Do Your Headshots “Pop”?

December 4, 2015

Described as a calling card into the business, headshots are an actor’s most important marketing tool. After all, when it’s time to cast a commercial, TV or film project, getting noticed is the first hurdle an actor must clear. It used to be that casting directors would receive hundreds of 8-by-10 paper headshots to consider for a particular role; but, these days casting has adopted a more efficient and green way of searching for their next talent, and that’s by scrolling through hundreds of actor thumbnails on a computer screen. And what a difference this can make for an actor! A photo that looks great enlarged on paper may not necessarily translate well when it’s the size of a digital thumbnail. For instance, a profile shot or a picture that includes the full-length of the body can render an actor too hard to be seen. Casting directors need to be able to see actor faces clearly. Moreover, headshots need to appear clear, dynamic, and professionally lit when they’re tiny in size–but still look great when blown up on a computer screen.

Also of utmost importance is that a headshot stand out from the rest of the competition–or “pop”–as a casting director scrolls down the page. But here’s where the art of the headshot comes into play especially when an actor wants to stand out for the right reasons. For example, an actor with a current look, who’s up on the trends, compared to those who have more dated appearances is going to pop. However, keeping up with the times is not an easy task when you consider just how quickly trends come and go in this business. These days a real, natural look, with less posing is considered “in.” This can mean wearing less make up, or choosing a wardrobe that merely suggests a type instead of coming across too literally by wearing an actual uniform.

As for the younger generation, expert headshot photographer Stephanie Girard recently shared with KCRW, that younger actors who have grown up taking selfies to post on their social media sites tend to strike a pose as if for a selfie when it comes to headshots. “They’re called the selfie nation…they’re used to posing for the camera in a certain way…kind of tilt their head, hand on the hip which, you know, is fine for social media and they probably look gorgeous on all their Instagram photos; but when you’re being photographed professionally it’s a little different.” Girard tries to show these young clients how to position themselves in a way that brings out their best rather than just relying on old habits.

And of course an excellent photographer will be able to draw various authentic and compelling expressions from each actor who comes his or her way. Girard has been snapping photos for 25 years, and she says,  “I think something people don’t know as photographers–headshot photographers specifically working with actors–we end up being therapists a lot of the time. The actors really kind of open up during the session.” Being able to capture this fresh quality is a great way to catch the eye of casting. And the more variety of fresh looks you have on your profile will only increase your chances of getting called in for auditions.

So if you find you’re getting called in for auditions, then keep doing what you’re doing because clearly your headshots are popping. On the other hand, if you find you’re not getting called in for auditions, then it might be time to get new headshots.