The photographs supplied to casting directors are referred to as “head shots” and are meant to sell you on first glance. They are your business card and often your first and only impression, so it’s best to make them count. Your photos must look professional. DO NOT try to skimp and save on photos; trust me it’s not worth it. Every penny you spend will be returned ten fold. Photos are often times, the only way in which a casting director will choose you for an audition or if they have seen you in the past, your photo will help remind them of who you are.
Here are some key points to consider when having your heashot photographs taken
Do use a professional photographer. You could (and should) pay anywhere from $100 up to $500 dollars for decent photographs (depending on the quality of the photographer). Any more than that and you are probably paying too much. However, it’s important to view your photographs as one of your best investments, not an expense (although you can claim them as a business expense. Check with your tax laws and with your accountant). Do not judge a photographer based on price alone. More expensive does not necessarily equate to better quality. Be sure to check their previous work and only pay for what you can truly afford.
If you are unsure about which photographer to use, ask other actors, acting teachers or check with some talent agents as they will usually recommend a good photographer who already knows what they are looking for.
Through the use of a professional photographer and providing professional photographs you are showing all those you come into contact with, your commitment and seriousness in succeeding in this business of acting.
Do make sure you own the photographs. Before having photos taken, ensure you will be the owner of the photographs once they have been taken. Know exactly what you are paying for and what you will receive. Usually, you should receive a minimum of 36 photographs in total (if using film) or 40+ if using digital. If you feel at all uneasy about the deal, walk away and find somebody you are comfortable with.
Do explain to the photographer the purpose of the photo shoot. Tell them that you want to supply your photos to casting directors for acting roles. Ask them if they have done similar work. Explain you will need them to take shots of you in a few different outfits with slightly different looks and is that acceptable?
Do ask the photographer to see their portfolio. Be sure you are happy with the type of photography they do and their work looks professional. Lots of beautiful wedding photos, family photos and kids’ photos are not necessarily what you are after here. Remember, you want “head shots” that will capture your best physical features and looks but also show the “real” you.
Do wear a few different clothing styles. Have some different outfits to wear. I suggest the following:
o Smart casual (khakis, chinos, nice shirts, polo shirts, skirts etc.)
o Dressy (slacks, dresses etc.)
o Business (many commercials are for banks and insurance agencies)
o Casual (jeans, t-shirts, etc.)
o Sporty (shorts, track suit etc.)
o Hats (take a hat or two for a certain look if it works with your outfit, but be sure not to hide your face)
Do change your hair (& facial hair) styles in your photos.
For ladies: Wear your hair in a few different styles; up, down, pony tail, pig tails, curly, straight, etc. Make sure it suits the type of outfit you are wearing.
For men: Change your styles around a bit if you can. Use hair gel for some shots and some without. It’s a good idea to go in and have a few shots taken with some growth or stubble on your face and then part way through the shoot, shave (careful not to nick yourself) and go for the clean shaven look.
* Always make sure your hair does not hide your face and especially not your eyes!
Note: If your photographer does not have the time for clothing and hair changes, either find another photographer or book an extra session. Be sure to explain to them beforehand, what you intend to do. This way they will book enough time and charge appropriately.
Do provide the photographer with different looks and different genre choices.
In other words, you want to have a range of photos variations in how you look in the photos. A range of photos will give you more options and allow you or your agent the ability to supply casting directors with the appropriate look for the job. Three primary considerations include:
– Commercial look: Because commercials cover so many different “types” and genres this is where you want the widest variation in your photos. Use different poses, outfits, hairstyles, looks, etc. These photos would tend to be more mid body up or full body shots.
– Drama look: If you plan to work in TV or film drama, then this is a required expression that casting directors are looking for in strong character types. Here you want a more serious look (without appearing psycho). Be confident and stare directly into the camera lens focusing on the center of the lens. This focus will give you a determined look for drama. Your drama shot should be primarily from the shoulders up. No body shot.
– Comedy look: Here you can have a bit of fun with the photographer. Explain your intention of wanting some frivolity and good natured enjoyment in your photos. These types of shots can be excellent for comedy type commercial castings or possibly even TV Sit-Com castings.
Do have different types of shots taken. Have the photographer take a number of different shots including; full shots (full body), mid shots (mid body up) and some close-ups (facial close up shots). If they are pros, they should do this anyhow.
Do use makeup. Be careful not to overdo it on the makeup. Less is often more. The photographer should help to determine what looks good on you. Guys with fair skin should also consider using a small amount of make-up, especially a sheer powder foundation that will help to enhance your complexion, reduce light reflection and hide any imperfections.
Do try to look natural. It’s important to be as natural as possible. Be yourself. This is not a photo shoot for Vogue. You are not “working the camera”. Don’t try to be Tyra Banks or David Beckham. “Natural true look” is better for TV / Film / TV Commercial work.
Do ensure your photographs are current and up to date. Do not supply photos that are more than three years old or photos that clearly do not represent your current look. If your photos do not display how you currently look, then have new ones made. Prospective talent agents and Casting directors do not like surprises. They like to have an idea of what to expect.
Do SMILE! Smile often in your commercial photographs. The majority of TV commercials are about trying to make the viewers feel good. Smiling makes us and those that see us smiling, feel upbeat and positive. Vary your smiles from big and happy to semi serious, but in every shot try to smile in some way naturally (try not to force your smiles). You can even smile with your eyes. An easy way to do this is to think positive thoughts during your photo shoot. If you need motivation, try thinking about how great it’s going to be when you are starring in your own TV commercials; your friends and family seeing you on TV and most importantly, making money!
Do produce 8” x 10” Headshots. This is the industry standard “Headshot” size photograph for the USA market and most other markets around the world. You will not go wrong with an 8” (inch) x 10” (inch) primary headshot photograph.
Do supply your photos in color. Black & white photos will not even get a look when everybody else is providing color photographs. Color headshots are always the way to go and the only type of headshot you should be supplying for castings.
I hope that provides you with some help when it comes to having the correct type of headshots taken. Good luck with your acting and remember Action = Success!
© Stefan J Reynolds