What Makes a Great Headshot?

I’ve said it before, I can’t stress the importance of having great headshots! They really are your calling card – this is the first step to getting you in the room, whether it is with a casting director or agent. And over the course of your career you will shoot new headshots many many times. Whenever your look changes, you want to refine your brand, move to another category, or the industry changes, you are going to need new headshots. And headshots session are expensive, so you want to put some effort int planning before you shoot –  you want to get it right the first time!

Head & Shoulders vs. Three-Quarter or Full Length

As the name implies, a headshot is normally just that, chest up. This is super important today with online casting services where casting directors are scrolling through hundreds, or even thousands of thumbnails online. 

Ideally, your face fills the frame, allowing your eyes to draw the viewer in and want to see more. A photo that is too widely cropped is going to get lost is a blur as the view scrolls through page after page.

Photos that show more of your body, three-quarter or full-length, is typically used for models, but not for actors. These can be useful to have as well if you have a really unique body type or feature that you are selling, such as bikini-babe, body builder, are heavily tattooed, or perhaps are differently abled.

Serious or Smile? 

This would really depend on your character type – yes, again, but generally, commercial shots tend to be a little more smiley and theatrical shots convey more of a character, and yes, tend to be a little more serious. This can  change though if you are primarily a comedy actor. Ultimately commercial shots are about sales, and conveying a warmth and engagement that says “Yes, I’m going to sell your product!”. Theatrical headshots should show someone that we could watch on TV week after week; a fully fleshed out human being. Going for sitcoms? A smiling shot is a great idea! Playing the bad guy or drug addict, maybe not 🙂

To Glam or not to glam

Oooohhhh…. actors love to look beautiful! And we are all so thrilled when get those stunning and lovely headshots. If glam is in your brand, yes, go for it! If it’s not, just say no to the glam squad 🙂

 Ultimately, your headshots should look like you on your best day. Nothing makes casting directors more crazy than an actor who walks in the room and doesn’t look like the picture that was sent out; it just wastes everybody’s time. People should be able to recognize you on the street just from a headshot they’ve seen. Keep them current and don’t drop ten years or ten pounds in retouching. Yes, of course clean up the basics like a  blemish, a stray hair, a recent sunburn or weird wrinkles in your clothing, but keep it authentic.

And lastly, BE YOU. Show what is unique about You. Maybe it’s that million dollar smile, that absolute death stare, your off-beat quirkiness or annoying neighbor look. Really, you are perfect just the way you are and there  is always going to be a job for ‘just your type’.



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