HOW TO GET THE PERFECT HEADSHOTS (PART 1)

2It’s amazing how often I see actors with terrible headshots. Sadly, nobody will tell you when you have a crappy headshot. Except me. I’ll tell you.

Part of the problem is that your friends and family don’t know the industry, so they see a pretty picture of you and they say, ‘Wow! Gorgeous!’. Little do they know that those shots are actually useless. What’s worse, a lot of agents won’t tell their clients either. I’m not sure why exactly – maybe they’re being polite or maybe it just takes up too much of their time to explain why they’re crap and what you need to do to fix them.

But it’s ok, I’m here to help. Here are the crucial things you need to know to get an amazing headshot:

1.  Your headshot must, I repeat, MUST, reflect your casting type.  There is absolutely no point having a headshot where you look like a sex goddess if you generally get cast as the naive wallflower.  If you don’t know your type, read my other post on this, do some research, or ask your agent. Once you know, you want to just gently suggest your type in your headshot. A naive wallflower might wear something in soft colours and textures, and the nerdy guy might wear a checkered shirt and glasses. Just be subtle about it. The main thing is not to play AGAINST type – so if you’re a naive wallflower, it’s not helpful to wear a leather jacket and black eyeshadow.

We all want photographic evidence that we’re sexy, intelligent and powerful. It’s ok to pursue this, just don’t use those shots for your headshot unless your casting type is sexy.  Even better – stop trying to be sexy and just be natural and your casting type should appear naturally in the photo.

2.  You CANNOT use professional glamour photos as your headshot.  Glamour shots (those studio ones that you got a special deal on for Christmas) are usually under strict copyright so they cannot be reproduced or distributed by you or your agent.  You need to go to a photographer who has specifically agreed to shoot actors headshots, because they will understand that they need to give you the right to reproduce the image.  If in doubt about copyright, ask your photographer before you agree to anything.

3.  Apart from the copyright issues, you shouldn’t be using glamour shots anyway – they’re not appropriate.  Agents don’t want glamour, they want an accurate but flattering picture of the real you.  If your shot looks like it came out of a fashion magazine, then you’ve gone wrong somewhere.

If you get to your audition and look nothing like the shot your agent sent ahead, you and your agent will be in big trouble.  So keep it simple – natural-looking makeup is best, natural lighting, minimal photoshopping.  You want to look like you at your best.

4.  The days of black and white headshots are sadly over.  As far as I’m aware, this is the case in pretty much every country, but you can always check with your agent. Colour is preferred now, but get your photographer to format your favourites in both B&W and colour so you can use either.

5.  It needs to be current.  Don’t submit a shot of you with an old hairstyle or hair colour or from two years ago, just because you think it looks better.  If it’s not current then your agent can’t use it.

6.  Full-length or ¾ shots are optional – some agents use them, some don’t.  If you have a smokin’ hot body, it’s probably worth getting one.  If not, I wouldn’t bother unless your agent requested it.

7.  You don’t need character shots.  Generally I think they’re not very practical – name me an agent who has time to shuffle through folders to find that ‘nerd’ shot of you for one random audition per year. Besides, if you are a nerd type then your headshot should suggest that – that’s step 1!

If you want to get one just for fun and it’s not going to cost you anything extra, no worries.  You may find it useful for auditions that you source yourself, or for websites that allow you to display multiple photos.  But personally I think your time, money and energy would be better spent on a ¾ shot.

Overall, I find it useful to keep in mind what headshots are actually used for.

Your headshot is the ally that works for you when nobody else can.

Whether it’s by you or your agent, your headshot will be sent ahead to your audition.  Your prospective employer may look at it before, during, and/or after your audition.  Before the audition, it may be your first and only chance to convince a prospective employer to actually consider auditioning you.  But you’re not there yet, so your headshot has to convince them for you.

After the audition, your prospective employer will look at it simply as a quick visual reminder of what you looked like.  They may have seen a hundred people audition that day, so the memory of your audition may be a little foggy, even if they liked what you did.  When they’re trying to decide who to call back or who to cast, they will probably spend some time looking at a bunch of headshots.  Again, you’re not there to remind them how awesome you were in your audition.  So your headshot has to convince them again.

No matter what your type is, no matter the role, your headshot is always basically convincing people the same thing:

“I’m professional, I’m appropriate, I’m worth it.”

That means you have to ask yourself:

1.  Does my headshot look professional?  Don’t lie to yourself… if it looks amateurish, you will look like an amateur actor.

2.  Is this headshot appropriate to my type?  Does it scream, “Yes, I can play the awkward smart girl, hire me!”?

3.  Does this headshot really look like me?

I like to think good headshots look ‘striking’ rather than ‘pretty, ‘handsome’, or ‘sexy’.  If your eyes sparkle and you look incredibly alive, that’s what you want, even if you don’t look classically beautiful.  We’re actors, not models… we’re here to play real people, so we need to look like real people.  Put your ego away and your best face forward…

…and go and read part 2 of this blog post.

The #1 mistake actors make in auditions

43Recently I was asked for some feedback by someone who (unsuccessfully) auditioned for me.  It’s unusual for actors to even ask for feedback, so I was happy to take some time to write him an email. When I thought more about it, I realised his mistake was a really, really common one for a lot of new actors, so I thought I’d better share it with you here. Read More

MORE reasons why your headshots are no good

No matter how often I write about headshots, the same issue seems to come up again and again… glam shots. They’re no good, people! How many times do I have to tell you?

(It’s usually girls who are the culprits, but guys… you can learn something here too.)

Those fancy, professional-looking shoots, where you pretend you’re a model and you put on lots of makeup and pout at the camera… they suck. They’re no use to you.

Sure, they’re fun to do. They make you feel sexy and they get lots of likes on Facebook. Awesome. But as an actor, 99% of the time, they don’t represent YOU, the real you… so they’re pretty much worthless. Worse than worthless, they look pretty silly actually. Read More

Why you need to be a multi-skilled actor

During my first year of uni, we were lucky enough to be visited by a prominent Melbourne director. During our Q&A time with him, someone asked what actors could do to get ahead of the crowd. He answered, “Speak several languages, and take up horse-riding and fencing.” I think a few of my classmates thought this was a bit of a simplistic answer, but I appreciated his honesty. In a way, it’s reassuring to think that casting is just a numbers game – that if you have enough tools in your tool belt, eventually someone is going to hire you because you, unlike many others, have access to a specific combination of tools.

In reality, I’m not sure it’s that simple – there are certainly a number of other factors at play in every casting Read More

3 steps to picking the perfect audition monologue (and 4 common mistakes to avoid)

While I’m on a roll with the audition prep stuff, I may as well talk a little about choosing a monologue It may sound like the easiest part of your prep, but it’s actually incredibly easy to get wrong – and getting it wrong makes a huge difference to your chances of being cast.

Let’s say you’re auditioning for a production of Hamlet.  You’ve heard it on the grapevine that they’ve cast all the roles except for Ophelia, so you deduce you will either get cast as Ophelia or you won’t get a part at all.  They’ve asked you to prepare one Shakespearean monologue.  For your recent drama school audition, you performed Hermione from The Winter’s Tale, and the teachers worked with you on it, so you feel like you’ve got a good understanding of the monologue and the way it should be performed – and it’s Shakespeare, which is what they asked for.  You go to the audition, you do a good job of your performing your monologue, they work with you on a few things, and you walk away feeling like a winner… then you hear nothing back from them, and eventually you realise someone else has been cast.  What happened?

There are a lot of elements at play here, Read More

5 TIPS THAT WILL GUARANTEE YOU AN AUDITION

If you’re a freelance actor, you’re probably carefully monitoring Facebook pages and audition sites for audition notices. (You are doing that, right?? If not, you need to check out my post about how to use social media to get auditions.) You probably spend less time thinking about how you write an Audition Request Email – but did you know a terrible introductory email can work against you? If there are limited audition slots and your email is informal, rude or lazy, you might not even get offered an audition time. You could be ruining your chances before you even get out the door, just through lazy writing! So what can you do to strike the right tone and guarantee your chances of an audition? Read More

HOW TO GET THE PERFECT HEADSHOTS (PART 2)

3In my first post, I gave you the most important things you need to know about headshots before you go for your shoot. If you haven’t checked that out, you may want to check that out here. Now that we’ve covered the essentials (that everybody seems to get wrong), here is some practical insight into what the shoot will be like, how much it will cost, and what you can expect to get out of it. I also have some tips for DIY headshots for you as well.

Finding a photographer

A professional headshot is an important investment and doesn’t have to be super expensive, but sometimes finding a photographer can be tricky.  Photography studios don’t always advertise whether or not they do actors’ headshots, and independent photographers who often do headshots may not have an online presence where they advertise what they offer. It’s worth doing your own research before you choose someone, and it’s definitely worth reading up on what makes a good headshot before you go to your shoot.

It’s best to work with people who have done headshots for actors before because they’ll know what works and what’s expected, plus they’ll give you the rights to the material so you can reproduce the photos as needed.  As I explained previously, you can’t use glamour shots from companies where you are expected to buy prints directly from their company; those companies have strict copyright on their shots and you will not be able to reproduce or distribute them as needed.  Invest a little bit of time asking around and looking at websites before you decide on a photographer.  It’s also a good idea to check out the headshots of professional actors (have a look on imdb.com for the real pros) to get an idea of what makes a good headshot, what’s popular and acceptable and what you would like yours to look like (poses, colours, clothes, hair and makeup, etc).  There are trends in headshots as much as anything else, so it’s a good idea to be aware of what’s ‘fashionable’, Read More