Business Success


  • Written by Paris Hepburn

Ok we have some tools in our tool kit.  We identified who we are by typecasting and branding, we understand about training and a basic understanding about the industry.  Now we need headshots.  Headshots are a vital tool in your actors’ tool kit and are used for marketing yourself.  Without them your career will go nowhere. 

Headshots are the first thing talent agents and casting directors look at. Headshots are very different than portraits.    The picture should be taken from the chest up, with the main focus on the head straightforward or slightly to one side.  Headshots are used for an actors’ branding and marketing and are essential in  getting noticed for the audition. 

When starting off you don’t need to spend a lot of money on headshots.  When I started, I bought a relatively decent camera and took photos of myself.  A decent camera will cost about $200 on up.  All depends how fancy you want to get.  A point-and-shoot with a high resolution is perfect. 

Make sure the picture is of just you and nothing in the background.  I prefer camera shots over my phone because I get full frame pictures and then I crop them to the way I want them. 

After investing in a camera, take as many shots as you can.  In one setting, I will take 300-500 shots.  I will probably pick 5 or 6 out of them.  Make sure when you are taking shots that the area is well lighted.

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of taking pictures.  Even if you have a real expensive camera, lighting can become an issue.  When you starting getting roles then move up to a professional photographer.  

Standard Headshots. 

This industry has its standards for the typical Headshot.  An actor's headshot is an 8″ by 10″ (8×10) photograph. You should never use anything smaller or bigger than the standard 8x10. 

A typical industry headshot photographer will take the photograph in portrait/vertical position.  That’s ok if you take landscape/horizontal pictures just make sure when you crop them that you crop to an 8x10 size.  

Size and Layout. 

Here are some good examples of vertical acting headshot. 

These headshots are pretty good.  I have a clear background without any distractions.  Even the first one has very little background distractions going on.  So when casting is looking at you, they can see your picture right off the bat.  If you have too many distractions going on in the picture you can be easily overlooked.  

The problems associated with bad headshots are, bad lighting, bad cropping, bad background, background distractions, shadows on the face, head turned too much to the sides, took much grinning and a myriad of other issues that make your headshot look poor.  Most of all, you don’t want the picture to look like high school yearbook portraits. 

Taking Good Headshots. 

When you go to get your headshots keep in mind to make them look realistic as if someone walks up to you and sees you as you are.  Always try to show your real self and how you look in real life.  The real authentic you.  Look natural even with your make-up. 

A few ideas to keep in mind when getting your acting headshots are:

* Using make-up is recommended to cover imperfections. 

* Women and teens should use very little make-up. 

* Younger children should never wear make-up. 

* Men should use make-up very sparingly.

* Fake eyelashes should not be worn.

* Avoid the heavy use of eye makeup. 

* Don’t use accessories such as jewelry, hats, or sunglasses.  

* Absolutely no piercing in the ears, nose, eyebrows or anywhere on the face. 

* If you do wear glasses, take some headshots with them, and some without. 

* No “busy” clothing such as bright colorful patterned tops.

* Plain color clothing should be worn that are noticeable. 

* Avoid haircuts that attract a lot of attention. 

* Keep it simple so your face can be seen.

* Look fresh, clean and well kept.  

Color Headshots vs Black and White. 

Headshots use to be required to be in black and white.  That is no longer the industry standard unless called for.  I actually like the old style black and white and do use them on occasion. 

But that is not what is required today.  Be careful of too vibrant colors so you look clownish.  Be more neutral but not fading into the background.  Natural tones for the face and body with brighter colors for clothing so you stand out.  Don’t wear turtlenecks, striped shirts or tops that show a lot of skin.      

Keeping Headshots Current. 

Keeping current on your headshots is extremely important.  Babies have to have shots almost every month.  Kids need them quite a bit also because they grow so fast.  Adults need new headshots at least once a year or twice a year if you are changing your looks.  I usually get mine done every three months.  You must look exactly like the person in the photograph and I mean EXACTLY!!  If you arrive looking different this could ruin your chances with casting and you won’t be invited back.

If you have a need to change your style, looks, haircut, hair color, tattoos, your headshot must be updated to reflect your current look.  You would be surprised how many people don’t think of doing this.  You will appear very unprofessional.  Casting is interested in you because of the way you look.  Don’t show up different!!

Sending Headshots. 

Applying for acting jobs or talent agencies is usually done online these days.  You can submit your new headshots via their websites or casting call websites.  Make sure when you send your resume via internet you include a cover letter introducing yourself. 

Some agencies still want you to send them along your marketing package through snail mail.  That is the regular postal service.  Snail mail is very unusual but it is sometimes required by the agency.  The customary practice for actors is to staple their 8×10 vertical/portrait headshot to their single page acting resume.  This means that they will be seen back-to-back.  This way you can make sure that both are always together.  Once they reach their destination casting can easily see you and your resume by just flipping over you photo. 

When you send your marketing package send it in a brown envelope large enough to accommodate your headshot and resume.  Perhaps a bubble wrap envelope will help from it getting crinkled.  I use cardboard when I send pictures.  Make sure that you include a cover letter.  An actor’s business card can also be stapled the left corner of the resume/headshot if you have them.

Cost of Headshots. 

How much do acting headshots cost?  Pricing for headshots can vary a great deal.  They can also vary from place to place.  Larger markets can cost more than smaller markets but this is not always the case.  Headshot categories are general priced from inexpensive, average and expensive.  Keep in mind you are looking at headshots and not portraits which can vary quite a bit.   

Typically headshots cost:

* Inexpensive headshots: $180 - $240

* Average headshots: $300 - $500

* Professional headshots: $1,000+

* Overpriced: $2,000+

Determining factors for photographers:

* How well known and experienced a photographer is

* The length of the photoshoot

* How many shots/images you’re getting out of it

* Are you paying separate for the shoot and the pictures

* Whether or not you’re using a make-up person or hairstylist

* Do you headshots need retouching (I do my own)

* Number of looks you want

Don’t get pictures at your local department store.  They are on the low end and usually the photographers haven’t the skills you need for professional pictures.  Remember these are not glamour shots.  They have to represent you and what you look like.  Sometimes the name of the photographer raises the cost of the shoots.  In general professional headshots are worth the cost of getting them taken.  I have taken headshots by some highly recommended people and have been so disappointed when I got them back.  Pay close attention whether the photographer has taken headshots before and even then there is no guarantee.  Find someone you can work with and you feel comfortable with.     

I have a standard that the very inexpensive headshot price is not worth my time and the real expensive ones are not worth the overpriced price tag.  I once had a photographer that wanted to charge me $5,000.  Although the photos I looked at were pretty they certainly weren’t worth $5,000. 

And I had to look at them with gloves.  Too expensive for my taste.  Usually photo shoots should last several hours.  Perhaps 2-4 hours is average all depending how many styles you are going for. 

There is a lot to consider when you are looking for headshots.  Do your homework and see what they all have to offer.  Talk and meet with them to let them know what you are expecting.  And, ask the right questions from them to make a go

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