are professional shots, and which are not, and by association which are the professional actors and who are the amateurs.

If you are labeled as an amateur the chances of getting called in to audition for good projects are very slim, and what’s worse Casting Directors will remember you as an amateur, so not only will you blow your audition you’ll blow your chances for anything that Casting Director is working or will work on, and that is not good, not good at all.

Can’t stress this enough, headshots are one of the most important tools for an actor.

With so many good photographers that take great headshots in los angeles, or any other major entertainment city, there is just no excuse to have a crappy acting headshot, deliver pizzas for a month if you have to.

Hope this helps in any way.

Don’t Let This Beautiful Hot Weather Ruin Your Actor’s Headshot

I just thought I’d jot down a few notes on how this beautiful hot weather can affect your actors headshots.

o Firstly and most obviously, drink plenty of water – and that’s a general living guide but is extremely important when we think of getting a new actors headshot done. The water will help your skin to appear smooth and clear, it helps clear the body of toxins and reduce spots and dryness and above all else prevents dehydration. So remember to drink plenty of water in the week leading up to your headshot photographer session.

o Secondly, drinking plenty of water in the hot London weather of the moment will help to keep you cool, an important point when you are on your way to the studio for your shoot. Arriving hot and bothered will leave you feeling uncomfortable which may then manifest itself as stress leaving you unprepared to have a headshot done for some time.

o Thirdly, if you arrive overheated and sweaty you’ll have to cool down before the headshot photographer can begin to shoot. This is simply because your photographer cannot shoot an actors headshot when you are glistening as this will show up clearly as shiny patches around your face. Worse still if you are perspiring heavily, this will show up clearly as beads of moisture and ruin your actor’s headshot.

o Fourthly, another thing to think about is the photographer’s time. Some headshot photographers run to a very tight schedule and arriving late or not being ready to shoot when you do arrive can lead to rushed or shortened sessions as the next client may be arriving shortly. I believe the optimal time for a headshot session is between one and a half and two hours for each appointment. This leaves plenty of time for late arrivals, stress on arrival and in some cases a reluctance to have a headshot done because of the ‘classic’ actors fear of the stills camera.

I hope these few tips are of use. As an actors headshot photographer in London, there is more hot humid weather predicted throughout the summer and following these tips could make your photographic session more pleasant and more productive.

Should an Actor Have Facial Hair In His Headshot?

Facial hair is quite popular at the moment, everything from full beards to designer stubble can commonly be seen on the streets of our cities. However there’s a couple of things to consider when thinking about having facial hair in your headshot, ‘to beard or not to beard’ or is ‘moustache the question’. Headshots are about creating the right first impression and facial hair can occasionally give the wrong type of impression, it can alter people’s perception of you when looking at your headshot. You may not have considered how facial hair can alter people’s perceptions but here’s a few things to think about. There are some significant psychological influences about a man with a beard against a clean shaven man. More often than not a beard will make a man look older. For instance, adolescent boys don’t need psychologists to tell them that growing some stubble could help them look more mature, but it also turns out the ageing effects of a beard don’t disappear as you get older. A group of men and women were asked do guess the ages of men with beards and men without them -and it was found that both men and women assumed the bearded men were “significantly” older than they actually were. Not good when your playing age is late thirties and your actual age is early twenties.

So there’s a pretty good reason why wearing a beard can effect your chances of being cast, and here’s another.

It’s worth considering is how a man with a beard can give the impression of being more aggressive than a clean shaven man. In a 2008 study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, British psychologists at Northumbria University manipulated men’s facial hair in photographs, giving them five degrees of beard- from clean-shaven to hairy. They then had 60 women rate them on various attributes-and found that the men with full beards scored highest for perceptions of aggressiveness as well as masculinity. The good thing noted here was the perception of masculinity in a man wearing a beard. In a 2012 study written up in the journal Behavioral Ecology, men were photographed bearded and clean-shaven while making neutral, happy, or angry expressions. The men were of a mean age of 23, so all fairly young and the bearded men were judged to be significantly more aggressive than their clean-shaven counterparts. I can guess that most guys who sport beards aren’t particularly aggressive but it’s also a fair bet that they hadn’t ever considered this.

So there’s an extra reason not to have a beard in a headshot you don’t want to be perceived as being more aggressive than you actually are. The term beard can be somewhat of a mis-description as there are many types of facial hair to be seen on the streets at the moment from thick beard to a bit of designer stubble (I am talking about thick, full beards here),

OK, let’s back up a little bit and see how a hairy face effects you and your headshot, one thing that is definite is that facial hair will limit the amount of roles you would be cast for as not all character roles are suitable for wearing a beard.

Let’s deal with the full beard first, it’s generally a lifestyle choice although sometimes it can be fashionable too, as in the case of the “trucker look” that’s been quite popular recently. However if you are the sort of guy who sports a full “Wild man of the mountain” beard then it is clearly your look, it’s obviously taken quite some time and a fair bit of effort to grow so it’s unlikely that you’re going to shave it off for a photo shoot. You may consider going clean shaven for a good role should you get it, but you’ll be stuck in that ‘Catch 22’ situation of not wanting to shave it off after spending the time to grow your beard whilst not being suitable to audition with your beard. It’s a tricky one.

So in this case having a headshot done wearing a full beard would be the right choice as this is how you would expect time to turn up at an audition, there’s unlikely to be a drastic change in the way he looks between having his headshot done and turning up for an audition.

On the other hand there are lots of people who wear designer stubble on a regular basis. This type of facial hair often varies in length from a light or short growth to a stylish, shapely full beard that are worn as fashion statements as opposed to lifestyle choices such as the ‘Grizzly Adams’ look. In this case I always suggest to my clients that they have some of their headshots taken wearing facial hair, but that they also take the time to shave during the session so that they can have a clean shaven look too.

From a Casting Directors point of view, decisions about suitability and whether you have the right look they have in mind for the character they are casting for are important. If you are a well-known actor with a good body of work behind you it’s less of an issue as Casting Directors know your look and have a certain amount of flexibility. On the other hand if you are less well established or are just starting out in your acting career then it’s important that there are no barriers put in the way of fitting the Casting Directors idea for the role.

So what does it boil down to in the end? Know your castability, know your look, don’t limit your options and be flexible.

Headshots That Pop – What Makes a Great Headshot?

The truth of the matter is if you’re an up and coming model or actor with aspiring hopes and dreams, you will need a comp card or zed card. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can be a top model who needs to update his/her portfolio or someone who just wants to break into the industry. Whatever your ambitions, do not go to a audition without one, as it’s more likely you will get turned away or simply will not be successful. You cannot drive a car without wheels so make sure you have these basic marketing tools at your disposal.

Many models and actors, especially those just starting in their careers think photographers know exactly what you want. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s far more in your interest to do some research on the Internet and brings samples of your favorite headshots etc. Then the photographer and team can visualize what you have in mind, giving your photographer something to work with and how to achieve it.

Models and photographers use comp/zed cards. The normal size for this is approximately 5″x8.5″. Actors use headshots, usually 8″x10″‘s.

A great comp card should include five completely different looks, four on the back and one on the front with basic stats on card stock or rigid paper. It’s a standard marketing tool around for many years and is essential to today’s market. Relatively inexpensive, it’s a great versatile sales tool.

Comp cards and actors headshots need to pop out at the casting director and can open doors. There are many ways now how you can make a comp or a headshot. Today’s computer software makes it relatively easy to produce one. Online, there are now many other options. Just Google headshots and there will be a plethora of choices. If you go through an agency, then they will almost always prefer to use their own photographers with their own branded designs. However, this shouldn’t stop you from having your own stock of cards if you not exclusively signed with one agency.

Headshots should look like you do now. Keep it simple with minimum jewelry and no logos on clothes with bright but non-jazzy colors. Choose wardrobe attire that will not look out of fashion any time soon (until you update again). Avoid black and white colors, although black works great on men. If you’re not comfortable doing your own hair or makeup, then hire a professional hair and make up artist.

There are many opinions over what makes a great headshot. A great headshot is something that stands out from the crowd. Importantly is the chemistry between a photographer and model while while most in the industry agree that primarily it is the eyes. They should be clear, alive and expressive.

Above all, have fun and relax. This will come through your final selections and really grab the casting director’s attention. You don’t have to spend allot of money on great headshots as there are many photographers who will do this for you. Perhaps find a photographer who is just starting out and will give you a good deal.

Start with friends and referrals. Prices vary with each photographer or agency, so shop around. Generally if you’re starting anew, or want a complete overhaul, expect to pay from $400 to $1000 for a comp card and headshot shoot. The marketing materials usually start from $1.00 -$2.50each. Some include the CD of images, yours to keep. Most will not include the final comp card design, only the original photographs, or just the final four or five images that you have chosen.

Feeling comfortable with the photographer is very important. If you feel pressured or uptight, it will show. You’ll get the vibe at the interview stage, so if you do not feel comfortable, move on to the next. Personality is key to any business, and there are so many choices out there. At the end of the day, there is no clear and cut choice of words that defines a great headshot. You can ask the opinion of your friends, family and co-workers. Some will say fantastic and some will disagree with the final choices.

Just be sure the final proofs are what you envisioned and good luck.