Aug 28

What Is a Headshot? (Showbiz Term of the Day)

What Is a Headshot?

I’ve had several young actors email me recently to ask, “What Is a Headshot?” While I often talk about headshots on my blog and in the emails I send to my subscribers,  I don’t exactly answer the question, “What is a Headshot?

So today I picked “headshot” to be my “Showbiz Term of the Day“.

If you are pursuing a career in acting (or in performing or some other field in showbiz), you have undoubtedly heard the topic of headshots come up. You know every actor (and performer) needs to have a headshot — a good headshot — in order to get into auditions, get into interviews with agents, or to be considered for a variety of different jobs related to the entertainment industry.

In fact, you don’t even have to be in the entertainment industry to need a headshot. Now everyone needs one for online profiles, websites, and for promotional business materials.

For those of you who are just getting started in the entertainment industry, I’d like to provide a clear  answer to the question, “What Is a Headshot?”

A Headshot can most easily be viewed as what the word says —  a photo or picture (a shot) of your head.

In reality, a headshot is much more than just a picture of your head, though — in a couple of ways:

  1. A headshot may include more of your body than just your head or face and often does include at least part of your neck, shoulders, and chest.
  2. A headshot is, more specifically, an honest representation of how a person looks, intended to be used for promotional purposes.

The most important thing about a headshot is that it needs to look just like you.  A casting director wants to see exactly what they saw in a headshot submitted to them when you walk into the room for an audition.  If they don’t recognize you from your headshot, then there is a problem!

The term headshot is still used whether the picture is an 8×10 photo or lithograph or whether it is an online picture of the person.

For a printed headshot (an 8×10 picture), it is also important that the actor’s name be printed on either the lower right or lower left of the headshot.

When an actor goes to an audition, the actor always needs to take along a headshot to give to the casting director. In this case, the term headshot is used to refer to the 8×10 photo or lithograph with the actor’s resume (also size 8×10) attached to the back of the picture.

The term “headshot” has been around for a long time. Interestingly enough the term was still used when headshots typically included much more of the body than just the head.

Three-quarter shots, showing the actor from the waist up or even more of the actor’s body, were very common in the past. These three-quarter shots still exist and are useful for modeling shots or when a better view of an actor’s body is requested/needed.

Exactly what a headshot is expected to look like changes over time according to what the industry desires or demands. How a headshot looks also may vary somewhat according to where in the country (or world) you are.

Some important ways that headshots have changed over time include:

  1. Moving from the previous industry-standard black and white photo to the current color headshot.
  2. Moving to a much closer-up version of the person, from more of a waist-up shot to more of a facial close-up.

These changes have come about due to the desire to get a better idea of an actor’s coloring and as a result of the move to online casting.

If someone is looking at a set of tiny thumbnails on a computer screen, unless it is zoomed in on the face, it is hard to get a sense of how an actor looks, the actor’s eyes, and what type that actor is. This is much different than looking at an 8×10 picture of a person, as was true prior to the move to online casting.

You can read much more on headshots in the emails I send out and on my blog, including how to dress for your headshots, how to find a good headshot photographer, and what makes a good headshot. (You may sign up in the right sidebar to get email from me if you have not already done so.)

Refer to: “Does Your Child Need Professional Headshots?” and “How Often Does Your Child Need Headshots?” on my blog for more on the topic of headshots.

To your success,

Debbie Sikkema

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