An actors head shot is their calling card. And if it doesn’t stand out from the pack then it is well worth the trouble and expense to update to a more dynamic one. An outstanding head shot means work. A bad head shot will get you nowhere.
The standard 10 x 8 inch black and white head shot has been the industry standard for over forty years now, but due to the American influence on the local film industry, the 10 x 8 colour head shot is now in vogue. It has its benefits in-so-much as you can see the colour of the eyes, hair and complexion but colour shots lack the drama of black and white. Even the best of them look more like a studio portrait than a dynamic actor head shot.
The solution? Have one of each and take them both to casting sessions.
In this highly competitive industry I can’t stress enough the importance of having a superior head shot. Head shots are all about the eyes, and the eyes should be the first thing you notice when you look at an actors head shot. It doesn’t matter whether you are smiling or not but it’s important that the shot is a good representation of you. Airbrushed or touched up photographs may make you look pretty stunning but it is not what you look like in reality. A few lines or scars give you character, so as an actor why hide them? Use your imperfections to your advantage – after all they’re your imperfections and in that sense they make you unique.
When shopping around for a good photographer, Google actors head shot photographers Sydney (or whichever city you live in) and have a good look at the sample head shots on their web site. If you recognise any faces from film or television and the quality of the photos are of a high standard, then it’s a good bet that the photographer knows his or her stuff. Look at as many sites as possible before contacting the two or three photographers who look the most promising. Check out the prices they charge and the packages they offer. Overall however price should be the least of your concerns. You get what you pay for, so pay for the best if you can afford it.
When selecting the best shot from the session, don’t ask friends and family for their opinion (unless they are industry professionals.) Select what you consider to be the best 3, 4 or 5 shots and ask your acting tutor, your agent, or other actors for their opinion. Your mum won’t be able to help as the shot she prefers may look fine as a family picture on the mantelpiece but more than likely it won’t work as a professional head shot.
When I graduated from acting school in 1981, I was recommended to a good photographer who specialised in actors head shots and I paid $300-00 for the session. The fee also included an initial 25 copies of my selected head shot. This is roughly the equivalent of around $1,000-00 today. And if I needed a new head shot tomorrow, then I’d be more than happy to pay a thousand dollars to get what I wanted. A good head shot will pay for itself very quickly whereas a bad one will cost you dearly. I was overjoyed when I delivered my first head shot to the casting agents and received positive feedback as to what a great head shot I had – and by the time I was performing my third small dialogue role a couple of weeks out of acting school, my head shot had well and truly paid for itself.
You can also alter casting directors, producers and directors perception of what roles you are suitable for by changing your head shot and affecting a different look. My first head shot showed a clean cut young man with nicely cut and styled hair, clean shaven and wearing a white shirt. As I mentioned, it got me a lot of work, but it was all “good guy” roles. So a few years later I got a second head shot. My hair was still nicely cut and styled but I had three days growth on my face and I was wearing a black mesh punk T-shirt. Even though the scars of an adventurous youth were clearly visible in my original head shot, my clean cut looks were only perceived as being suitable for “good guy” roles. The new head shot changed everyone’s perception of me and I found myself being cast in “bad guy” roles. From then on, depending upon the role, I would present one or the other of my head shots when at the casting session.
The moral of the story being, get the best head shot you can and damn the expense because in a very short time you will see a positive return on your investment.
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