I was happy to have the opportunity to speak on a panel at Surviving Actors last week-end in London, with (actor/author) Robert Ostlere, and (Theatre Casting Director) Neil Rutherford. Geoff Colman (Head of Central School of Speech) moderated the panel very well and I’d like to further elaborate on what we discussed about headshots here.
At the panel, I emphasized the importance of creating an effective headshot that works in thumbnail size. Remember that when we post a breakdown on Spotlight, the first image we see is in miniature. If it catches our eye, we will enlarge it.
What makes a good headshot?
It needs to:
- look exactly like you on a good day
- be current
- be active in the eyes with you looking straight into camera
- look neutral but suggest archetypes for casting
The other item that I wanted to mention is that the style of headshots is now changing. For many years, headshots were presented only in black and white. This has long been out of the norm across the pond where American casting directors strongly prefer colour photos. Why? Because they are simply more descriptive. Naturally it’s important for casting directors to see if you have blue eyes and red hair. In the UK however, photographers and agents have seemed to stubbornly hold on to the old black and white style.
As I am researcing my new book, I asked my own agent, Jeremy Conway, to send me some photos of up and coming actors so I could feature their headshots and-- lo and behold!-- I was delighted to see this photo come through of Barnaby Sax. “Colour! Yay! Bravo!” I thought. The Brits have finally discovered colour photography. It makes sense since we do shoot in color after all.
Please view this article on my website to view the photos that I'm discussing.
So I encourage British actors to join the rest of the world in presenting headshots in colour.
Another fad in headshot presentation is what you see happening in the US which is the landscape photo. Here is an example of L.A. based actor James Babson. Do you see how the photo is shot landscape rather than portrait? In this particular shot, he is facing three-quarters towards camera too, as opposed to Barnaby’s in which he is facing head on into the camera. Both of these shots work very well.
Again: Please view this article on my website to view the photos that I'm discussing.
However, I must say just as a personal aside that I’m not terribly fond of the landscape headshots. They mess up my casting boards. I pin up cast photos on a bulletin board in my office and when some are portrait and some are landscape, it makes them harder to fit.
Most importantly, however, get an effective shot. Check it out with your agent and other industry professionals before you make your choice. Remember that the photo that gets you the most work is not necessarily the photo that your mother would choose or your boyfriend likes.