At Last, Headshot Looks

Here is the final installment on headshots, at least for now. This post is long because there is a lot to say. It is so very important to set yourself up for success with your first audition—your headshot.  Even if you are a known actor in our region, you still need to keep up with current trends and be sure that your shots really reflect who you are today.

The magic number is between 5 and 6 different headshot looks.

Shots should be mostly straight on. Craned necks and backwards shots are often awkward and not flattering.

No hands PLEASE!

Keep clothing very simple.  A headshot session is not the place to show off your favorite shirt.

No bulky sweaters or heavy scarves.

Avoid jewelry: even a pair of pearls makes a business look more like a mother-of-the-bride.

Tank tops only work for a sexy shot, so they are not very useful. I realize that they make you feel sexier, but use your acting to get there.

For both men and women, I strongly recommend hiring a hair and make-up artist.  So often, talent are convinced that they could do better themselves. There are cases where this may be true, but if you seek out someone you trust, the right make-up and hair can make all the difference in your shots.

If you do choose to do your own hair and make-up, here are a few thoughts:

Keep make-up natural.  Lip color should not be too glossy or bright. Be sure to set aside time for a shot where you add make-up for a slightly more glamorous look.  This look will be your sexy shot. No need to take a shot with no make-up.  You can get a simple look for the rough looking characters that is more effective using some other options noted below. Be sure foundation is evenly spread down the neck and blends well. No orange faces and pale necks please!

For hair, it needs to look done, but not overly styled. If hair is straight, be sure there is volume.  If hair is curly, we do not need BIG pageant hair. Always shoot for your best self. If you are unsure about what that means, then please pay to have someone provide this service.

For men, facial hair is very popular right now.  A good stubble shot or nicely trimmed beard is a good idea. If you choose to have hair longer, then realize that this will pigeon hole you for very particular roles. We want to get you as many auditions as possible.  If you make your general look this specific, you will only be limiting yourself.

Keeping finances in mind, here are some suggestions for clothing choices for a shoot with 2 to 3 looks. If money is not an issue, then you can do as many looks as you like.

LOOK 1 — Business Shot

For LOOK 1, you will get 2 usable and specific shots if you create 2 characters. 1) bad attorney who will do anything to win. 2) trust worthy principal who you trust to pick up your kid from the bus stop.

  • MEN – jacket, tie and collared shirt

You can survive with just a nice collared shirt, but the jacket and tie really complete the look.  Loosen the tie and unbutton your top button. Be sure to go with conservative colors.  Blues, grays, no loud stripes or dots on the tie. It should look classy and simple. Avoid black jackets and white shirts as they look like a waiter/waitress.

  • WOMEN – collared shirt and jacket

Shirts should be a solid color. Jackets need to be solid or very simple, a small pinstripe is ok. Casual jackets, like jean or canvas do not match with the business look.

LOOK 2 — Commercial and Teacher/Mom/Dad

For LOOK 2, you will get 2 usable and specific shots if you create 2 characters. 1) open/available, trust you with my kids 2) joyful, smiling shot, you just won the lottery/landed a series regular role.


Solid color t-shirt or collared shirt, no prints or plaids. Choose a color that compliments your coloring, maybe it brings out the color in your eyes, so they pop.

If you plan to keep your session to 2 looks, then remove the jacket from the business look and use the collared shirt.

LOOK 3 — Edgy

For LOOK 3, you will get 2-3 usable and specific shots if you create these characters: 1) dark and seedy; I do not want to meet you alone on a dark street. 2) Open/available, your best day and best self; you are very approachable. 3) Sexy shot. Bump up make-up here.


Dark t-shirt.  Grey, brown, possibly black. Round neckline is best, no need for a plunging V-neck or scoop here. Pair it with a casual jacket: leather, jean or canvas.  Keep colors to brown, greys, black, army green.

Wow, so that was a lot of information.  Hopefully, this outline will give you some specific approaches to take with your headshots. At the end of the day, we want to showcase two things in your headshots: the range of characters that you can play and the best, natural and authentic you.

And, what I say today, may not be true tomorrow.


Act Through Your Headshots

I spent most of my life referring to two kinds of headshots: a commercial and a theatrical shot.

In the commercial, there is a great smile. Actors wear a bright colored shirt.  It is happy.

The theatrical is serious, sometimes grave, and usually a dark or black shirt is worn.

After years of looking at headshots, I have come to the conclusion that we are not serving ourselves well by setting up such simple parameters under which we take headshots.

We need to view our headshots as an opportunity to use our acting chops.

Acting is playing the role of a truthful and honest character in an imaginary set of circumstances. If I watched you act in a scene, and all I saw was an actor acting “sad.”  I would ask: why are you presupposing an emotion?  What are you doing to the other character? What is your objective or action?  I would criticize you if I did not believe what I was seeing.

We should be asking you to act through your headshots.  Create characters in your imagination and bring that energy to the headshot. It may well be a character that you have played or auditioned for in the past. Bring that energy to the lens.

Just as the acting of the past century has focused squarely on actions/intentions/objectives, so should our approach to the headshot. In the proverbial The Walking Dead shot, a shot that should be edgy and show the audience that you are not afraid to take someone out. Create a scenario, the lens becomes the usurper, the robber, the hijacker or zombie, and you are defending your family. That is the shot I want to see.

To be continued…

And, what I say today, may not be true tomorrow.

Headshots I

Headshots are your first audition.  Just like everything else, the trends for headshots change on a regular basis. Currently in our market, you need a range of shots to give you as many opportunities as possible.  If casting receives an average of 500 or more submissions for every role that they release, there is precious little time for them to see a headshot and take the time to discern whether the actor is really right for the role based purely on that picture. It is our job as an agent to provide the best of your shots for that role, and one that is in line with the character description. In fact, choosing the right headshot to submit for a role is one of my favorite aspects of the submission process. We spend a lot of time spinning our wheels over what we do not have control over, but you have control over the shots put up on the casting sites. Your agent has control over which one to choose when they submit you.

Five to six shots is the magic number. We are aiming to get as many audition appointments for you as possible. It is great to know your brand, but our market demands that we have a varied range of shots, so we can procure that audition.  Ultimately, casting may decide that you are not right for a role, but we want you to have a chance to prove that through your audition.

If your shots are more than two years old, then you should be thinking about doing new shots. It does not matter that your look has not changed. I realize that new pictures are expensive, but there is a cost of doing business to be considered, and that is one of them. Just like a photographer has to pay for the camera they use to shoot, there are expenses that you will incur to be an actor.

New headshots grab our attention. Our market is attracting more and more new faces. As actors move here from the L.A. market and other locations, there will be even greater numbers catching the attention of the casting directors, so keep things fresh and current with your shots.

More to come…

Pilot Season

Pilot Season! Woohoo! It looks like it hit, literally in the past 4 days.

Get ready and be realistic.

There will be opportunities for everyone, regardless of your experience level. Particularly with pilots and new series, that Nurse that starts as 3 lines, 1 scene, may turn into a recurring role.  We had one actor who booked a role as a possible recur, and he has been on every episode since.  The writers think he is fabulous. This scenario is becoming both common and everyday. Guest Star credits and over-scale rates are opening up more, but they require enough experience to warrant the ask.

Know that if you do not have recent and recognizable credits, you should not be submitted or pitched for a series regular role.  Even if the local casting director loves your work, it is nearly impossible to get past those pesky producers and network folks if you are not seasoned. It is too big a risk, and they cannot get approval.  Not only that, but you are asking to be pushed on a role that your resume is not ready for yet.  The most important part of that sentence is YET. Continue to build your resume with recognizable credits, putting together a reel with recent episodics and features. Be patient, and you will have those opportunities.*

They are coming, and of course, there are exceptions to every rule. As I am sure some of your are reading and have very different experiences.

And finally: what I say today, may not be true tomorrow.

*The information listed above will not make everyone happy.