Over the course of my career I've photographed and worked with several industry people. In speaking, we got to talking about headshots and what their role is in helping an actor find work. 5 These 5 things that casting directors look for in a headshot will help you stand out from the crowd.
Here are some of my observations based on my talks with them, as well as my past experience as a broadway actor.
1. Headshots have to JUMP OUT.
When casting director's (CDs from here on) are looking at headshots they see hundreds or more of them on a computer screen at thumbnail size. This is a prime reason to go to a professional photographer. If you think that a selfie at the beach will cut it, I've got some bad news for you. Also, this is an excellent reason to avoid cliche's. Stay away from that brick wall, get off of that tree, and get out of that door frame. Make sure that the background is either a solid color or that it's completely blurred out. You don't want anything at all that could distract from your face. Also, your main head shot should not be a full body shot or three-quarter shot, as your face will not be as visible with your whole body in the frame. In addition, you should not have hands in the image, and no jewelry either. These are both things that distract from your eyes and face.
2. Actors will be overlooked without a reel.
Unless the picture is truly outstanding the CD will immediately delete it unless there is a reel attached. If you're not sure what a reel is here is a great resource to check out.
3. Consistency of your photos matter.
After looking at the initial round of images and deleting the ones that didn't capture their attention and/or didn't have a reel attached, the next step is looking at the additional pictures. Here is where you want to put your full body and/or three-quarter shots, as well as other headshots that you aren't using for your primary picture. The ones that get deleted in this round are the actors who's other pictures don't look like their primary picture. Different expressions/outfits/and lighting are all ok, however if you look like you're 20 years old in your primary, you shouldn't look 15 years old in your other shots. Some consistency is needed in all of your shots, and a great photographer can create that consistency while still giving you the variety you need to submit for all kinds of different roles.
4. No intros, no montages, just killer footage of you acting.
Notice that the first 3 steps were all about headshots. After the headshots the next stop is the reel. These are looked at for no more than 20-30 seconds tops, so make sure that you put your best foot forward and grab their attention from the first second of the video.
5. Include a resume
Lastly CDs will look at the resumes, although that doesn't have much bearing on whether or not you'll be asked to audition.
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