There’s one pet peeve that Casting Directors have, and that’s when an actor does NOT look like their headshot. Can you guess why? No need to think about it too much because I’m going to tell you why in just a minute. I apologize in advance if I sound a little stern, but that’s how strongly I feel about having up-to-date headshots.
Before we dig into the why, and before I offer my advice and tell you a really great story, feel free to check out these NYC photographers. At the bottom of the article, I have Headshot Pro-Tips to get you started.
Five Great HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHERS in New York City and the Surrounding Area
Xanthe Elbrick Photography — Xanthe Elbrick is a New York City based photographer. She specializes in exquisite natural light headshots. Renowned for her work in the performance arts, she also covers family, newborn, and pet portraits, theater, events, and weddings worldwide. Xanthe has a great passion and talent for making the most self-conscious subjects feel comfortable and beautiful. Her work reflects a personal desire to combine the best aesthetic, confidence, energy, and truth of each subject.
Christian Webb – “I’ve often been asked why I shoot headshots as opposed to something more glamorous and exciting like fashion. Truth is, I enjoy people and making my photos about…the person. It’s not about the clothes, the fashion, the styling, or the elaborate setup. It’s all about that one man or woman or child in front of my lens.”
Jess Osber Photography – Jess began her career as a photographer shooting headshots for friends on her roof. After an assistantship with top New York photographer, Peter Hurley, she opened my own studio in 2015. Since then, she’s had thousands of actors, opera singers, authors and creative professionals of all stripes visit her studio for a premium headshot experience.
Dorothy Shi Photography – Dorothy Shi is a respected and sought-after New York City Acting Headshot, Corporate Headshot, Corporate Event, Ecommerce, Pageant and Fashion photographer with over twenty-five years of studio and on-location experience worldwide. Her client list includes legendary recording stars The Who, Roberta Flack, Maxi Priest, Richard Tyler, Whitney Houston, Left Eye from TLC and Treach from Naughty By Nature.
Chris Macke – “My dad bought me a little film camera for my 15th birthday, and my mom insisted I attend a performing arts elementary/high school in Ohio. I majored in music and acting, which later landed me in Manhattan for college. Those two creative passions, photography and performance, coexisted independently until a few close and persistent friends asked for headshots and dance shots. People liked the work, and the experience, and suddnely my schedul filled up with shoots. Yay!”
Having the right headshot is a big deal. You may think, “Oh, the audition is the important part so I can be considered for a role.” Well, yeah, the audition does play an important part of booking a role, but your headshot is what gets you into the audition. Your headshot is the first step to getting you on that set.
Just like most of us, CD’s are short on time. They have a deadline to adhere to and want to present their suggestions to the production. The last thing they want to do is see that you don’t have the look that you represented yourself to have.
Not only do you want your headshot to represent YOU, but you also want your headshot to represent the type of CHARACTER you play.
Years ago I was in an audition holding room with five people. The guy sitting across from me was huge, had a scruffy beard and dressed in dirty jeans and a ragged shirt. His presence actually frightened me. Of course, he caught me staring at him (ugh!) so I said, “You are one scary looking dude. If I saw you on the sidewalk, I’d cross the street!”
When he laughed, he dropped his headshot, which landed on the floor face up. He looked exactly like his picture. I actually felt uncomfortable looking at him, then his headshot, then him again… Not even able to speak, I nodded toward his headshot.
He said, “I used to have a clean-shaven headshot of me in a suit and I couldn’t book any work. One of my friends told me to change my headshot to represent the type of character I play, which is usually the bad guy, so I did, and I started booking jobs left and right.”
So just how do you get a headshot to look like you as the person that you are and the character you portray? That, my friend, is the million dollar question.
The answer is: you get multiple headshots!
[Flashback Fun Fact: Back in the day, actors would actually get ONE 8×10 and split it into halves or quarters, with each section having a photo with a different look. The headshots were also in black and white!]
Which brings me to this next point: do not under any circumstance get a black and white headshot. Just don’t. Not in today’s world.
Pro-Tips How to Take a Headshot
– It may be a budget breaker, but your headshot is your calling card. Don’t skimp out – get professional shots
– Interview more than one photographer and see who makes you feel the most comfortable
– You’ll need to have “sparkly” eyes, not “dead” eyes. Right before the shoot, look down at the floor. On the count of three (1-2-3), look up at the camera and smile with your energized eyes
– Wear simple, one color clothes without logos. Do not overdue it with accessories. You don’t want to distract the CD.
– Ask the photographer their opinion on an outdoor shoot, which uses natural light, vs. an indoor shoot with electric lighting.
– Relax and be yourself. The camera will pick up on any tension or nerves, so take a few deep breaths and try to relax.
– Less is more when it comes to makeup. You want your headshot to look natural and reflect your true appearance, so don’t go overboard with the makeup. A light foundation or powder, some mascara and lip balm is all you need.
– Practice your poses in advance. Take a few test shots with a friend before your actual headshot session so you can get a feel for what looks good on camera.
– Children should have new headshots every six months, adults every year. If you have a drastic change in look, such as a haircut or weight gain/loss, you should immediately get updated headshots.
Have you used any headshot photographers recently? Head over to DirectSubmit / NYCastings to share!