Let's Talk About Headshots

Published June 3rd, 2016

Were you ten when you took your last headshot? Has your hair color changed? Sporting a new look? Well, summer is a great time to update your shot! Headshots are to performers like a suitcase is to a lawyer. You should never leave the house without them as they are your personal business card.

I don’t think you need to spend a lot of money on headshots for college auditions. After all, you are going to grow and change tremendously over the next four years – ask for the super fancy, luxury headshot session for a graduation gift before you head off to the real world! For now, find a local photographer who might be running a deal or if you have a family friend who has an exceptional camera and eye – see if they’ll snap some shots!

Primary Basic Headshot

Actors, Dancers and Musicians all need a headshot that best represents them and looks like them on their best day. All performers need one basic headshot that follows these guidelines:

  • Shot from the shoulders up
  • Fits 8x10 dimensions
  • The main focus of the image is the head

Additionally, here are some qualities that make up an excellent headshot:

  • Looks like you on your very best day
  • Your hair/makeup/clothing is similar to what you would present in an audition, so it’s easy for them to remember you
  • Your name should be on the picture. Most commonly, they are printed in the bottom right or left hand corners
  • No props
  • A simple white (or neutral) background is best
  • Pick a color to wear that people tell you that you look great in. If you don’t know, ask family and friends!
  • Study what a good headshot looks like! Check out the graduating class of your dream school and see what the students' shots look like

Here are some things to try to avoid in your shot:

  • These shouldn’t look like a “glamour shot” – do not over-do it with hair and makeup! Simple is best
  • No distracting jewelry. Simple studs are fine but other than that let your pretty face be the focus!
  • Avoid distracting backgrounds that pull focus
  • Cover up! Do not show too much skin
  • Do not use full body shots for your primary headshot

Additional Shots

If you are a dancer, you will also need to have three-quarter and full body shots. Wear body conscious clothing as auditors are looking at muscle shape, form, etc. These can be shots in which you are demonstrating a specific skill (splits, leaping, etc.) or just a simple pose.

If you are musician, you can also have some shots that showcase you with your instrument. These can be full body or waist up.

Actors typically have two shots in their back pocket – a commercial look and a more theatrical look. The “commercial” look is one with a smile that is a bit more bubbly. The “theatrical” look is exactly what you think, a bit more dramatic! Typically, I recommend a more commercial look for college auditions, but depending on what type of personality you have, it’s up to you!

Permission and Printing

Before you print off your headshots, be sure that you have signed permission from your chosen headshot photographer. This is very important! Respect a photographer’s work and gain the permission you need. Also, many headshot photographers will put a watermark on their photos to avoid printing without their knowledge, so without permission your headshot would be marked.

Be sure to print at a quality print shop. If you google “headshot printing” in your area, there are sure to be places that specialize in this. If not, print a sample at a drugstore near you and inspect the quality.

The most popular printing option for performers is based in NYC and is called Reproductions. You can check them out here for a good example of what to look for: http://reproductions.com/

Have fun and smile big!

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