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Backstage Experts

What Is Your Headshot Telling Casting Directors?

What Is Your Headshot Telling Casting Directors?

Your headshot communicates a lot nonverbally. So, what is your headshot doing or not doing for you? One of the most important things to know about you is your “type” and what you are telling the person looking at your picture. According to John Sudol, author of “Acting: Face to Face: The Actor’s Guide to Understanding How Your Face Communicates Emotion for TV and Film,” “Your headshot is more than a replication of what you look like. It’s a bucket full of nonverbal information that has the power to influence the viewer, either in a positive or negative way. The actor who understands this nonverbal communication and knows how to effectively use it, is more apt to design a headshot that says who they are (personality) and where they fit it in (physical type).”

I have seen many headshots that are way off the mark from what is being cast. I was casting mothers for a commercial and I was seeing headshots that were side-body profiles with the face looking into the camera, bikini top and flower in the hair. This in no way looked like a mom for a commercial. The point here is to be aware of how you are selling yourself. 

Many actors have a beautiful picture of themselves as the subject in the photo, but there is nothing in the eyes, and the overall feel is that you look good but not drawing the viewer into you. You want to make sure the headshot is not only well shot, but that your personality is showing. Clothing is very important and should be able to be a cross section of many roles you could play. Within a fraction of a second, a casting director is consciously or unconsciously forming an opinion about you based on what they are seeing in your headshot.

So how do you discover your type? There are a few ways which I discuss the best way in my book “The Keys to Commercial Acting.” The other way is to ask people what roles they see you playing on TV and in real life. Then you try to group them and come up with three or four main types and shoot your headshots accordingly.

I have seen many inexpensive photographers shoot much better shots than the very high-priced ones, and are able to execute a headshot that does what you want it to do. Oh! What do you want it to do you ask? The headshot should let the viewer know you fit the role with the proper wardrobe, background, composition, expression, and energy creating an image that hits all the marks will most likely get you into an agent’s or casting director’s office.

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Stuart Stone is a commercial casting director, author of “The Keys to Commercial Acting,” and a Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Stone’s full bio

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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