How to Know When to Take New Headshots

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If you already have a great headshot, when is the time for an update?

As a general guideline, I say every one to two years if you are an adult and every six months if you are a child. Of course, if you still look exactly like your headshot and it’s getting you called in often, don’t fix what isn’t broken. Otherwise, here are seven signs you need a new headshot:

1. Changes to your hair.
While it may be easy to put in extensions or cut your hair, you really want at least one shot to show casting what you’re currently working with. Also, an outdated hairstyle can be an indication a headshot is not current. It may be time to update.

2. You’ve aged.
The casting director already has a vision of a character’s age when they call actors in to read for the part. It’s unprofessional to lie about your age in your headshot. Furthermore, you’re wasting the casting director’s time.

3. You have made noticeable changes to your looks.
If you have had plastic surgery or lost or gained a significant amount of weight, you want to consider a new headshot session.

4. Headshot trend shifts.
You want to stay current with what casting directors are looking for in a headshot. For instance, at one-time black and white headshots were popular. If you present a black and white shot today, some may assume you haven’t auditioned since 2005. It’s also a good idea to understand the medium through which casting directors see your headshots. Many use online galleries, which means your headshots are showing up for them as small thumbnail images. You may want your main picture with a tighter crop on the face so that the eyes can be seen easier. A three-quarters shot won’t stand out as much in an online gallery of actor headshots.

Everything You Need to Know About Headshots

5. Fashion trend shifts.
Don’t ever wear something too seasonal or trendy. If your clothing feels outdated in your headshots, it’s time for an update. The wardrobe can be an indication that the photo is not current.

6. You’re consistently getting called in for roles that aren’t your type or you’re not getting called in at all.
If you haven’t thought about how you’re marketing yourself, this is the time to consider where your look fits within the entertainment business. How can you make yourself more marketable? Take the time to watch television and film to see where your type is being cast. Do your headshots represent your personality and physicality or are they just generic pretty shots? There are a million pretty people in the entertainment business; a headshot needs to say more if it’s going to stand out. Do your shots look professional or do they make you look inexperienced and like you didn’t invest in yourself? Who would want to invest their time and money on an actor who couldn’t bother to invest in themselves?

7. Your agent or manager asks for new shots.
They see the daily breakdowns and hopefully, have relationships with casting directors. If your agent isn’t happy with your headshots (or if they don’t feel they properly represent you), he or she may not be eager to send them out since you are essentially making their job harder. Furthermore, when you wait a long time to get the new shots your representatives ask for, it sends a signal that you don’t take your career seriously. If you sign with an agent or manager, you should trust them to act in your best interest. To not waste your time and money, discuss your new headshot session with your representation beforehand so that you get a sense of what they are looking for.

*This post was originally published on Sept. 14, 2016. It has since been updated.

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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.

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Marc Cartwright
Marc Cartwright is an L.A.–based photographer who has lent his experience and expertise to various aspects of the entertainment industry for over 25 years.
See full bio and articles here!

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