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There are some distinct advantages to being in this business for 40 years. One is simply experience. The other is an awareness of evolutionary changes in marketing. In other words – the way head shots have changed over the years and what is current.
One simple fact is that very few actors really understand their chosen art form is a business. Very few actors are able to look in the mirror and OBJECTIVELY figure out how to market their product because their product is themselves. For all of us, seeing ourselves objectively is difficult at best.
Also, this marketing has evolved over the years.
The internet has hugely influenced the way head shots are done nowadays. Since your image will be relatively small and on a page full of other head shots, it is important to make you photo stand out.
Remember: This is the size of your pic Casting Directors would see when they are looking at submissions:
This is Cute – but it would get “lost” in the pile:
One way to do that is wear very colorful clothing and have colorful backgrounds in your image.
Another way is to be as high profile as possible and have a Twitter account, Facebook, a personal web site, and any other social media.
My friend, Jim Beaver, is great example.
Another GREAT example is a great stage actor Bill Oberst Jr. (Google him!) His Website is VERY ENTERTAINING.
The internet is a wonderful thing but it also requires actors to put time into their careers more than ever.
Look at lots of other head shots. Make sure what you are about to shoot isn’t dated but is current.
Your photographer should also know what is current, how to shoot your head shot so it looks professional and marketable, and give you at least 3 “looks” to work with.
Be aware… all things evolve… even head shots!
Message from Squicken. He thinks he wants to go to college … eventually.
I have been a professional photographer in Los Angeles for 35 years. The thing I hear most when actors come to my studio is, “I just want a photo that really captures ME and who I really am!”
While this may sound good, it tells me there is a very basic lack of understanding of how this business works and how to carry out a strong marketing strategy. As harsh as it may sound, not ONE casting director in all of LA concerns themselves with who you really are. It is their job to CAST you not analyze you.
If you are a 30 year old female, you will get “Mom” roles, business women, nurses, a wife, or a host of other characters seen on TV and in movies. It doesn’t matter if you REALLY ARE a Mom or not…that’s why it’s called ACTING. If you are a curvy girl, don’t shoot sexy photos because you’ll get called in for an audition and find yourself in a room full of skinny models. Conversely, if you are a lovely young woman and you have a nice figure, understand that this is a business driven by money. What sells on TV and in movies is sex and violence. So make sure you have a sexy head shot.
Danny DeVito is a sexy leading man to Rhea Perlman because she is married to him, but it is not his casting. While “type casting” may not be right or fair, it is what it is. Get used to it.
Research, research, research to find the right photographer. The guy in your acting class who has a camera and will do your headshots for free or for fifty bucks is NOT a working professional. An actor who does head shots on the side is NOT a working professional photographer and if he has an audition the day of your shoot – you will be out of luck.
If you want this to be your career – invest in it. Go to a professional photographer. Look for someone with a studio (who can shoot natural light OR studio light), who has been in business for 10 years or more, who has a GOOD web site.
GO SEE THEM! Don’t go to someone who shoots out of their apartment. Simply put, go to a pro. Beware of Agents or managers who INSIST you go to their photographer. An Agent should give you a list of known working pro photographers that you can choose from.Get plenty of sleep the night before your shoot. Don’t get involved in an argument with your significant other.
Don’t bring “a friend” to your photo shoot. Don’t bring your family or Mother or your dog. This is YOUR day. Most of all… ENJOY your photo shoot. I often hear actors say how much they “hate having their photos taken”. This is your career…learn to love it. ALL of it. Taking headshots is an acting job just like any other acting job.
If someone tries to tell you “film is better than digital”, just walk away. You should expect to shoot, look at the photos on a computer, get them retouched, and have them burned onto a CD, and walk out with them done all in the same day.
Basically, it is a business. If you treat your acting career like a business, you will have a much greater chance of success!
Nov 13, 2011, 8:58:37 AM
Got up early for a short meeting…admittedly a bit hung over. The meeting went well and after a couple cups of coffee, I was fully awake and the aspirin had kicked in. My gf, my friend Jim, and I, LITERALLY went to Denny’s for breakfast. Our curiosity was killing us. We HAD to know what Denny’s in Japan might offer. Well….I can tell you this… you can’t find natto in Denny’s USA but you can here. Although I like natto, I had a more traditional fare.
So what better way to spent a morning then to take a nice walk to Harajuku. It’s about 2 miles or so from where I am staying at the Tokyo Hilton. HOWEVER, the way I went , it was about 4 miles. I literally took photos on my way there so I could find my way back. Tokyo isn’t an easy place to navigate. I FINALLY found it and walked around just loving all the people watching. I gotta say, Harajuku girls are hot. They look like little dolls. I looked all over to find a Tshirt that said Harajuku” on it. I thought it might be a good one to auction off here on DA to support the Japan relief efforts. But all I could find was T shirts with “Los Angeles” or “New York” written on them!! Geeeez.
I bought my gf a cute set of pink “Hello Kitty” chopsticks. While it baffles me why a grown woman would be so enamoured of “Hello Kitty” stuff, I have no idea…but whatever. Back at our room, we were having a drink with friends when I gave them to her. Since I can’t read Kanji, I had no idea they were personalized and had name on them that was NOT hers. It would be kinda like buying your wife a coffee mug with “Mabel” written on it when her name was Fran. NOT good. It was made worse by the fact she knew a girl by that name and DID NOT like her. It was compounded by the fact she didn’t like the color. How was I to know that pink EVERYTHING is FABULOUS….EXCEPT for chopsticks. Needless to say, the teasing I had given Jim the day before about not having enough money to pay for his meal, was returned today.
I strolled around and took a few photos but not everyone likes having their photo taken, so I mostly shot places and crowds.
I had to be back at the Hilton by 3:30 for another meeting. I arrived at EXACTLY 3:30 exhausted and sore.
Then I had another speaking engagement to dash off to, so there was no rest for my weary legs. Jim and I were the guest speakers and the studio where we were to speak was only about a mile away. We got lost…. again.
We had the foresight to rent cell phones for our stay in Japan, so after 3 phone calls we arrived half hour late. Part of Jim’s talk also involved him doing a monologue from “King Lear”. He played Edmond convincingly. Of course, after the applause died down I had to say,”WOW…that was amazing Jim. I had no idea Edmond was gay!” He did a double take, then burst out laughing.
We had a wonderful sushi dinner after the studio stuff was done. We found a lovely little hole in the wall resteraunt with AMAZING food. We ate til we were about to explode and then toasted Sake. Thankfully, we made our way back to the hotel without getting lost.
Jim retired for the evening but my gf and and I went to Shinjuku Hanazono to an annual festival held at a huge temple there. It was amazing. We had been there last year and remembered it was being held this time of year. I was amazed at the things you could buy there. When I get back to LA, I might post some of the photos. There was a wall of lanterns about 150 feet long and about 40 feel high and priests performing lots of rituals for luck, for family, for friends…and I think pretty much anything you could imagine.
I bought some spices to bring home. Can’t wait to cook with them. We walked up this BIG staircase, tossed some coins in a fountain, rang a bell, and clapped three times. It was charming.
Tomorrow we are off to Osaka. Sake anyone!????
I’ve been a photographer in Los Angeles for over 35 years. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the styles of photography and the fads that effect head shots over the years.
When I first started shooting, all head shots were done in a studio, were black and white, and were cropped mostly at bust level. At that time, an actor only needed two shots – one smiling (for commercial use) and one more serious (for theatrical use).
Nowadays, all headshots are in color, some people shoot 3/4 length images (although that is going out of style other than for commercial modeling), and now there are the ever present internet submissions. Everything is submitted on line these days and the thumbnails that casting directors scan are small, so it has become vital that your photo be eye-catching. When your photo is on a computer screen along with dozens more, it needs to stand out and draw attention instead of blending in with all the others. One way to do that is by wearing more colorful clothing. Another way is for photographers to use more colorful backgrounds and more contrasting elements in the photo.
First and foremost, one must recognize a headshot as a business tool. One big mistake I have seen repeated over the years is actors who say to me, “I just want a photo that captures ME and who I really am!” While this might seem like a good approach, the harsh truth is, when it comes to casting, no one is concerned with who an actor “really is”. An actor friend of mine is one of the most charming, lovable, and sweet people I know but he always gets cast as criminals, homeless, or a derelict of some kind. Who he “really is” couldn’t be further from his casting.
One does not have to BE a mother in real life to play a mother on TV, in film, or on stage.
The old saying that “show business is 90 percent business and 10 percent show” is very true and not often understood. One of the major tools of the trade is a good head shot so this requires an actor to look at film, TV, and theatre in order to learn what types of roles might be possible. It is at this point one has to be open, honest, and perhaps even somewhat disconnected from their own ego. Every actor would love to play a lead, a love interest, or some larger than life character, but the truth is character actors work more and there are more roles available to them.
Ask yourself, “Who looks like me? How are they cast? What types of roles are they getting?”
NOT, “what do I want to do?”
While “type casting” is an issue we all wish would go away, it is alive and well and drives the entertainment industry. A beautiful blue eyed blonde bombshell model will not likely book a role as a brain surgeon. That truth may be irritating, aggravating, and frustrating for that model but it doesn’t change the reality that the entertainment business is driven by money, not art, and therefore does what it needs to do to appeal to the consumer.
With all this in mind, it is imperative an actor find a good professional photographer to shoot their headshot. If an actor is serious about his/her career, then they will invest in it and get the best headshot they can.
Headshots are another acting job, so be prepared on the day of your shoot. Make sure you bring clothing that is appropriate to the types of characters you will play. Whether you are a business man or not, if that is your casting, bring a suit. Your “favorite Hawaiian shirt” might look great on you but if it doesn’t get you called in for the types of roles you will book, then it is a useless photo.
One smiling headshot for Commercial purposes and one more serious, but still friendly, headshot for Theatrical purposes is generally all an actor needs.
You would never see Brad Pitt do a head shot dressed as a fireman, a policeman, or a doctor (with a stethoscope hanging around his neck). You’d never see Kate Hudson dressed as a nurse (same stethoscope around her neck), a waitress, or a police officer. These types of “character images” scream “day player” and make you appear new and unprofessional. These images might work if all an actor is interested in is background work but certainly not for an actor who wants more.
Talk with your Agent, Manager, or Acting coach regarding casting questions. Be sure what you want to shoot before you schedule a session with a photographer. The photographer can help in selecting from the choices you bring to the shoot. These days, with digital media, an actor can shoot, look at the images on a monitor, and select his head shots all during the same session.
.. until next time!