ONE: More and more actors are having their head shot done in colour. Don’t. It may have become en vogue, but it still doesn’t have the blank canvas effect that black and white shots offer you. Remember, the casting director must be able to read what they want to see on your face.
TWO: Leave the exposed flesh for the glamour models: never show cleavage, ripped abs and biceps etc on your head shot. It’s all in the name ‘Head Shot’. A simple shot of your head, from the shoulders up is just fine. No exposed skin please!
THREE: Your head shot is your sales tool as an actor. It has to look professional, but it needs to stand out. The only legitimate way to do this is to have your personality come out of the picture. The only way to do this is to HAVE a personality.
FOUR: I once set up an audition with a great looking guy, early thirties, blond hair, from his head shot, he was perfect for the role. The problem is, when he arrived, his head shot was fifteen years out of date. And no, it didn’t help him get a foot in the door, I was just mad at him for wasting my time.
FIVE: When you come to choose what clothes to wear for your head shot, choose something very simple. No patterns, no stripes, just a simple black top, t-shirt, jumper or blouse. Help the casting panel see you as the character.
SIX: Absolutely no jewellery. Remove the earrings, tongue ring, nose ring and any other types of jewellery that might be on display in the head shot.
SEVEN: To smile or not to smile? Is that the question? Don’t be an idiot. The professional photographer will take lots of shots of you: take some smiling, some not smiling and then make your own choice.
EIGHT: Do not make love to the camera. Yes, you’re trying to sell yourself, but too many actors try to make their head shots unnecessarily expressive. Please don’t. Let your head shot be a picture of you.
NINE: Your budget is essential. Remember you’re going to be using this to open doors with people you’ve never met. A crappy head shot will look crappy, they won’t be won over by your good looks. Work out what you can afford to spend, get the best head shots that you can afford from a reputable photographer that other quality actors use, and make sure that their reprint rates are affordable, because you’re going to be sending out a lot of head shots.
TEN: This shouldn’t really be last, but get a good photographer. It’s essential. They’ll know how to get your personality out in the photograph, even if you don’t.
Mark Westbrook is a professional acting coach based in Glasgow, Scotland.