A headshot is an essential marketing tool for actors. It is an 8 x 10 photograph, used to help secure acting work, representation or auditions. Actors, or their representatives, submit these photographs to casting directors, agents and other industry professionals in the hopes that opportunities will arise for the actor.
Beginning actors may want to stick with traditional headshots—headshots that are simple, black-and-white, and friendly. However, advanced actors may want to use a headshot that more closely follows their career path.
There are several forms of headshots that break away from the basic, traditional headshot. Among these headshots are the commercial headshot, the theatrical headshot and the composite.
A composite is a collection of photographs or images that are collectively placed on a single 8×10 sheet. A composite allows the actor to display different looks and facial expressions. For example, in one image, the actor may be professional, depicting a lawyer or business person. And, in another image, the actor may look like a family man, dressing in a simple shirt and jeans.
This collection of different appearances shows the actor’s range and ability. It demonstrates how successfully the actor can pull off different looks or character depictions. This expands the actors work opportunities.
A commercial headshot is a headshot that actors specifically use to get acting jobs in television commercials. As such, commercial headshots depict an actor in the same manner as actors usually appear in commercials. In a typical commercial, actors are usually smiling and happy, bubbling over with joy as they attempt to sell an advertiser’s product. An actor who regularly performs in commercials must be able to be warm, friendly, inviting, interesting, funny and cheerful. Therefore, a commercial headshot must be all those things, too.
In many cases, a composite may be used as a commercial headshot. That’s because, as mentioned above, a composite allows the actor to display many different looks. This allows the actor to have more potential opportunities. For instance, on the actor’s composite card, he might have a sporty, athletic look and a business professional look. These images may help him land a commercial for Nike and a commercial for Men’s Warehouse, all done by using the different looks on a single composite card.
A theatrical headshot is a headshot that actors use to obtain acting jobs in theatre or theatrical productions. The difference between a theatrical headshot and, say, a commercial headshot is the focus. Whereas a standard headshot may depict the actor as a regular person, warm and friendly, a theatrical headshot may zero-in on a specific quality or character that the actor is good at portraying. For example, an actor may be great at portraying the shy, quiet type. So, the actor may get a theatrical headshot that portrays the actor looking shy and quiet. The actor is able to use the headshot to go after theatrical roles that require an actor who can portray a shy, quiet, introverted person.
Actors should always consult their talent agents before they spend any money getting headshots. But most importantly, actors should review their career goals to determine which kind of headshot and marketing program will work best for them.