Headshots, headshots, headshots.
Commercial actors should never underestimate the importance of brilliant headshots.
Call me paranoid but I feel like half of the readers out there just stopped reading. You think you got this? Some of you do… but a strong majority of you don’t. Most of you don’t have brilliant headshots. A whole heck of a lot of you could benefit from new headshots. How do I know this? I look at them every day. This isn’t a message to the commercial actor novice. It’s for all of you.
Here are some rules I’d implement, if I were queen of the world:
Your photographer friend cannot take your headshots. I understand how this could be tempting. Don’t do it. Just put in the time and research and save your pennies… and have a fantastic headshot photographer take your shots. Please.
Don’t pay $100 for your headshots. I picked that number at random, but I think you catch my drift. No bargain basement headshots. Again, I understand how this could be tempting. They won’t be good enough. Yes, you will likely end up with a headshot you can use… but it won’t be good enough. A headshot that you can use isn’t the goal, is it? Brilliant headshot(s) are the goal.
If these two simple rules were followed… there would be a huge increase in the number of commercial actors who had brilliant headshots. I’m well aware there are exceptions that could possibly exist. Maybe your photographer friend really would take brilliant headshots of you. Maybe your $100 headshots ARE amazing. I’m willing to believe there are a few (like, I can count on one hand) of you out there. But many, many more of you are wasting very precious time (which is a big deal, frankly…) as well as precious money (be it $100 at a time). Stop doing this.
There are many of you who are working diligently in your improv class… you are taking the hottest commercial audition class in town. You are working with career coaches, taking acting classes and are a member of a theatre company… and you don’t have/won’t get great headshots taken. This simply doesn’t make sense. The headshot is the first thing a casting director sees. If they don’t get past your 1” x 1” thumbnail photo, it doesn’t matter the training, the experience, the credits you have. You won’t be called in. I’m trying to say it as many different ways as possible. Your headshots are ridiculously important. Like it or not… it’s the most important tool you have in your actor box. Consider moving it up the priority list.
What if you have old headshots but you are being called in consistently and booking work? You can probably guess by now, I’d say you should get new, brilliant headshots. The casting directors who are calling you in will continue to call you in with old headshots. But what about the ones who aren’t calling you in? Are there casting directors you don’t know, or don’t know well? Who don’t call you in consistently? You want to open those doors… and when the newer ones/ones you don’t have a relationship with call you in, you want to LOOK like your headshots (not five years older) so that you are being called in for appropriate roles and not wasting anyone’s time, including your own.
I’ve heard concern from time to time that successful actors with old shots are scared to get new shots because the casting directors won’t recognize them/their new shots and therefore won’t call the actor in. Umm. No. Give casting directors a little credit.
Don’t wait for your agent to tell you to get new headshots. They get tired of nagging actors, so plenty of them won’t do it. Be proactive. This is something within your control. You should be getting new headshots taken on a regular basis. You want to have a brilliant shot for each commercial type you should be cast as. So no… not one brilliant headshot, but a handful. Tell the casting director how to cast you. You’ve heard me say this a million times. Feel free to talk to your agent about it, absolutely. But don’t wait for them to bring it up. You should.
Never, never, never stop getting headshots taken on a regular basis as long as you are an actor. And never settle for adequate… even good headshots. Then, when you’re called in, make sure you are brilliant in the room. No big deal, right? No one said this would be easy.
I admire you. Now go get brilliant headshots, for Pete’s sake!