Headshot Tips from a Casting Director

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to sit down with one of Austin’s top commercial casting directors – Donise Hardy from A Casting Place. She gave me some great tips for actors getting new headshots.

If you’re not getting work, it could be you have a bad headshot.

In Austin, casting directors want to see a smiley photo showing teeth. The photo should be a clean, full-frontal view of your face and shoulders.
smiling actor commercial headshot

– Pastels and jewel tones are great color choices.
– Choose photos where the camera is at normal eye level (normal viewing perspective).
– Eyes should be right down the barrel of the camera with a fun, warm and happy expression.

– No makeup if subject is under 16 years old.
– No big jewelry. The picture is about your face, not your awesome necklace.
– No patterns, logos or glitter on clothing.
– Avoid all black or red
– No 3/4 shots

Headshot Prints:
– Your name should be located in the lower right hand corner of the picture. Casting directors will put headshots in a binder and will look for the name in the right bottom corner when flipping through the book.
– Have your headshot set up with a white border. Casting directors or producers will often write notes in the white margins of the headshot.
– If you have agency representation, the agency logo should be on the left side of your headshot prints, opposite the name.

One last tip regarding auditions:
– For TV commercial auditions, dress the part. Be “IT” when you walk in the door.

Getting the most out of your headshot

Great quote about the primary goals for any actor’s headshot:

Your goal with your headshot is to:

Provide agents with what they need to help you get work. A good head shot can get you a good agent who can help you get into more auditions and increase your chance of being cast in roles you are seeking.

Provide casting directors with your details so that they can determine whether or not you are suitable for a role. After an audition the director will likely have taken notes and put that with your headshot to help trigger memories of your audition so they can decide whether or not to do a call back.

Keep your headshot updated so your agent and casting directors can match you with roles that fit your current look.
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Agent’s Eye: Headshot advice

Great video content from Virtual Channel Network from Robin Harrington of Lemon Lime Talent Agency. Advice for actors on headshots, waiting room etiquette, booking out & more!

Right at the start of this video Robin answers the question “what makes a great commercial headshot?” The quick answer is “a clear, clean and colorful tight shot.”

Check out the whole video here http://www.virtualchannelnetwork.com/channels/rep_central/ep135.cfm

Questions to ask your headshot photographer

When searching for a headshot photographer, it’s important to chat with a prospective photographer and get specifics about the service they provide – how long a session lasts, what to wear, etc. This “interview” can be a simple phone call or email.


But what are the important questions to ask?

Check out the Actingbiz.com website for this great set of tips for actors: 11 sets of Questions to ask your Headshot Photographer BEFORE the Shoot!

I would add these questions as well:

“How long have you been in business?”
“What styles of clothing should I bring?”

Also, be sure to ask questions at the shoot if you have any confusion about packages or any part of the photoshoot process.

Answers to all these questions will help you find the right photographer and prepare for your headshot session.

Get your headshot right

Here is a great article on getting great headshots for your business by Dedham, MA portrait photographer Gretje Ferguson.

A good headshot is a business essential. It gives you a leg up when it comes to publicity, a professional web presence, or a potential speaking contract. A strong business portrait personalizes your business. People see who you are and are more likely to want to work with you.
In contrast, an unflattering, badly posed or technically inferior headshot can work against you. The subconscious questions that may come up are: Does this person take herself seriously? Is she a consummate professional? Will she give my account the attention it deserves?

Your headshot is part of your brand. Be sure it is sending a message compatible with your professionalism.

Solid advice.

New Year, New Studio, New Looks

While I still don’t have a hover-car or even a jet-pack, 2010 is off to a great start. I moved into a new studio in December and after a month or so of dealing with moving and unpacking, things are finally starting to get organized.

The new space is working out great for headshot sessions – allowing for a little more experimentation. I wanted to share a few new actor headshots this week to show-off the looks I’m getting at the new studio.

actor headshot - aisa
actor headshot - aisa
actor headshot - morgan

actor headshot - morgan
actor headshot - ali
actor headshot - sara

I’ll follow-up next week with a few fresh new business looks I’ll be trying out for corporate executives and social media folks.

Top 5 Headshot Tips

Here’s a quick list of tips to make your headshot photo session a success.

  1. Get Some Rest
    Getting a good nights sleep before your headshot session will help keep your eyes looking bright and can help avoid dark circles under your eyes.
  2. Keep clothing simple
    Avoid busy patterns in shirts/ties/blouses. You don’t want your clothing to distract from your face.
  3. Bring clothing options
    Always bring an extra outfit or two to your session. Different necklines can affect the shape of your face, so having a few different choices (shirt with a collar, crew neck, v-neck, scoop neck, etc.) can be very helpful.
  4. Share your intentions
    Let your photographer know what kind of look you want. Bring examples or reference images from the photographers portfolio.
  5. Actors – think about “characters” you might portray
    Are you the good guy/girl, the popular guy/girl, the bad guy/girl,
    the professional guy/girl? Where is this character from? What is his/her disposition? What is his/her financial background (blue collar/white collar/middle)? These questions will help you decide what kind of wardrobe to bring.

Check out my headshot tips page for more helpful information.

Gravatar anyone?

What the heck is a Gravatar and why do I need one?

According to gravatar.com it’s a “globally recognized avatar.” A way to be recognized across multiple websites when you post on blogs and forums.
It’s a free service and your gravatar automatically shows up on enabled websites when you post messages – based on your email address.

Why use this service? Simple – so you can be easily recognized. Human beings are wired to recognize and remember faces, so people will typically remember your avatar/face before they remember your name.

Using the same avatar everywhere is crucial for personal branding consistency, so a service like Gravatar makes a lot of sense.

Here’s my Gravatar:


Here’s a great headshot from last week.

I photographed Amber’s first acting headshots about a year and a half ago and she has since grown out her hair and signed with Agence Talent. She stopped in to update her headshots with a few new looks.

Actors – remember to keep your headshots current with your appearance. If you significantly change your hair or overall look, get new pictures made so casting directors will recognize and remember you.

Amber G.