Obtain An Actor Headshot

It is essential for every actor to have a headshot-a true picture of themself. Here are a few tips on taking a good headshot.

An 8x10 black and white headshot is a must have for all those who are actors or hope to become actors. A headshot is a photograph taken from the top of the shoulders up and has truly captured your look. One of the biggest pet peeves of casting directors is when an actor has a headshot that has been gussied up and looks nothing like the actor in person or on camera. Why black and white? It's simple, it's basic, and it looks professional. All actors should include a resume with their headshot, some even do it on the very backside, listing their statistics of eye color, hair color, weight, height, etc. along with their listed acting experience.

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So what is the secret to a good headshot? Before you even get into the photography studio there are a few pointers to remember:

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Since the photo will be in black and white it is probably not a good idea to wear black or white clothing as it may be too bold. Colors such as blue, red, or green show up rather evenly on the black and white matte. Solid colors are much easier on the eye than stripes or prints.

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Extreme make-up is not necessary, however if you do choose to wear make-up, a light foundation evenly covering the face may make you look nicer. Don't coat your face with it. If you are blessed with lots of freckles, don't cover them up. Directors know the miracles of make-up and if you are cast and the freckles have to go they will take necessary steps. On the other hand, your freckles may give you just the character they are looking for.

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If you normally wear your hair straight, don't curl it up, and vice versa if you have naturally curly hair-don't straighten it flat.

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Smile. It doesn't have to be cheesy, it doesn't have to be angry, it just has to be you. A nice glimpse of your teeth also show the casting director what you've got in there. If you've got braces, crooked teeth, a big gap in the middle, smile anyway. Don't hide anything.

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Don't be a fashion model. Avoid flipping the hair, leaning your chin on your arm, or any other kind of prop. The directors want to see a straight head shot, they don't want to see you being cute or knock dead gorgeous, they want to see you.

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Never use soft focus or special lighting techniques. The basic key, fill and back lights of the studio should be all you need.

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Be sure you are using a simple, non-distracting backdrop. White or black are not recommended, however some professionals can make it look nice. Most common are off-white, gray, light blue or any color that comes through with a gentle gray tone. If you are taking the photographs outside, again be sure there is nothing distracting to the eye in the background. A headshot's background will probably be mostly out of focus anyway.

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So where can you get a headshot taken?

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Many talent agencies have contracts with photographers and can direct you right to their studio. But if that is the course you choose be prepared to spend at least a couple hundred dollars. Headshots are a necessity for every actor. Photographers know that. They will charge you as much as they can get away with. And then on top of that you have to duplicate the finished product a few hundred times, especially if you are auditioning several times a week. When an actor auditions, he hands over the headshot to the casting director, and he never gets it back. It is always a good idea to have lots of copies, more copies than you think you'll need is enough.

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Not everyone has to pay big bucks for good shots though. Here are some suggestions for obtaining a decent headshot taking the cheaper route:

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Check around your area for photography or film schools. Many times these students are in need of models, desperate need of models and are begging their roommate or neighbor to come pose for them. Most often you can get an entire portfolio for literally free in exchange for your modeling services.

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Go through the yellow pages, calling each and every photographer and ask them what their rates are. It is worth it to find someone who charges less than the others.

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When it comes to duplicating, today's copy centers have saved us lots when it comes to headshots. There is absolutely nothing wrong, or even less professional looking to a director when they see a digitally copied black and white photo rather than an actual photograph. Be careful not to reproduce your photos without the photographer's permission, however, because you will infringe on the photographer's copyright if you do so.

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If you really don't have the money, and have a friend or family member who can point a camera, focus and shoot, give it a try. You never know, they may turn out great. Get them developed, choose the best one, enlarge it and then take it down to the copy center. In all you will have saved a great amount.

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One word of caution however, it is always a good idea to get a second, third or even fourth opinion from those in the business before selecting your personal headshot. You may think that you look beautiful in that one shot, but others may shake their head and say it looks nothing like you. The best judge would be your talent agency. Once you get proof sheets or a roll of film developed, it would be extremely wise to take them in and have your agent select for you or at least choose a couple that appeal to them.

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Remember, the actor's headshot sells the actor. You need a good and true photograph of yourself. Many agencies have what they call a "headbook" which includes all the headshots of all of the actors in their agency. As casting directors come through town, many times they will request a copy of the headbook before they ever hold an audition. They browse through the headbook choosing the actors simply by their headshot alone. Then those who have been selected are called in for the audition. Other times, particularly for extra or featured roles, actors are selected for a role straight from the headbook. Casting directors want what they see and in this business, your look is everything. So be sure to sell yourself true and honest. You never know what look they are after. You may just have it.

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