Being a professional photographer with more years of experience than I care to admit, has afforded me the privilege to photograph headshots for auditions, success and to land career in acting.
The aim of this article is to provide an understanding of what is a headshot for an audition. How to pick a style and what to avoid? Looking to be discovered? The good news is that most people are choosing the same style the vroom look and not succeeding because of this style of headshot, giving you a rare advantage if you are willing to be transparent, real and authentic with your headshot.
What do casting directors want with your headshot for an audition?
Casting directors want a headshot to fill a role in a movie or television show! Make sure your headshot looks exactly like you. Not you looking – thinner, younger, older or more muscular, it should be an exact representation of you to fill the role he or she is casting. They are busy going through thousands of 8×10’s and need to fill a role that matches the demographics described in the script.
“Casting directors or agents need to look at your headshot and know instantly your age range, where you are on the economic scale (upscale, middle class, blue-collar, etc..) and various aspects of your innate personality”, said Tob Burke an image consultant expert for backstage.
Why do you want a headshot for auditions?
Simple answer right? To land a role or be discovered!
“Consider the case of the actor, the one seeking to be picked by the casting director and “made” famous. Just about every single person who enters this field fails, because the dip is so cruel and the arithmetic of being chosen is so brutal.” – Seth Godin.
“The headshot. It’s the single most important marketing tool for an actor”, Backstage. So a headshot for auditions should be a portrait specifically designed to help you be discovered! Simply hiring any photographer to produce a headshot is careless and disrespectful toward one’s self. You are not serious if you think that anything goes when it comes to your career.
Now that we know a casting director’s criteria, you want a headshot that represents you exactly as you are and inspires a role. Avoid the two most common type of headshots; the Vroom Look and the Smile with Vacant Eyes. Instead, look for a headshot specific for casting. What makes a headshot for casting?
Headshots for Casting
A headshot for casting is a portrait of an individual that meets casting directors’ requirements and it gets you work.
Our minds are extraordinary at understanding people, so a great headshot makes a statement that manifests a deep and profound understanding of you, that goes beyond words to convey a subconscious realization of your best. A headshot that inspires the director to profoundly vision you in the role he or she is casting.
“Carlos, my agent wants me to die my her blond… I am a redhead and proud of being so… What should I do?”, I might have lost the agent as a client but couldn’t help myself… “Get a new agent…”
Susan ( not her real name ) was a redhead who wanted to be herself rather than being a redhead pretending to be a blonde. On a deeper level she was aware of the power of authenticity which is what made Oprah, Jennifer Lawrence, and all the extraordinary people share themselves with us. During the session I learned about her skills, talents, and dreams through our conversation, her agent didn’t know who she had. A few days later she added her new portrait to the actor’s workbook and landed her greatest role to date. Her previous headshot was an image of an insecure female appeasing an agent but her new headshot was a portrait for casting.
I have never written about what I like to call the Vroom look because I didn’t want to criticize my competition but will not mention the names of photographers guilty of Vrooming. ‘Vroom Look’ is a bad idea for acting headshots, ok for modeling pictures to be used on your comp card and a great picture for Calvin Klein and ego, but it will look like everyone else and it won’t reveal anything about you.
A Vroom look headshot is a picture of someone looking stunned at the camera matched by exaggerated photo retouching and heavy makeup. Producing an unrecognizable portrait of yourself which is great for the ego, Calvin Klein and not for casting. I like his abs and her makeup – great!
Vroom look photographers aren’t interested in your uniqueness, instead, they simply photograph you the same way every single time. Casting Directors will receive the lifeless Vroom headshots because it’s fashionable – today, but I argue its relevance for an actor’s headshot.
Thanks to the popularity of this style of pictures ( not headshots ) that may have started with Calvin Klein in the ’90s with a campaign of young teenagers in underwear. Actors with headshots for casting are smashing it with authentic portraits of themselves. Feel free to write me an email refuting my meandering subjectivity that critics 90% of photographers who are Vrooming.
This is the most common type of headshots by amateurs, assuming that a smile will disguise everything. Also believing smiles equates to a good picture. I won’t show a demo not to insult anyone. One should smile if inspired to do so through interaction and authenticity.
Smiley Vacant portraits are images of someone with an inauthentic smile that may or may not be professionally exposed and edited. The photographer simply instructed his or her customer to smile and completely neglected the most important piece in a professional portrait, the human being in front of the camera thus we dubbed it “Smiley Vacant”.
How do I get an agent???
Casting director David Rapaport’s casting process
“He is always open to new faces, which is precisely why he’s going to click through all 800 submissions currently waiting for him on his computer.
While he sifts through the deluge of headshots to find TV’s next big star, we look at some of his biggest casting coups.
David’s long relationship with casting CW superheroes began with Arrow and the search for the right man to wear Oliver Queen’s green hood. “They said to me, ‘We want someone that looks like a superhero and can act”
The Flash shouldn’t look like a superhero, Rapport was told. He should be relatable, someone that everyone can relate and a little goofy. He would cast Melissa Benoist for Supergirl and my own headshot customer Maxwell VanVolkingburgh who was cast in Supergirl by submitting his headshot before we photoretouched it.
Read David Rapaport full interview on Entertainment Weekly
Our son does acting and needs to get headshots made from time to time. We found The Art of Headshots online. The web-site seemed to be well setup and easy to navigate. We found the right package and scheduled a convenient appointment. The pricing was very competitive. It wasn’t until we attended the appointment that we realized the real value. The photographer was very experienced. He guided our son to show various expressions and captured some really amazing photographs. Everything about this company, from the intuitive website to the friendly editor and administrator, to the superior quality of the edited headshots has been exceptional. We will be coming back from now on.Chuck VanVolkingburgh
First Screen Test
I’ve been a fan of Jennifer ever since I saw, Winter’s Bone and wrote about it. Anybody who has read this far, please invite her for a session, a photo session as transparent as her personality
Interview with Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence had to go to a very dark place while filming her new thriller ‘Mother’. Tapping into dark emotions can be draining and sometimes affecting one emotionally like Marlon Brando who had to be psychiatrically interned during the filming of ‘Apocalypse Now’. By distracting her mind and watching reality tv. “Who knew the Kardashians could bring a person back from the depths of despair?” explained Jennifer Lawrence to host Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.
“Whenever I really want a part, I’m not sure what to do. How do I let the director know how obsessed I am and willing to do anything for the movie? Like, I wanted to write this one director a letter, so I wrote him a handwritten note. But then I was like, “How many people are writing this guy handwritten letters? Is it going to seem cheesy? What do I do? Do I sleep outside of his house until he agrees to give me the part?”… It makes me you feel super crazy. It’s like, “Please give this part! I’ll boil a rabbit!” Jennifer Lawrence.
Rare Interview – Morituri 1965
This is a gem of an interview of Marlon Brando who voiced compassion, sensitivity and realness. Some might call him an Asshole but I think he shifted away from the social graces of the times and said it the way it is… He felt for Indigenous people, African’s at a time when nobody of influence seemed to care.
His compassion, sensitivity and love for the evolution of the human race made him a rare and outstanding talent.
Jennifer Lawrence and Marlon Brando (before Apocalypse and The GodFather) both have two traits in common. Genuine, authentic and unapologetic.
To wrap up this article I suggest that if you are an Actor seeking casting and trying to be discovered through your headshot! Consider that I’d rather be an asshole who helps a stranded stranger than a politically correct individual who is too busy to help a stranger in distress.
Good luck with your headshot for auditions!
Acting is the expression of a neurotic impulse. It’s a bum’s life. Quitting acting, that’s the sign of maturity.
— Marlon Brandon