How the Right Color in Your Headshot Will Get Casting to Notice You

Photo Source: Photo by Harry Quan on Unsplash

While a stimulating headshot is important, I often place meaning and communication above that. Of course, I opt to have both where possible but because colors carry associations, the right color can cause a knee-jerk reaction for casting, helping them see you as a viable candidate for the roles you’re right for.

Clients who have the luxury to shoot several looks are able to target more comprehensively and make bolder choices with color.

Ever notice that Olivia Pope, Kerry Washington’s character on “Scandal,” often wears white dresses and coats? This is because viewers subliminally perceive white as a hero tone and Olivia Pope is positioned as a gladiator, a hero to be looked up to. White is a deliberate choice used to drive home this message to the audience.

Similarly, Hank and Marie Schrader’s home in “Breaking Bad” is covered in purple pillows, purple couches, purple drapes, etc. Viewers subliminally perceive purple as a color of passion and Hank is a detective with a passionate, almost neurotic obsession with Heisenberg.

Below is a run-through of colors, their meanings, and how each one can be used to effectively communicate something in your headshots. Refer back to this guide when you know your target roles and want a targeted headshot to get you into the room.

Black: Good for aging clients and increasing perceived depth. Helps convey a sense of timelessness or intelligence.

White: Hero/lead/innocuous/pure. Can be used to convey your ability to portray a pure soul, doctor, or leader.

Gray: I often think this color conveys wisdom. Gray can also be used as an alternative to black. For people with long black hair, gray can be a more dynamic choice as it provides more tonal contrast.

READ: 4 Ways to Use Color the Right Way in Your Headshots

Red: This is the color of power and intensity. Use caution with this one because while it does get noticed, it sends a very clear message. While not versatile, if your strength and interest is the villainous archetype or a power figure, this is a great way to achieve it. Conversely, your favorite shirt may be red but if you’re targeting girl-next-door, you’ll want to take a different route.  

Blue: Blue is tricky and depends on the context and expression in the photo. Typically, it comes off as trustworthy, depth, foreboding, or soothing. This is part of the reason I’m a big fan of this color in people’s wardrobes.

Yellow: Vibrant, friendly, energetic (depending on the tone).  

Green: This one depends on hue. Forrest green can come off wholesome/natural, but a dusty olive green is very rugged. The connotations of some greens is military, while others like emerald green signal regalness and timelessness.

Purple: The color of love and passion. Great if you’re targeting love interest roles but given the right expression, it can communicate intensity as well.

Pink: Innocent, reliant, young, inexperienced. This color is a great tool if you’re aiming to age yourself down. If you’re one of those 24-year-olds who belongs on shows like “Glee,” pink could help you make a case for that!

This knowledge is power. You can tailor the color of your clothing your specific look and goals in order to get noticed and communicate with casting instantly. Think of it as the difference between a tailored suit and a suit straight off the rack. When you put thought and measurement into your image, you make more of an impact on your surrounding.

(Remember: Your headshot should never manipulate casting, but it should help them. So use these tactics to be honest and strong about your message, not to lie.)  

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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.

Nogen Beck
Best known for his new-age, uncompromising approach to actor headshots and cinematic portraiture, photographer Nogen Beck is pushing the envelope and empowering actors to achieve more potent marketing materials. Beck is also the author of "The Science of Headshots", a book that illuminates previously hidden tactics that actors and photographers can leverage to deliberately propel the actor's career upwards.
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