Headshot No-Nos

March 23, 2012

The expression “faux pas” originated during the reign of Louis XIV. Dance was so important in the royal courts, performing a misstep in any one of the countless dances could get you thrown out. Likewise, actors who make headshot faux pas, could get passed up in the tremendously competitive industry of acting. Knowing how important first impressions are, you want your headshots to stand out for the right reasons—as opposed to the wrong ones. Here are some tips to avoid such faux pas:

Wardrobe & Make-Up Don’ts
Avoid logos and branding as best you can. This is something to pay attention to particularly when you’re going for an athletic style in a headshot. You don’t want the commercial executives to see you wearing the competing brand’s logo when you’re auditioning for a sports gear commercial.
Steer clear of patterns on clothes like polka dots, stripes, busy florals, or plaid. These prints might make for an appealing item of clothing, but will ultimately distract the viewer from what you are trying to emphasize most in a headshot: your face and your eyes.
For the same reason, go light on the make-up. Keep it clean and natural. And avoid jewelry, keeping it simple if you choose to wear any. But keep in mind, as in all things, some rules are meant to be broken. For example, if one of your “types”  is a punk rocker, then you could make an exception with some outrageous jewelry or a funky hairstyle in that particular headshot.

Don’t be afraid to dress up in character for some of your headshots. Some argue if you dress in doctor scrubs, you run the risk of locking yourself into only medical roles; some say these shots insult the Casting Directors’ imaginations; and some are quick to label such shots as cheesy. But keep in mind, your Agent or a Casting Director may specifically request seeing these character images from you. As long as you have a strong foundation of at least 3-4 general looks, feel free to add your supplementary shots of blue-collar, athletic, educator, alternative, or any other types you can realistically pull off as well.

Misrepresentation Don’ts
Don’t waste everyone’s time, including your own, by going for headshots that make you look younger or older than you actually appear in person. A Casting Director who is expecting a twenty year old is embarrassed and angry upon seeing a person in his or her mid-thirties entering the room to audition. Along the same lines, don’t try to hide your wrinkles, freckles, or moles with heavy make-up, and/or photoshopping. Although you may enjoy seeing those wrinkles disappear, trust me, you’re not doing yourself any favors with busy and perpetually stressed-out Casting Directors. Go for flattering, honest, natural shots that showcase the confidence you have in yourself just as you are.

Posing Don’ts
Something that may sound obvious, but can be a real pitfall, is posing in a stiff or unnatural way. Before your photo shoot, stretch out or dance around the room. Get loose, be relaxed, and have fun. Remember, regular folks don’t normally get to experience a photo shoot; it’s a fun part of your job!

Amateur Don’ts   And last of all, don’t have a friend take your photograph and use it as a headshot. This generally looks noticeably unprofessional and conveys you don’t really care about your career. A trained photographer provides a trained eye and invaluable advice. If you want it done right, get a pro.

On that note, Casting Frontier has proudly launched our Digital Photography Services in our new Hollywood location. We would love to help you avoid such faux pas and make sure you get the most out of your actor headshots. Call (323) 300-6129 or email [email protected] to schedule an appointment. A forty-minute session is $75.00 for all annual Premium or Premium Plus members; $150 for non-members. Our well-trained and personable photographer will be glad to guide you through the session step by step!