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What’s a Headshot in Acting?

So, what’s a headshot in acting? First, we should define what is a headshot in general. A headshot differs from a portrait in that it is a professional photo of a person’s head to be used for commercial purposes. In other words, it’s a photo of a person’s face used to directly or indirectly help that person make money. And, it’s arguable that a headshot is more important for an actor than anyone else.

best actor headshots

An Actor Headshot is a Critical Tool for Casting Success

The Role of An Actor Headshot

An actor headshot plays a very critical role in the career of an actor. It’s arguably the first thing a casting director sees when an actor submits information to be considered for a role. Other items submitted include a resume and demo reel. But it’s the headshot that leaves the first impression.

It’s said that many times a casting director will not even look at your resume or demo reel if the headshot doesn’t serve the look they’re after for a role. So, a headshot can make or break an opportunity.

The First Impression

Because the headshot is an actor’s first impression upon a casting director, the very first thing to avoid is not having a professional actor headshot. Furthermore, it’s important that they be current. This means if your look has changed, you might need a new head shot. This includes changing your hair length or color, going clean shaven or growing out a beard, noticeable weight loss or gain, and so on.

Also, you might have a high-quality head shot but, maybe the look just isn’t working. So, if it ain’t working, don’t be afraid to swap it out. Therefore, you should get multiple looks in a headshot session – because it may not necessarily be the quality of the headshot, just that particular look you chose isn’t working.

Get High Quality Actor Headshots

It should go without saying that high quality actor headshots are vital. Yet, nowadays some people think that portrait-mode on a smartphone will cut it, or that a selfie will do. Use of these inferior quality photos may be a direct reflection on the level of quality you’ll bring to a performance. If you’re serious about making it as an actor, be serious all the way around and don’t risk this. Get the best actor headshots you can find.

Remember, a casting agent is probably combing through countless headshots. What will make yours pop? Will it be poor quality that gets it placed in the trash because other submissions have professional headshots? Or, will it be a superior quality that pops even amongst other professionally-take headshots?

Actor Headshot Format

There is no industry-standard that a headshot needs to fit a specific format. That said, the most common are of an 8” x 10” (width x height) size for prints or 4×5 aspect ratio. In this format, it’s most common that a headshot be vertical instead of horizontal. But you might try and buck the trend and go horizontal.

Most headshots are from around the chest up, but again, you could buck the trend and go belly or waist high. This might be particularly useful if you have a certain feature in your body you want to point out. This could be that you work out and have practically zero percent body fat, or extra-long hair, for example.

horizontal theatrical headshot actor

Actor Headshots Don’t Always Have to Be from the Chest Up and Vertical

Color Versus Black and White and What to Wear

As for color versus black and white, it’s almost expected that you use color. It makes sense since just about every movie or show nowadays is produced in color. Going black and white is almost solely for artistic reasons.

When you’re trying to decide what to wear, keeping it simple is usually best so the focus stays on your face. You don’t want a casting director focused on your large earrings or the busy shirt you chose. So, generally stay away from plaids, busy stripes and busy logos.

Summing it Up

So, again, what’s a headshot in acting? It’s a first impression for an opportunity to land a role. It’s essentially the main component of an actor’s resume. If an actor’s headshot isn’t good, it’s not likely a casting director will spend time on reading their resume or reviewing a demo reel.

It’s a current representation of what that actor looks like and an indicator of how a casting agent might cast that actor. Thus, it’s ever-so important to be sure to have the best headshots you can find. Don’t be afraid to invest in them – besides, actor headshots don’t have to be expensive.

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