Exactly why headshots are so important! – 8X10

Written by | B-Roll

Photographer Robyn Adamson tells you exactly why you need a headshot! Also should your headshot be in color or black & white?

Everyone keeps telling me I need a headshot to be an actor. Why?  – Jason S., Detroit, MI

A headshot is like a business card. It speaks for you when you can’t. The world of entertainment is based on looks. We are possibly the only industry that can ethically and legally base hiring on the way a person looks. Clients can be very specific: red hair and blue eyes, 5’8” female in her mid 40’s, or as general as 30-40-year-old Asian male. They may also specify a small or large build.

There are some casting directors who will throw out extremely close-up shots because they don’t show the physical proportions of the actor. Because of this unique circumstance, it is imperative that every actor have a professional headshot that shows an honest representation of them as a unique individual. A headshot that is printed from a snapshot along your garage wall portrays you as unprofessional. However, a good headshot will show your client you are serious about your career, and subsequently, their production.

There are other factors to take into consideration as well. Prior to an audition, casting directors ask several agencies for actors with a certain look. Agencies collect the headshots of all the actors who fit the client’s specific physical description and send them to the casting director. Casting directors sort through hundreds, if not thousands, of headshots for any particular role and then inform the agencies which actors will be requested for the actual audition. After your audition, your headshot serves as a reminder of your performance and will serve as your introduction to the director for consideration, provided you had an outstanding preliminary audition. A good headshot is an actor’s most important tool. It “sells” you as a product to potential marketers and buyers.

When should headshots be in color and when should they be in black and white? – Kelly J., New York, NY

In the past, all headshots were expected to be in black and white. In the early days of film, color film, processing, and printing were all considerably more expensive than black and white. Those days of film were synonymous with the days of snail mail.  Agents would send out hundreds of headshots per day, sometimes for a single audition. Because of this mass quantity of printed headshots, actors used to have hundreds of headshots printed at a time, the black and white image helped keep the costs of reproductions down.  

However, that time has passed. With the new age of digital photography, images are captured in full color on a small card that is reused hundreds of times. Because these images are already in color when they are captured, they require extra effort to be turned into black and white. I’ve heard stories of photographers actually charging more to take color photos. Again, there are questionable ethics there. The use of color is now considered industry standard and some actors actually use color to help them stand out.  Actors may use vivid colors to draw attention to their headshot to try to make it stand out in a pile, or monochromatic tones to make them stand out from the image as a whole. However, NEVER intentionally pick loud clothing for a shoot. At best, your clothes will upstage you, drawing attention away from you and onto your harsh sense of style. Instead, try to pick colors that compliment your skin tone, hair color, and eyes.  As a rule, you will want to take at least five clothing options with you—including shirts, pants, and layers—to a two-look photoshoot. The photographer and stylist are adept at color coordinating and will pick the best clothing and background for you.

-Robyn Adamson

Robyn had a love of art and a vivid imagination as a child that led her to her careers as a photographer, actress, writer, cinematographer and director. These entwined skills culminate in an innate ability to tell a story. Over time, Robyn has acted opposite film greats such as Gary Oldman, Margot Kidder and Tess Harper. The mid 90’s brought the world of photography to Robyn as she began shooting actors’ headshots and  models’ portfolios. In 2004, Robyn became VP of Business Development for the Academy of Performing Arts, a children’s theater and performing arts school. During her tenure in this position, she helped to bring thousands of dollars in scholarships to the at-risk youth who studied at the Academy as well as vital programs to students from all over the Salt Lake Region. Robyn’s star shines brightly, and she is attached to many projects as a cinematographer as she continues her work as a photographer.


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Last modified: August 13, 2017

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