4 Tips for Selecting the Perfect Headshot

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Choosing the headshot you want to use after a headshot session can sometimes be a daunting task. The goal is to narrow down the shots in hopes of selecting the right image that authentically represents your physical appearance, gives the viewer a sense of your personality, and evokes interest.

Personally, I don’t think an actor should ever choose his or her own headshot without some outside opinion. I think we all have a perception of ourselves and how we would like to be perceived by others. Sometimes our self-perception is accurate, but most of the time it isn’t. Whether we are talking about personality or appearance, when selecting our own photos, we run the risk of picking the images that show an ideal version of ourselves. Furthermore, we may select photos that hide the very flaws people find interesting and endearing about us. More importantly, I believe you should have someone assistance who has seen you act and understands your presence as a performer.

Sometimes actors don’t understand the picture selections their agents make. I think it is important, as a businessperson, to include yourself in this important decision. I also think as a businessperson, you want to make sure you are choosing to work with an agent you trust and who is looking out for your best interest. Agents are the ones that see the breakdowns each day and get a sense of what is being selected by casting directors. Hopefully, they took you on as a client because of the vision they had of you as a working actor. If you don’t like their choice, ask why they selected it. You may learn something new to add to your marketing strategy. I have seen actors just pick a shot themselves without allowing the agent to review the entire headshot session. Even if your agent chooses not to see the entire session, it is wise to get a second professional opinion. Non-professionals may again just select the shot that they think you look best in.

A successful headshot is a mixture of variables. Beyond just looking good in your headshot, here are some key ingredients:

1. Your headshot should represent the types of projects in which you want to be cast. Research the actors who get hired by the networks and projects that speak to you artistically. Write down some adjectives that come to mind and look at the commonalities that may exist. If your headshots are overly sexy or mature, you might want to rethink a session if your target is Disney, for example.

2. Your headshot should display your essence and qualities. Though we may all fit into some general type or another, we do all have unique qualities. For example, you can have the category of sexy leading male actor. However, one may be the more friendly, approachable everyman type, while another might be the quirky, sexy nerdy type, and yet another may be the libidinous, rugged, mysterious type. You can get even more specific here. Identifying your qualities makes it easier for casting to get a sense of where you fit in a particular project.

3. The eyes in your headshot should be speaking. I like headshots that feel as if the actor is looking right at me through their picture. You want to bring the viewer of your headshot into the conversation or story the picture is telling. When someone is talking to you and you know they are daydreaming, you feel disconnected from them. The same idea can be applied to a headshot.

4. Your headshot should feel spontaneous and in the moment. Your headshot photographer should be looking to capture a spontaneous moment. Posing and plastering on a smile or dramatic look feels inauthentic. A picture is just not as engaging and interesting if there is no authenticity.

In the end, you do have to be happy with your headshot. Your happiness should be derived from the feeling that you have a solid marketing tool that accurately describes your physicality and personality as an actor to a person that has never met you.

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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.
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