Headshots can be scary, we know. It’s the single most important marketing tool for an actor, and it’s amazing how many people do it wrong just to cut a few corners.
Actors, you want to take it more seriously. When that little headshot jpeg pops up on a casting director’s computer, you want them to say, “Yes, bring that person in!” Not “Yikes, that guy kinda scares me.”Your headshot is your calling card. A nice color 8x10 of your face, from which people will hire you, and you will make lots of money for them.
It will be sent out and emailed to tons of casting directors and agents, who see hundreds of these every day. If your headshot is awkward or low quality, it's not just the image that will look bad, but you will as well. You want to be seen as a pro, not an amateur so the way you present yourself in your picture is everything.
A high quality headshot is everything, you want it to speak for you, to represent who you are as an actor. You probably don't want to use a cropped image from your best friend's birthday party. You'll also want to stay away from that JC Penny glamour shot with distracting palm trees in the background.
Here is what you should to keep in mind when it comes to your headshots:
1. Go pro.
Spend the money. It’s worth it. Go to a professional who is trained, understands lighting, and takes headshots for a living, not a who happens to have a decent camera.
Good headshots range from $400-$1200, and get them professionally duplicated. If the headshots look cheap, they probably are. And will make you look like you don’t care about your career.
2. Go for personality over glamour.
Make sure it looks like you. Be careful not to over retouch. Casting directors expect you to look just like your headshot and will be taken off guard when you show up looking totally different, or 10 years older. It’s not about looking pretty, it’s about representing your type, age wrinkles included.
It should look like you on your best day, showing your age, and who you are now. It’s not about the type you want to be, it’s the type you are.
3. It’s all about the eyes.
Just like with on-camera acting, it’s all about the eyes, and what’s happening behind them. It’s your closeup, your moment. Your eyes should be perfectly in focus, alive, and energized, and not dead and glazed over. There should be strong inner thoughts, implying a backstory and a life. A slight squint, and strong piercing eyes will bring a picture to life and help it stand out in a pile of hundreds.
A good headshot photographer knows how to bring this out for you.
4. Pay attention to framing, lighting, and background.
In general, a good headshot is chest up with good lighting on your face, and no strong dramatic shadows. Three-quarter shots are good for print, but be careful of extreme closeups. Look directly into camera, and the focus should be on the center of your eyes, not your left ear, or your shirt collar.
No peace signs, weird facial hair, or the famous “hand on face” pose. Be sure the background is not distracting. Remember, it’s about you, not the environment.
5. Natural light vs. studio.
Some photographers do both, as they offer a different look and feel. Natural light gives a very real, “film” look whereas studio lighting tends to be a little more polished, with a more neutral backdrop. Both can be great. If you are more of a sitcom actor, perhaps a
good well-lit studio headshot is more suited for you. If you want to look like you are on a high profile drama, then go for the outdoor look.
6. Clothing and props.
Keep it simple and follow the standard format. Being professional gets you noticed, not desperation. Wear a simple, solid color shirt with a little texture that fits you well and matches your eyes. No whites, and no graphics or anything you think might distract from your face.
7. Don’t go crazy with the makeup.
Yes, lots can be done with retouching. There is no need to put on tons of makeup, work with a professional makeup artist who understands how to compose a natural look. You want to look like yourself on your best day, and not look like you tried too hard. Girls, be yourself, do your hair the way you would for every audition. Guys, bring some tissues or powder to take down the shine, and maybe use a lightly tinted moisturizer to take out the redness and even your skin tone.
Find a photographer that gets you. You have to vibe with the photographer and that person has to make you feel very comfortable as you will hopefully be using this headshot for a couple of years and sending it to everyone in town.
And most importantly, don’t cut corners.
Any questions? Feel free to leave us a comment or tweet us @mjbhomeent!
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