The main purpose of an actor’s headshot is to educate the casting director. When casting for a role, they will be sifting through thousands of headshots. How can you make yours stand out, and how can you avoid committing headshot crimes? Here are 8 helpful tips from the perspective of casting directors:
Headshot Tip 1: Don’t go to a wedding photographer.
Yes, they might have a few headshots in their portfolio, but headshot photography and wedding photography are completely different animals. You want someone who knows how to give coaching direction specific to headshots.
Headshot Tip 2: Quirky is good, but don’t get crazy.
Casting directors want to see an intriguing expression will make them pause. They do not, however, want over the top crazy expression. So keep the cool guy double finger-revolvers in their holsters and go for something authentic.
Headshot Tip 3: Don’t wear anything busy or distracting.
We want to concentrate on the face only. No loud jewelry. No stripes or noisy patterns.
Headshot Tip 4: No homegrown headshots.
Just because your aunt or best friend owns a DSLR doesn’t mean they know how to light a subject or coax the right expression out of you. If you are serious about this profession, hire a professional.
Headshot Tip 5: Show some body!
Headshots should be cropped tightly, and can even have part of the top of the head missing, but casting directors will want to see some sense of body shape. Ask your headshot photographer to keep enough of the shoulders in the shot that its obvious what you are wearing.
Headshot Tip 6: Figure out your brand, and get headshots to match.
If you have a sultry, Sophia Vergara vibe going on, make sure your headshot communicates it. If you are a metrosexual, romantic lead actor, don’t show up wearing hip hop clothing. Tell your photographer what your type is and ask them to help communicate it for you. Use expression, hairstyle, clothing etc. (just don’t go overboard). Casting directors match headshots to roles. If a role in question is for a girl next door, and your only headshot makes you look like a sexy lounge singer, you aren’t going to get the role.
Headshot Tip 7: Have variety!
No matter what “type” you are, you still need to show versatility. Ask your headshot photographer to give you a range of different expressions, from serious to friendly. Have a minimum of two headshots and as many as 5 for different roles.
Headshot Tip 8: Dial it down.
Don’t go for big hair or smokey eyes. Stay away from too-tight t-shirts and ultra low cut tops. The natural look is best. Eliminate as much distraction as possible!