Headshots 101

By Darryl Green

  • (Originally published on the web as, “But This Is My Good Side”)

    A lot of actors ask me to look at their headshots.

    Then they ask my opinion.

    Usually my answer goes something like this: “Try again.”

    Why? Because, while many actors complain that they don’t get very good results from their mailings to casting directors and agents, they seldom connect those results to their headshot. 92.6% of the time, the headshot is the problem. (I make up statistics, so you can’t trust me. But that’s my guess.)

    You must follow the Bob Fraser Headshot ROI Rule: (ROI = Rate Of Interest) People who do direct mail advertising expect at least a 4% return. If they don’t get a 4% return, they change the ad. Your headshot and resume is a direct mail promotion. If you are not getting at least a 4% rate of return on your mailings … you need a new picture.

    Keep track. If you send out 100 pictures and don’t get 4 calls – you probably need a new picture.

    Most successful actors get hundreds of headshots over the course of their career. The reason? The picture must ‘work’ — it must get you called in for an audition or a meeting. If it doesn’t get you called — then it’s not ‘working.’

    Even if you think it’s the best darn picture that’s ever been taken of you, don’t keep trying to ride a dead horse. If your headshot doesn’t ‘work’ (get you called in) … welcome to reality. You need a new headshot.

    It amazes me how many actors keep flogging the same old picture. Even though it hasn’t gotten them called in for a meeting or audition – they continue to insist that it’s a great headshot. And they send out hundreds.

    Please. Keep track. If you’re not getting called in … move on.

    Now you are probably thinking about how much this is going to cost you – this constant need of new pictures (until you get one that really really works).

    Excellent! You have begun to think about your business. And the cost of doing business. (And by the way, whining about it won’t change anything.)

    The headshot is your professional direct mail promotional tool.

    The headshot is one of the only parts of this process that you have any control over.

    The headshot is your most crucial tool.

    The headshot is the only way in the door.

    If you spend your resources on other ‘methods’ and continue to believe that your headshot is fine – you are generally wasting your resources.

    That’s a fact of life in show BUSINESS. Don’t argue.

    Well, you can argue, if you want, and try to “get by” with the picture you’ve got – essentially ignoring this most basic tool of your business – but I guarantee you a full ration of disappointment in the end result.

    I have seen people with very small talents (and so have you) who, because they DO the business part, get so much further than those who think that somehow their talent will be recognized from any old headshot.

    Is it worth it to keep getting new headshots, until you find one that works? Only you can decide that.

    Now, to cover a few more points: If you are not getting good results with your mailings, here are four hints that might make your response rate more to your liking.

    1. Don’t submit for things you are not right for.

    Don’t kid yourself. If they’re looking for a tall, lithe, athletic Argentinean flamenco dancer and you’re a corn-fed baton twirler from Iowa … don’t waste the postage.


    You must understand that the folks who work in the casting side of the business are very very very busy trying to get their jobs done to the satisfaction of the director, the producers and more often than not, some huge studio that doles out most of the work. CD’s are under pressure to deliver. If they don’t deliver, things may not be too pleasant for them on the employment front.

    Be nice to Casting directors, they have a hard job.

    The opposite of this, of course, is: You must ALWAYS submit for EVERY role you are right for. Don’t get lazy.

    2. Don’t seal your envelope.

    This is easy to remember and very important. 94.9% (another fake statistic) of casting people complain about having to open the manila envelopes — hundreds, and sometimes thousands a day. If you want to be a ‘friend’ to these people, don’t seal your envelope. Tuck the flap in and ship it. Don’t worry about your stuff falling out, that rarely happens. And even if it does happen — it is better to take a 90 cent loss than to get on the wrong side of a Casting director.

    Another good idea is to try these new “see through” mailers. I bet Casting directors love those. Easy, peasy. (You can find them online at several places – the one I’m aware of is actorTips.com – a terrific site run by Chad Garcia.)

    3. Make sure that your contact phone number is answered at all hours.

    If they cannot get in touch with you, you will not get the work. Again, CD’s are very busy and usually working under a barely possible deadline. They don’t have time to keep calling and calling in hopes of finding you. They won’t do it. Unless you’re Harrison Ford. Then they’ll keep calling and calling. Wouldn’t you?

    Good idea: Get a cell phone. Pay the bill. This is a business.

    4. (… and it should probably be first, because it is of utmost importance)

    Your headshot must look exactly like you.

    If you send a picture to a Casting director and you get called in, and you don’t look like your headshot — you automatically lose the audition. Casting directors don’t like surprises very much. If your picture looks like Matt Damon and you look like Steve Buscemi … you will find yourself in a ‘lose-lose’ situation.

    However, if your picture looks exactly like you and they call you in — well, then, YOU are exactly who they are interested in. And, now that you’re in the door, all you have to do is ‘blow them away’ with your audition.

    You know how to do that, right?

    Recommended Posts

  • Ad

  • What Defines an A-List Actor?

    What Defines an A-List Actor? Decoding A-List Status (By Tonya Tannenbaum) The term “A-List actor” is frequently used to denote the crème de la crème of the entertainment industry. But what exactly places…

    Are 90% of Actors Unemployed?

    Are 90% of Actors Unemployed? The employment realities in the acting industry (By Javier Guerra) (Photo: Sasun Bughdaryan | Unsplash) The notion that a vast majority of actors are unemployed is a pervasive…

    Do Actors Have Mental Issues?

    Do Actors Have Mental Issues? Navigating the mental challenges faced by actors (By David Murphy) The glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry often overshadow the struggles and challenges faced by its inhabitants,…

    What Defines an A-List Actor?

    What Defines an A-List Actor? Decoding A-List Status (By Tonya Tannenbaum) The term “A-List actor” is frequently used to denote the crème de la crème of the entertainment industry. But what exactly places…

    What Does Acting Do to the Brain?

    What Does Acting Do to the Brain? Exploring the Impact (By David Murphy) Acting is not merely the art of pretending; it is a complex interplay of emotions, creativity, and cognition. Beyond the…

  • Ad

  • How Tall Are Average Actors?

    How Tall Are Average Actors? Unraveling the Myth of the Average Actor’s Stature (By Daniel Murphy) In the world of Hollywood, where stars shine bright on the silver screen, there is often speculation…

    Do Actors Kiss with Tongue?

    Do Actors Kiss with Tongue? Exploring the Use of Tongue in Acting (By Ray Reese) On-screen kisses are a staple of film and television, often portraying moments of passion, romance, or tension. The…

    How Do Actors Fake Kiss?

    How Do Actors Fake Kiss? How Actors Simulate On-Screen Kisses (By Carmichael Phillips) Actors often find themselves tasked with portraying intimate moments, including kisses, on screen. While these moments appear genuine to the…

  • Ad

  • Do Actors Ever Get Stuck in Character?

    Do Actors Ever Get Stuck in Character? The Immersive Art of Acting (By Ray Reese) Acting is a realm of transformation, where performers immerse themselves in characters to bring stories to life. While…

    Is Pretending Just Acting?

    Is Pretending Just Acting? Exploring the Nuances (By Jim Webb) The realms of pretending and acting have long been intertwined, often used interchangeably in everyday language. However, delving deeper into the subtleties of…

    The Role of Talent Managers

    The Role of Talent Managers   5 Ways They Propel Actors to Success   (By Jim Webb)   Actors often find themselves navigating a complex landscape to secure roles, build their careers, and…

    Mastering the Art of Powerful Entrances

    Mastering the Art of Powerful Entrances   A Guide for Actors   (By Jim Webb)   Entering a scene with power and presence is a skill that can elevate an actor’s performance to…

    Decoding Beats and Actions

    Decoding Beats and Actions   Unveiling the Art of Acting   (By Ashley Graves)   The subtleties of performance often hinge on understanding beats and actions. These fundamental elements serve as the building…

  • Ad

  • Can Actors Have Piercings?

    Can Actors Have Piercings? Exploring the Limits (By Carmichael Phillips)   The question of whether actors can have piercings is a topic that has garnered attention and sparked debates. The entertainment industry has…

    Do Actors Really Drink Alcohol While Filming?

    Do Actors Really Drink Alcohol While Filming? The reality is far more controlled and professional. (By Carmichael Phillips) The world of filmmaking is often shrouded in mystery, and audiences are left wondering about…

    15 tips for auditioning for commercials

    15 Tips for Auditioning for Commercials A Guide to Successful Commercial Auditions   (By Javier Guerra)   Standing out during auditions is crucial for landing coveted roles. Whether you’re a seasoned actor or…

  • Ad

  • Nailing Your Audition: 10 Essential Tips for Actors

    Nailing Your Audition 10 Essential Tips for Actors (By Javier Guerra) Auditions are the gateway to an actor’s dream role, and the pressure to shine in those crucial moments can be intense. To…

    Crafting a Compelling Cover Letter for Actors: 10 Essential Tips

    Crafting a Compelling Cover Letter for Actors: 10 Essential Cover Letter Tips (By Jim Webb) Securing the right talent agent can be a pivotal step in an actor’s career. A well-crafted cover letter…

    Acting Technique: The Given Circumstances

    The Significance of Given Circumstances in Acting Building the Foundation for Authentic Performances (By Tonya Tannenbaum) In the intricate tapestry of acting, the concept of “given circumstances” serves as a fundamental thread that…

    5 Reasons Streaming Services Are Detrimental to Actors

    5 Reasons Streaming Services Are Detrimental to Actors The Dark Side of Streaming (By Carmichael Phillips) In recent years, the entertainment landscape has undergone a seismic shift with the rise of streaming services….

    5 Must-Have Audition Books for Actors

    5 Must-Have Audition Books for Actors Five great audition books that every actor should consider adding to their toolkit (By Jordan Reed) Auditioning is a crucial aspect of an actor’s career, and preparation…

  • Ad