Headshots are the bane of every actor. And if your headshot journey is similar to mine all those years ago, you are seldom excited by the results.
I would like to change your thinking.
The first thing you need to consider is what is the purpose of a headshot? Many actors believe it is all about having a great photo of themselves. Something they are proud of, an image that shows they truly can be a gorgeous leading man or leading lady.
And yes, many photographers produce these images. And the person who responds to them the most …. Is your grandmother.
One: An actor headshot is to make a casting director stop and think about you.
For some actors, this means making the casting person change their pre-conceived idea of you. For others, the goal is to make them look at you and REMEMBER you.
Tough call that one. I mean to say, as a casting director, why would one more actor’s headshot make you memorable? Because that is who you are trying to impress. Not family. The headshot is a professional tool. To inspire the casting director to get you in.
How many actor photos do I see in a day? More than you can imagine.
How many photos make me stop and think? Think about that actor?
None. Well, not many
Two: You must think of a headshot as a professional message.
In business speak, a professional message means a piece of marketing. That is trying to attract a customer’s attention.
If your customer is a casting director, what will they be interested in? What will they stop and consider? The answer is not ‘yet another actor headshot’.
They will stop and look at an image that changes their thinking about you. More importantly, you deliver a character or character type that they cast.
This is a principle that most actors fail to understand. That you must deliver an image that makes casting people look twice.
This is the golden opportunity presented by the digital age – for both still images and videos. And is one of the principal reasons we started Self Taping School.
Think about your head shot:
Is it what you want to say?
Or is what a casting director wants to hear?
For the message to succeed, it must be about them. Not about you.
Three: One shot? Or a range of shots?
Do any of these contact sheets look like yours? In other words, after a full session in front of the camera, do you look the same in all your shots?
I see actor’s photos on online acting casting sites and they have six or more photos uploaded …… but they all look the SAME!
And as you can see from these contact sheets, the problem is not the choice of image. The problem is that you have not captured a range of characters in the session.
Now, notice my specific choice of words here. I did not say you caught different looks. I said you did not capture different characters.
Think of it like this. Is the casting director of ‘Neighbours’ attracted by the same actor head shots as the casting director of ‘True Detective’?
To succeed as an actor you must think like a casting director. Think about what THEY want, and not what you want.
And if you are confused by how to do that, then you are thinking old school. You are thinking a good head shot and a resume and a new agent will change all your opportunities.
No. OK, well maybe, but mostly the answer is no.
There are a few main problems with getting a great head shot:
- The online casting databases. They require a portrait orientation which immediately limits your options. But if you think the online casting sites are you only outlet for your photo, then again, your thinking is stuck in the dark ages. At a time when casting directors received images in the post.
- Your agent. Your agent wants you to look like everyone else in your agency. This is a fundamental understanding that many actors lack. You think your agent is there to work for you. Nope. Your agent is there to shape their brand. But there are ways around that. Listen to our Podcast on Agents.
- Your photographer. Again, they are not working for you. They are working for themselves. You know when your photographer says ‘oh, casting directors don’t like that’. Most times they have no idea. Why? Because they are not casting directors.
Put simply, you must make the decision to deliver your individual qualities.
To achieve that, you may have to firstly choose what your individual qualities are.
And how to deliver them. And who to deliver them to.
Think of your last three or four years as an actor. Are you happy if the next three or four years are exactly the same?
Stop doing the same thing again and again.
Change the way you look at acting, and you change the way casting directors look at you.