Shoot for Accuracy with Your Headshots

by Mark Brandon

Hipster with camera

Your headshot is your calling card and as such, it must be an accurate reflection of how you truly appear.

Your headshot is your calling card and all-important entree to the business. The composition, lighting and overall professionalism it reflects can make the difference as to whether or not you're called in. Because of its obvious importance, you might tend to shoot for an exaggerated, glitzy effect, neglecting the highest priority of all: You must look like the person in the photo when you walk through the door at casting sessions. That means matched hair styles and lengths. For men, this also means facial hair as well.

Take serious note: This issue is one of the biggest, continuing complaints of casting directors throughout the entire North American market. They call you in for an interview based precisely on your appearance. It's your look that matches their idea of the character. But if you come into the office looking much different than the photograph, you have in effect, wasted their time. For instance, top casting director Tina Gerussi says, "I don't want to see your photo of 30 pounds ago."

A basic rule of thumb for photos is stay as current as possible. Also, avoid the drastically lit, and blatantly shadowy headshot. Such murky effects invariably end up being more of a distortion than an accurate reflection of how you truly appear. Choose therefore, a photographer actually recommended by casting directors or agents -- one who won't be prone to such extreme practices. Then, if after you get your 8 x 10 done, you decide to cut your hair or substantially change the style, make another appointment right away to get new shots done.

When it comes to touching up photos, be very cautious. If the touch-up work is for some minute detail, then you can certainly get away with it. (Example: digitizing out some odd, fly-away hair or compensating for a weird shadow.) However, far too many actors mistakenly allow computer artists a "heavy hand" if it makes their headshot more glamorous looking. They allow the artist to remove under-eye bags, scars, blotches and far too many facial lines. The trouble with a lot of touch-up work is that it looks exactly like that: a lot of touch-up work -- especially when you're standing in the audition room. When industry professionals see the comparison, rest assured they're not happy.

Girls, when you pose for your headshots, make sure you do not rest the top of your hand directly underneath your chin. Nothing looks more affected and entirely amateurish than that. The actress in your photo should look like a person of confidence and professionalism, not a blushing bride from Iowa. Your best choice is to keep your hands off your face, period. Don't let a photographer tell you otherwise.

When finally choosing your photo, don't let your non-industry friends or your mother help you decide. They're not involved in the entertainment field, so they tend to pick the glittery, pretentious ones. These kinds of pictures may stroke your ego or dazzle your family, but they'll rarely impress the people who really count.

Best bet? Let your agent decide. After all, your agent knows you and knows the marketplace. Consequently, he or she will pick the type of headshot that stands a better chance of selling you.
Mark Brandon is a native Californian who now makes his home in Vancouver, BC. He has appeared in over 100 commercials, films and TV series. For more audition strategies and career building advice, visit:

The preceding was an excerpt from the best selling acting book, "Winning Auditions - 101 Strategies for Actors" (Limelight Editions, NY) written by Mark Brandon.

Copyright © Mark Brandon. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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