The Importance of Acting Headshots

Don't Let a Bad Headshot Ruin Your Audition

Young man's headshot
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If you're a working actor or are trying to become one, you're more than likely familiar with the need for a good headshot. It is just what it sounds like: a close-up shot of your face. Casting directors, producers, writers, and directors use headshots to get a quick look at actors to see if they have the right physical attributes for a given role.

Your headshot usually will have two components: an 8x10 close-up picture of your face and a copy of your resume, sometimes also referred to as your list of credits. Your picture can be either color or black-and-white, but color headshots are becoming more common as cost is less of a factor than it was in the past.

Getting an acting gig starts by getting in the door of a casting director's office. Regardless of how great your acting skills are if you don't have a headshot to use as your calling card, no one might ever know you exist. Make sure to give your headshot the attention it deserves.

Use a Professional

Your headshot should be taken by a professional photographer. You want it to put you in the best light possible—literally. Lighting is key to having a good headshot, and amateur headshots are pretty obvious. There are plenty of well-qualified headshot photographers out there who will give you a good headshot at an affordable price—usually in the range of $100 to $200.

You want to find a photographer who specializes in headshots. Use referrals from friends, other actors, casting directors, and others, rather than just finding someone through a blind search. A lot of unscrupulous people out there are just looking to take advantage of inexperienced actors, so find someone with a good reputation and several samples to show you.

Consider Your Pose

The pose in your headshot is important because you want it to exude your personality. Those looking at your headshot should be able to discern the kind of actor or person you are simply by taking a glance at the photo. If you're a comic actor, for example, make sure your pose isn't dour, sad, or angry.

Have a couple different versions of your headshot, such as one with you smiling and a more serious one. This way, you can send different versions of your headshot depending on the type of project.

What You Should Wear

Wear a solid color in your headshot and be sure the background is simple and not too distracting. You want people to focus on your face and what you look like rather than on what you're wearing or what might be going on behind you. This is why photographers usually choose to shoot headshots up against a wall or some other solid background.

It helps to have your name somewhere on the photo, usually printed on the bottom with your agency information. This isn't mandatory, but it often helps in the event your resume gets lost.

It doesn't matter if the headshot is glossy or matte. The important thing is that you look like the person in the picture. Casting directors find out what you look like when they meet you, so don't surprise them by providing them with something that sets up improper expectations.

Include Your Resume

Only TV, stage, or film credits mean anything. Just because you were the lead in your school play doesn't mean it belongs on your professional acting resume—unless, of course, you're still of high school age and don't have anything else to put there.

Your list of special skills needs to be accurate as well. If you say you can swim and you're hired because they think you'd be great as a lifeguard, then you better be able to swim. Like your headshot, your resume needs to honestly represent what you've done and what you can do.

How to Format Your Resume

Print your resume on the back of your photo or staple it to the back of the photo with the credits facing out so all someone has to do is flip over your picture to see your credits. Casting directors look at thousands of these every week, so make sure you follow the format that gives your headshot a chance to be noticed.