Does your headshot look too gorgeous?
The Selfie Plague
For sometime now the plague of the over glamorous selfie has reached epidemic proportions. Cheaply retouched pictures on your phone that bear little or no resemblance to what you actually look like are taken and uploaded anywhere that you might get some cheesy sugared comments telling you how wonderful and beautiful you are. You might like your alter ego, feel rather cool about it and, in this selfie social media world it is absolutely fine to represent that ego. If that makes you feel good then thats great. It only becomes a problem when confronted with the actual reality of what you really look like.
What makes an Actors Headshot?
As an actor your headshot is the most important marketing tool you have. It should be a true representation of what you look like and your brand. With so many actors out there all looking for work you need a headshot that sells your uniqueness, reveals all those visual quirks and irregularities that make up your face. An actors headshot has to look like you and sell your brand.
What it is not is an over retouched glamorous/handsome picture of someone who you might aspire to look like but is not you. To paraphrase CD Amy Jo Berman (Assistant Head of Casting for HBO for 15 years) “A pretty or handsome picture of you is no good for me. I am casting role types.” Role types are pretty much everything human beings do or are in this world. From SAS commander to the garbage collector, from the hotel receptionist, married and with two kids, to the leader of a political party, from the psychotic loner to the gregarious best friend. We have a library of visual stereotypes that fit those ‘brands’ and the actor needs to understand their brand and market themselves accordingly. (Read this related blog here).
American casting director and writer Bonnie Gillespie was asked:
“What are the most popular pieces of advice you’ve heard from casting directors?”
Her reply: “Without question, in interviewing hundreds of casting directors I most frequently heard frustrated cries of, ‘Look like your headshots!’ It wasn’t until I went into casting that I realized how overwhelmingly often actors walk in for a casting session looking nothing like their photographs. It’s because of this that casting offices are often closed off to newer actors. It’s not because casting directors won’t take risks on an unknown actor; it’s because we’re never sure we’re even going to meet an actor who looks anything like his or her headshot!”
So a casting shot is not just a pretty selfie type picture. Infact that style of picture can actively be working against you getting audtions.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
Its not your photographer that you need to blame for this kind of picture. They have their business to run and if there is a demand for the ‘make me look gorgeous’ shot they will provide it. Many of those pictures, either taken in the UK or more predominantly in the USA are beautifully lit and executed. It satisfies the clients demands and positively promotes the photographers’ business. Nothing wrong in that per se but the picture may not be fit for purpose, that is to promote auditions for the actor. It’s up to the actor to consider their brand and find a photographer that will shoot the style they require.
John Clark is a founder member of the Association of Professional Headshot Photographers