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This post was originally published in March 2020 and has been rewritten and updated.
In a previous post, What is an Actor’s Headshot and Why Do You Need One? I’ve already talked about the difference between “Commercial Shots” and “Theatrical shots”. *Please note: theatrical means photos you use for film and television, not for theatre. Here we’re going to break it down a bit more and answer some of the most common questions of what your headshots should look like.
This is usually the first question that actors ask “What should I wear?” Again, this comes down to your character type and can vary quite a bit commercial to theatrical.
Let’s look at commercials first:
If the look you’re going for is Retail Service Rep, then a jeweled tone polo shirt is an obvious choice. A doctor for big pharma ads or bank manager is is going to dress differently. It’s important here to know your character type and where you fit in. you can play a few different characters but not all of them, none of us can! Your commercial headshot, ultimately, should come across as warm and likable. Choose colors and a collar or neckline that flatters your face, and this is where it’s important to be honest with yourself – high collars look terrible on me! Always have, I don’t care what anyone says about ‘needing’ that type of shot. I’ve never gotten a good shot with a high-collared shirt, ever. It’s always been a waste of time and money! Blacks or grays tend to take away from the warmth and energy of a shot, and for commercials you want to use these colors sparingly. Before shooting, watch commercials, see where you fit in and what people are wearing. Then, go and do more of that.
Now for dramatic or theatrical:
Dramatic headshots, in industry lingo are commonly referred to as theatrical. This is definitely a term you should know and remember. Again, I know I’m harping on this, but it’s super important… character, character, character. The types of characters you want to focus on, and will realistically be called out for, should determine what you wear for theatrical headshots. I have one friend who repeatedly plays the therapist, another, the bad guy, another, the cop. None of these people get the mom or dad roles, but I do have friends that clean up on those ones too! Know yourself and your type. Watch TV shows you thing you are a good fit for and see what those characters are wearing. Note: stay away from costumes! That smacks of an inexperienced or background actor. You really just want the essence of the character. Jeweled tones are my favorite because they pop and can draw attention when casting is scrolling through thousands of photos, but pick colors and styles that flatter your face without drawing attention away from it – you are the star here, not your wardrobe.
* Please Note: I am not an agent, manager, or casting director. I do not procure work for actors. All information, workshops and coaching are for educational purposes only and are not a guarantee or promise of employment. Thank you for being here!