The Vital Importance Of The Headshot

The Headshot, The 10by8, The 10×8 – however you want to title it, here I discuss why the Headshot is the most important tool in a performer’s toolkit

Many, if not most, actors and performers who are successful even in a small way, get literally hundreds of headshots done in the course of their performance careers. The reason for this is simple to understand. Your headshot is the single most important factor working for you. Its showing you off in your best light, long before they meet you, so it has to not only work, it has to work hard and if it isn’t, then it’s time to change it.

What is a Headshot?

A headshot is quite simply a 10×8 (inches) portrait of the performer. Usually this comprises of the performer’s head & shoulders, and focuses on the face. Technically, a headshot that incorporates a person’s shoulders is called a ‘three quarter’ shot.

We cannot stress the importance of a headshot enough. The 10×8 is essentially the business card for all actors, dancers and performers and this is the main submission to casting directors to assist them in casting a role (and deciding who to call for an audition).

Although there are constant developments in what is considered a ‘correct’ way of having your headshot taken, it is the norm that in the UK headshots are traditionally taken in black and white, while in America they are often taken in colour. It is imperative that you instruct any photographer taking your headshot (and hopefully you’ve chosen a photographer who is already skilled in headshots for performers) which market you are aiming for to ensure you get the right style of headshot.

How To Get Your Headshot Taken:

  1. Your headshot needs to be a FULL representation of you. Don’t try to cover anything up. A casting director might be looking for that very blemish you have! Your headshot should show you as you as you are (age, look, style, etc.) and reflect your best qualities. It should be natural, preferably not touched up, and should definitely represent your current look.E.g. every time you make  a difference or change to your appearance (hair colour etc) you should get new headshots taken.
  2. Ideally, wear neutral colours (usually black or white) with no distracting prints. Everything about your headshot should focus on your face. A casting director will not be happy if they are distracted by the latest zebra print or that you are an avid label fashionista.
  3. Make your headshot inviting. You want the casting director seeing your headshot WANT to see you in person. Your headshot should reflect a glimmer of your personality (or better still, a glimpse of the character you are going up for). Remember, the headshot is the only way a casting director is going to consider you for a role before they have even met you. Don’t blow your chances by not providing what they might want.  The type of roles/positions that a casting director might be wanting to fill are:
    Commercial – typically (not always) has the person smiling and projects warmth and friendliness.
    Theatrical – usually serious, focused and actors are NOT smiling.
  4. Choose your photographer WISELY. Photographers provide a wide range of services and packages (these may include: make-up, hair styling, an option of costume changes, variations on hours and number of photographs taken. Some photographers use studios (often more expensive), and some use a home studio (these are often cheaper). It is up to you to decide on a photographer that is right for you. Ideally, take recommendations from other performers – and always ensure that you are safe!
  5. Sleep well the night before you have your headshots taken. Any tiredness will be reflected in your shoot. You want your eyes to be bright and open. You want to exude energy and professionalism. A good night’s sleep will help with this. Establish a good sleeping pattern at least a week before the photo shoot.

It Does Not End There…

Once you’ve had your headshot taken this is not the final step. Even if you personally believe that this is the best photo you’ve ever had taken, update it a couple times a year, or the headshot isn’t going to help… When your headshot is five years old and they see the “new” you, well welcome to the real world. The job is no longer yours.

Keep close track of the amount of times that you send it versus how many times you get called in to the audition and if you aren’t, then move forward and get a new photo that is going to keep you working.

This is a Necessary Expense

Yes, they are expensive and yes, it’s going to cost you but the reality is that doing business costs money, no matter what your business is.

The headshot is what you might term your professional calling card. A graphic business card if you will and it’s not going to get you the calls you want to get if you don’t keep the information, in this case, the photo, updated to current stuff. The only real foot in the door that you have in the acting business unless you’re world renown, is your headshot.

Spending money and time on other resources first and letting that one go to pot is just a waste of your time and money.

So, is it worth your time and effort to get a new headshot, working with it till you find one that’s getting you new jobs?

The answer to that is a resounding “definitely!”

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