One of the biggest questions that actors face is with regard to their headshots. I see these question posted dozes of times a day on the message boards, I often get asked by blog readers and Facebook acquaintances to give my thoughts. And each time I hear/see this, I wonder- how valuable is the advice they are getting? What kinds of feedback can one expect to get from different kinds of people?
Earlier today I got an email from a lovely actor named Mavis, who writes:
“I want to present a new head shot for a showcase I will be doing in a few weeks. Can you look at my photos section and tell me what you think of the shot labeled possibly legit ... Also, I’d like to know- whether you like it or whether it is a ”deal breaker," What kind of look is it, and I'm deciding whether I should get it retouched and printed.“
Hey! Thanks for asking about my thoughts for your new headshot. I dropped by your page and looked around- very nice! I would love to be able to say more about your choice, but it actually is very hard to give headshot advice without knowing exactly the kind of roles you are interested in pursuing. Knowing this information is vital to giving you solid advisement about which shots will work best for you. I notice that actors ask for feedback from their peers, both actors and non actors, and I imagine that the feedback can get confusing- everyone seems to have a different opinion. In my view, the only thing that your friends and colleagues can advise on is, A) If the shot looks like you, and B) If the photo is in the same style as the other headshots out there today. Meaning, when compared to other shots, does it look like a headshot that is ”now“ instead of years ago. (For your shot, the answer is YES on both accounts.)
But, of course, there is much more to a shot than those two minor details, so it is always good to choose your headshot based on what kinds of roles you are interested in getting. Take away this idea of "legit" or "theatrical" or "commercial" for a moment- what kinds of roles are you seeking most often? Is this headshot a perfect match for one or more of those roles? Are there other kinds of roles you are interested in but that do NOT fit this headshot? (It is ok, by the way, to print several shots if you find that you have several different types of roles you seek out on a regular basis.) You want to make sure that you prepare yourself with all of the marketing tools necessary to get the kind of work you think you are capable of doing.
I always work with actors closely to give them objective tools to use when choosing headshots- choosing the shots based on what will get them work rather than what ”looks best.“ The process is simple but effective, and you can do it using brand new shots you’ve just taken or by going through an old headshot session to see if there are any shots you may have overlooked. I am a big fan of working with what you have, if at all possible- you’ve already paid for the shots so you might as well get as much out of them as you can!
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about headshots, or email me if you want to set up a session to talk about picking the perfect shot to get you the job you want. Can’t wait to hear from you!
Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.