Be Who You Are – Commercial Print Headshot Advice with Agent Rick Miller

Movie stars and glamour queens may grace the pages of magazines, but when it comes to commercial print work… “natural and approachable” people snap the real money shots.

“There is a difference between what someone wants to see themselves as, what their family and friends think is a pretty shot, and what works in this industry,” shares Commercial Print Agent Rick Miller, owner of Rick Miller Agency, Inc. “Natural works. I cannot emphasize it enough. People look at glamour magazines and see airbrushed pictures, but those are celebrity pictures. It’s celebrity hype. Commercial print work is all about relatable people.”

With over fifteen years of commercial print experience, Rick Miller can look at any headshot and “determine in 5 seconds who is marketable, who will book the jobs consistently.”

Rick Miller’s insight has helped NYCastings before in an intro to print work feature ARE YOU DELICIOUS.

This time around… he’s about to reveal how much an awesome, commercial print headshot – can affect your chances of getting auditions.

Q&A with Rick Miller of the Rick Miller Agency – Taking Headshots – Head on!

Q: What makes an awesome commercial print headshot?

When an actor is looking at their headshot, in terms of commercial print, it is about people who are warm, friendly, approachable, and photograph well. There are some people who just happen to have a very marketable look, who are warm, friendly, and approachable – with substance. They look right into the camera with a confidence. They are relatable and have features that photograph well.

Q: How is a commercial print headshot different from a legit headshot?

First of all, the lighting for commercial print headshots is usually very crisp, clear, and on the bright side as opposed to legit shots for theatre and film, which can be more artsy looking. Commercials, and commercial print, tend to have people dressed in non-provocative clothing. They look very J.Crew, very relatable, very familiar. Sometimes, I will receive headshots that are clearly legit by the shadowing or the mysterious, serious look. The majority of commercial print work is not looking for that. They are looking for very relatable people and clear, focused pictures.

In commercial headshots, there is also a connection in the eyes. The person has such a connection with the camera that you can see into a person’s soul, and it is a very positive message. Most of the time the picture is a smile, showing teeth, but not cheesy. We want to see warmth, someone who is very comfortable in their skin, who we want to get to know.

Q: What clothing choices should a person make for a print headshot?

The clothing should look appropriate for a print shot, very neutral, very girl next door or guy next door. I am not saying that everyone has to wear a J.Crew turtleneck and a sweater, but overall, for the main headshot, you want to keep it neutral. The clothing is the dressing on the salad to sell yourself, to say this is what I am. It is bringing the type who you are, to light in that picture. I do have a guy who has a great shot with a business suit on. But if you’re a woman, who is the perfect suburban mom type, you would not be dressed in a suit. If you are a soccer mom, you will have on sweater. You would have a soccer mom kind of feeling to your clothes. For people with an amazing body, a body shot would be great. But I wouldn’t use it as the main picture because ninety percent of commercial print is everyday people who photograph beautifully. If someone is going strictly for fitness magazines, then the guy should have his top off or the female should wear spandex. But that is such a specific category. Overall, those types of shots should be secondary.

Q: What is the most important element of a print headshot?

The most important thing is that people don’t skimp on getting the right kind of shots. If someone wants to do print work, they are going to have to do it right, the right way. Your picture will get you into the agency, to the casting director, to the eyes of the people who are booking the jobs. There are photographers who shoot people so well for commercials. They shoot money shots. It is so hard to know these nuances unless someone like me talks about them from years of experience. I know who will get called in from a shot, when the casting director doesn’t know about them. Agents intuitively know what their clients are looking for.

Q: So, a high quality shot is essential to getting auditions?

The reality is… this is such a competitive field, I cannot stress that enough. When I speak in seminars, so many people apologize for their picture and I think to myself, off the bat, that there are so many faces and it is so competitive. When someone gives me a headshot and all of their elements are in play – when it is warm, and friendly, and crisp, and in focus – there is a much greater chance of someone calling you in. Also, my clients know that I provide a certain caliber of clients, I’ve got an amazing roster.

Q: How should the print headshot be cropped? Any different from a legit headshot?

There is not much of a difference in the cropping. Sometimes, with acting headshots, especially in programs of Broadway shows, there is a lot of face in those pictures. For a good commercial headshot, it should not be cropped so close. Pull back. Have the headshot end a little above the chest without cropping off your head. I am also fond of a 3/4 shots where someone looks comfortable, has their arms crossed, and is looking into the camera as if they are saying, “you love me and want to get to know me.”

You should get a little sense of someone’s physique in a headshot, because the picture can be deceptive. By showing a little of your physique, a casting directors can get a better essence of you as a person.

Q: In regards to touching up a print headshot, what are the protocols?

I would say that for commercial print, touching up should be mild, mild, mild. If someone is an opera diva, they can have false eyelashes. But especially when I am speaking to the mature people, the 50’s into the 80’s people, I tell them to not go crazy with the make-up. Particularly the women should not go crazy with touch ups. We want to see who you are. We want to see your age, with very light make-up. We want to see people who photograph well, and who do not look artificial. If a client wants someone without wrinkles, they will go with someone twenty years younger. So, be who you are. There are so many beautiful older women who have wrinkles, who look like they have lived life, and they are still very appealing. A good commercial photographer knows how to photograph you naturally, while also making you look delicious. 

Q: Do you present information differently on a print headshot resume?

No. You put the same information on the front of the headshot. It should have your name on it. The back of the resume shouldn’t be different either. Except, there is no need to list print work. You should say, “print and TV commercials upon request.” If people list their print ad experience, it could knock them out of the running. The appropriate protocol is to say, “upon request.”

Also, many times, people ask me if they need a resume when they go on casting. I always say, yes. The majority of casting calls these days say “commercial print caliber talent… we want actors.” So, if I am sending out people who have theatrical credits and film credits, it shows that they are not off the street, that they have experience.

Q: Is there any difference in the quantity of headshots you order for print?

These days, you do not need to order as large of a quantity as you used to. The days of ordering 500 pictures aren’t happening anymore. Gone are the days when I need 30 pictures. I do not require more than 5 hard copies because I am not messengering copies anymore. I scan them in my system, and they are all sent via email. You should be pretty ok with ordering around 100 pictures. That cuts down on copies, but you should still have an ample supply because you should bring a copy to each audition. Even if the person doesn’t take the picture, you should bring it.

Also, my observation has been that although comp cards are great, they are not necessary anymore. I take people on constantly who just have one great headshot where I see that warmth, that message in their eyes. It’s not about the quantity, it’s about that one great headshot.

Q: How much does an awesome new headshot affect getting auditions?

Your picture is your calling card I can’t stress that enough.

There have been people who I’ve met that I knew could do better with their headshots. I just sent a guy, whom I knew had a good look, to a photographer who takes amazing commercial print shots. I was blown away. They guy instantly got an audition for a coca cola commercial.

The connection is so important, the photo has to be crisp, clear and professional. Sometimes, people ask me for a name of a photographer or two, and I always mention that I have no ties to any of them other than the fact that I love their work. There is no other reason. There are just some people, in particular, whose work I know is great. I know that when people go to the right photographers, for the correct pictures for this venue, I say, “Oh my god now you have money shots, now you are a contender.”

And, I know that if I am interested in these people my clients will be interested as well.

Q: Do you have any advice for those actors who are looking to get started, get print headshots and delve into commercial print work?

Embrace who you are, get the best quality pictures for this venue, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep submitting.

THANKS RICK! That is very encouraging information and advice!

For more information on Rick Miller, visit

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