What makes a good head shot?
EVERY Casting person and agent will have different opinions on headshots. These are just some of MY takes and personal thoughts on what works best for me and WHY.
Headshots are your professional introduction to casting and agents. You want it to be your best representation of who you are. It should look like you, not your idealized version of you, but you as you are.
Some people have preferences on which orientation your headshot is, i personally like a portrait rather than landscape, but that’s purely from a filing perspective. In terms of how well it represents you, it doesn’t matter which way it’s oriented.
In terms of framing, i think that chest up is great. It allows me to partially see what your body is like, without losing the details of your face. It should never be closer than shoulders up, (so JUST your head) - it just looks weird and doesn’t do ANYONE any favors. Professional photographers will know this, but pictures should be taken from at or just slightly above eye level, and never from below - everyone looks strange in pictures that are too low.
Avoid extraneous backgrounds. This isn’t your senior portrait for yearbook, i don’t want to see graffiti on the wall behind you, or have you looking up at me from in the branches of a tree, or surrounded by flowers. Headshots aren’t about artistic composition, they are about YOU. The best backgrounds are solid and light colored - it makes people “pop” more and is not distracting.
In this day and age all headshots should be in color. Largely so we can ACTUALLY know what you look like. Sometimes when we are casting for things, we specifically need a certain hair color or eye color or skin tone. If i can’t immediately tell that from your headshot, i have to skip past you in the pile as i go through.
Your headshot should look like you. If your headshot looks like you’re probably about 30ish, but you walk in to the audition looking like a 50 year old, you’re not doing yourself any favors, OR the casting people. Own your age. Same goes for the other way as well. If your headshot makes you look 35, but you look 21 in person - it’s gonna be an issue at the audition.
Keep your outfits simple. Avoid busy patterns (plaid is fine, bigger stripes works - if they are too thin it can mess with the camera - steer clear of florals or Hawaiian type things) or overly bright colors. Business casual is always a good idea - it covers all bases at the same time. You can be professional as well as accessible. Think collared shirt/blouse (remember ideally we won’t be seeing whatever pants you’re wearing). Avoid anything “sexy” or revealing - you don’t want THAT to be what someone focuses on.
Keep makeup in the “natural” realm. If you look overly made up, i can’t see what you REALLY look like on an average day.
KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM YOUR FACE. There is very little i hate more than the fist under the chin, or the soft hand against the cheek. I’m not a huge fan of crossed arms (it makes you seem closed off) but i also understand that you need to do SOMETHING with your arms/hands, and IDEALLY, it’ll be cropped in a way that we don’t see it ;)
Please, for the love of everything in the universe, don’t send “character” shots. They are so 1990, and while i love me some 90’s throwback, they don’t show me anything useful. That’s styling not acting. Besides, they are generally just reinforcing terrible stereotypes. Unless it is your headshot from the 90’s in which case, please share it with me for the entertainment value! I have a small file of headshots from the 90’s of people i now know that were in the old Tighe & Doyle files and they are some of my favorite inherited things.
SMILE. It doesn’t have to be a huge goofy smile, but i hate those “brooding” headshots. They scream “i’m a SERIOUS actor - please take me seriously”. I’m not looking to plumb the depths of your soul - i’m looking to see if your face feels right for a specific job. A little upturn of the lips does WONDERS!
Before the end of 2018, i’m planning on adding a “resources” page to my website. I will include a list of people i know who do headshot photography, as well as other acting resources like VO demo reel creations, video demos creation etc, and places where actors can get info on things, like Stagesource and Kevin Fennessy’s Facebook group that keeps track of various scams in the New England area that prey on talent. So if you have thoughts on things you’d like to see on that page, post them as a comment on the Paradice Casting facebook page!