Head: Delivering the head shot
by Art Hindle
(reprinted with the kind permission of ACTRA Toronto Performers Magazine)
In boxing, the head shot delivers a telling impact. So too does it in the acting world, perhaps more so than the résumé. The question is: what kind of headshot delivers what agents and Casting Directors are looking for?
A healthy discussion about headshots arose at a recent ACTRA Toronto members conference, so Performers magazine asked yours truly to survey agents and Casting Directors and collect their tips on headshots to pass on to you.
*Keep it real. A perfect headshot is one that looks just like the ‘you’ that walks into the room. Nothing upsets Casting more than if you walk in a room and don't look anything like your photo. A great photo that doesn't look like you will just lead to auditions where they decide you're not what they want before you’ve even read the scene.
*The shot has to be arresting in some way. It's usually in the eyes. Is there a presence to the expression, something that grabs the viewer, a depth in your eyes so we can see a little bit about who you are? What is that special quality that you bring to your work? Is it your strength, your openness, your sense of humour, your intelligence, etc.?
*Your photo isn’t an answer to, “Can you play a lawyer?” It is an answer to, “In the law firm, which lawyer are you?” The more specific you can be about your character type and the types of roles you can play, the better.
*Go for natural-looking shots, fairly close, with very little makeup and glamour. If you're young, make sure the makeup doesn't make you look too old as being young is an advantage in this business.
*Head-and-shoulders only for your primary shot – your secondary shot can be waist-up.
*Colour. No black and white.
*Because shots are sent via the casting websites these days, they're only viewed on the other end as thumbnails so the larger the face appears the better.
*No hands around the face. Shots often get cropped for various sites which means you end up with hands and no arms leading to them which can look odd.
*Your name should be at the bottom of the photo, in a simple font such as Arial.
*You don't want the border to draw attention away from you, so a simple border or no border is best.
*Change your headshot every few years.
*Having more than one headshot, especially for actors at the beginning of their careers, can be very beneficial.
*One shot can be more edgy, straight-ahead, dramatic and serious. This is your TV and FILM shot. Another can be warmer, smiling, friendlier, more open. This is your COMMERCIAL shot.
*Capitalize on what might be considered your 'bread-and-butter' look. Your secondary photo can help you break into a new area.
The process of acquiring photos can be a minefield. There are unscrupulous people out there waiting to prey on actors needing headshots. Good headshots shouldn’t cost more than $300-$600, in my opinion, and of course you want to look through the photographer’s portfolio of actors’ headshots, normally available on their website. Do the subjects look relaxed and comfortable? You should also get an agreement with the photographer which outlines what you get for your money.
Come well-rested to the photo session. Bring several wardrobe changes but keep it simple. Nothing too seasonal, trendy, or loud in colour. The clothes should suggest the ‘look’ but not draw the eye. Go for upscale casual, classic and clean, no distracting jewellery. Too dressed-up looks like you're trying too hard. It’s pleasing when the background or a wardrobe piece picks up your eye colour. It makes your eyes jump off the page. Decide whether you need a makeup artist, and if so, whether you’ll use one of your choosing or one who works with the photographer.
Once you get the results, consult with your agent before making the final choice.
You look fabulous, darling!
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