Say "Cheese": The Importance of Headshots

Over here in The Theatre School, members of the graduating class are focusing on preparing themselves for the professional world. This means securing jobs and internships, preparing portfolios, and for the actors in the house, getting professional headshots.

Headshots
In many of our exit classes (those that help us prepare for the real world), we’ve had many discussions about the importance of good professional headshots. For those who need a little clarification, this is the image of your face that will be stapled to your resume and submitted at every audition, casting call, or agent meeting you have as an actor. But there is more to it than just a pretty picture, or whatever you use as your latest FB profile pic.

There are a few key qualities in a good professional actor headshot:

1. It looks like YOU. This is where we steer away from glamour shots or anything that takes us too far away from the real, everyday you. The picture should look how you look on your best day, and should look how you would appear when you walk into an audition.
2. It tells a STORY. There are plenty of great pictures one could take. You look fabulous, you’re smiling wide, the lighting is great….but what else? What are you saying in this picture? What glimmers of personality are we seeing? Where might I see you in the world I know and the world I am imagining?  It is crucial that your shot not only say “I’m cute” but also says more about you and what you bring to the table. If you are known for your fire, confidence and sass, and can play lots of characters like that – I should see a glimmer of that in your eyes and in what you chose to wear. If you play more of the shy or goofy person, then I should see a bit of that humor behind your eyes as well. It’s about telling people what you want them to know about you before they get to meet you.
3. There is versatility and variety in your shots. Different shots can be used for different things. For instance, on one hand I can play a lot of commanding roles – people who are in charge and know what’s going on, but I can also the shyer, sweeter, offset-of-ingénue type. Now, when I am auditioning for different roles, I want different photos that showcase those qualities. You only need a couple great shots when you are starting out. They should capture the couple sides of your “type”, and when you nail those down, you’ll be able to use your shots for a variety of roles, projects, and companies. Realize that styles are a bit different in each city, so knowing what you need ahead of time and planning is the best way to go.
I recently got my headshots done in preparation for showcase and I can say I am quite pleased! There are a ton of different headshot photographers in Chicago, and each one has a little bit different style, energy, and way of doing things – there is no one way! When choosing a photographer it is important to go with someone whose work you like, and who makes you feel comfortable. You will take your best shots when you feel the most yourself. Everyone prefers a different vibe, so go with your gut. It should be a helpful experience and most importantly FUN.
 
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