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Elamin's clothing strikes just the right note,

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Elamin's clothing strikes just the right note, Luedtke says. "The shirt is a classic. It's not a halter top. It's not a business suit. It's ambiguous enough that she could be the person who's just graduated from law school or the model or the young mother. She could be any number of things. The clothing doesn't categorize her." Often Luedtke finds loosely cascading bangs annoying, but not here. The power of the smile and the eyes overrides all such concerns.

Luedtke admires the straightforward quality of Nathan Klau's headshot. She says she "loves" his photo. "He's a character guy. He's not afraid to tell you he's a character guy. It's a full head-on shot. It's no goofy profile, no goofy looking up or down."

The background, she notes, creates a sense of light around Klau's face. And the color of his T-shirt complements his gray-blue eyes. As for the broad yet closed-mouth smile, it "completely works for him," she says. "I don't want to say 'self-satisfied,' but it's a very contented 'Here I am.' "

L.A.-based commercial casting director Terry Berland prefers headshots in which the actor looks her squarely in the eye. Profile shots, with the head turned and the eyes pivoted to meet the lens, don't work as well, she says.

Berland recently cast Rynn O'Connor in a commercial that called for someone pretty yet wholesome. The CD didn't want to see any hint of frumpiness. But she also didn't want anyone too glamorous—"someone so pretty that they would not look like they would use a Dirt Devil vacuum in the kitchen." O'Connor's headshot depicts her as trustworthy and grounded, Berland says. "There's a playfulness and fun in her. She looks upbeat…. The photographer has captured a life. I can look at this and my mind conjures up images—I can feel depths and layers of her possible personality."

When color headshots first came into vogue, Berland worried that actors and photographers would use bright tones to try to lure casting directors' attention. But she's pleased with the professionalism of most of the color shots that cross her desk. Photographers tend to use color to subtly complement an actor's features and skin tone, she says. The red of O'Connor's dress, for instance, "brings out the rosiness of her skin."

Likewise, in Kim Estes' headshot, the purple of his sweater is a good counterpart to his skin tone. If the purple were not so prominent, Berland feels, the shiny, out-of-focus background in the upper left-hand corner might pull the viewer's eye away from Estes' face.

The photo suggests to Berland that Estes is an easygoing, down-to-earth person: "He doesn't look like a slick actor. I see an intelligence in his eyes." She can picture him as a savvy executive capable of handling important corporate matters. But his smile helps her to imagine him in fatherly and grandfatherly roles too. His clothing falls somewhere between corporate and blue-collar style, she adds, and CDs could likely imagine him playing characters anywhere along that spectrum.

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