Headshots

How to put your best face forward.

Head shots and resumes are the actor's business card. One without the other is an incomplete package, and only gives half of the information necessary for a director to either 1) take interest and call you in to read or 2) remember who you are, and call you back after your audition.



Like it or not, theatre and film are visually-based art forms. How you look is important to the role. Pay attention to that last sentence. This does not mean that you need to be beautiful or handsome, or tall, or slim, or muscular - it means that certain roles require certain looks. Your head shot helps directors to decide if you look like the character that they are casting. It is very important to understand that not landing a role does not mean that you are ugly or fat or too tall too short, or too anything. It is not a personal judgement about you. Your look simply does not meld with the requirements of the character, or possibly with the balance of the cast. For example, if we are looking for a mother figure, we want the woman to be taller than her children. If we are looking for a Friar Tuck, we want the man to be rotund. This all goes with understanding your type, and you can read more about it in our Audition Tips article.

Because directors are looking to fill roles (not looking for beautiful people to make into stars), it is important that your head shot LOOKS LIKE YOU. It is very tempting to want to give out pictures of yourself that make you look better than usual, but you really have to resist that urge. 'Better than usual' means that the photo doesn't look like you. The person who walks into the audition had better look exactly like the person in your head shot. You never want to waste time (theirs and yours) by tricking them into believing something that you can't deliver. So, no heavy makeup, no fancy hairstyles, no glamour clothing, no character shots.


There is a lot of advice out there that says that professional head shots are a must - have. If you trace the source of this misinformation, you are likely to find that it originates from 1) an actor who has paid for headshots 2) a photographer's studio 3) a modelling school. Don't fall for it. Keep your money in your wallet. Once you have an agent, you will need professional head shots. The agent may recommend some photographers, but you can use any photographer that you want to. You will pay for those shots. Until then, and while you are searching for an agent, be smart and save your money.

You, or someone you know, owns a digital camera. Make use of that. Set the camera so that you have the highest resolution possible, and have someone take pictures of you at a slightly higher than eye-level viewpoint. We should be able to see your shoulders and full head. Go outside on a cloudy day, or stand in the shade on a bright day and click away. Something you and your friend shoot will be usable as a head shot or as a body shot.

Headshots are 8x10. They are glossy. They can be colour or black and white. They must have your name on them, contact information is a good thing also. Normally, the name is on the front, at the bottom, in plain, sans-serif typestyle, like Ariel or Helvetica.

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