The photos featured in this shoot are headshots of three wonderful Montreal actresses from the same Concordia Theatre school cohort. In order of appearance: Burcu Emeç, Samantha Bitonti, and Leah Fong.
I was going through the photos of a recent headshot session when a huge revelation hit me:
When it comes to acting headshots, neither the actors’ nor the photographers’ opinion / style / taste matter.
Why is that? The actor’s headshot will only be successful if the casting directors, agents, and directors are compelled enough by the headshot to call the actress or actor in for a booking or audition (assuming that the role was a fit for that actor / actress in the first place).
So I might meet up with an actor, and we might create what we believe is the most beautiful headshot ever taken. Millions of people might agree, but if the casting director dismisses it after a passing glance, it’s a bad headshot. This fact makes actors’ headshots are a particular niche of photography where you can actually determine whether the photograph is successful or not.
It might not seem like a big revelation, but you must understand that there is a lot of photography education out there from “experienced headshot photographers” about styling, posing, lighting. But if that photographer isn’t in touch with what the casting directors and agents actually want to see - or perhaps more importantly, what they don’t want to see - then nothing about that shoot matters.
So what should we do? I’ve decided to contact and interview local agents and casting directors and ask them about what they want to see in headshots, what is distracting to them, and what their pet peeves are.
Now there are several potential outcomes to this. Some might have strong opinions about headshots. They could be staunch defenders of full-body “headshots”. Others might hate black and white shots, or headshots without a white border around. And others might be more indifferent and say, “Don’t sweat it too much, 99% of the headshots that I see are fine.” In any case, I think it’s important for us headshot photographers to do our research. Of course, there will be varying opinions among casting directors and agents, and also differences between the commercial and theatre worlds of acting, so while doing research, I’ll try to survey the field in an objective and representative way.
I’ll report back my findings in a few months!