Actors headshots: how a less than professional headshot can hurt you

Being an actor might be a lofty goal, though it requires effort and money to get started, and it takes a long time to see any cash coming in. But often actors love it so much they don’t care — many are willing to pursue this path even if they never make a cent at it. It can, in fact, be a costly path. And of all expenses that an actor has to incur, from acting classes, to submissions services, to skin care and everything in between, headshots sessions seem a large expense for little return.

It seems so simple, any person with a camera can do. A blurry background, a good amount of light on the actor’s face, a good expression, and that’s all. But anyone who has looked at hundreds (or thousands) of headshots can quickly point out which ones are professional and which ones aren’t. There’s a quality level that takes a while for a photographer to reach. It’s both art and technical prowess. And there are so many details to take in consideration, from makeup and wardrobe, to background and cropping and angles, and even knowledge of what is being done at large in the market – models standing in front of blurring brick walls is extremely outdated, and white or gray backgrounds are often requested by experienced talent reps.

The one ultimately looking at all those headshots is the casting director or producer that decides who to bring in for consideration for a project. And while a great face is a good starting point, there’s a lot more to that decision. Every step in a film or TV production involves a risk, and one of the urging goals of a casting professional is to minimize risks when hiring an actor. That can be approached by giving priority to actors that work with a talent rep trusted by the casting professional. And it can also lead to discard actors that look green or inexperienced. Casting directors hired to do their jobs will avoid green actors like the plague. And this is what a less professional headshot does to an actor: sets a huge red flag on them.

We need to stress here what an essential tool an actor’s headshot is. Our fellow headshot photographer Gary Barragan, in Louisville, says it well: “these headshots are the key that unlocks the door to you getting in front of the right people and presenting your talents.” Actors need to constantly work on their craft, they have to build relationships, and they go and seek for opportunities. But when an online submission is sent, and there are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of actors submitting for that same role, it takes a second for that headshot to either capture the interest of the casting professional or not.

It’s our hope that every client gets in front of as many casting professionals as possible. We’re rooting for them and we have that in mind the whole time. May legs be broken and hearts be fulfilled!

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