What makes a great headshot?

by Joe Henson, photographer

Acting in New York City requires having a great headshot, but what exactly makes a headshot great?

A great headshot is the perfect balance of quality, individuality, and effectiveness.

A great headshot works on two levels:

  • First esthetically – it looks good to the eye, even upside down. It grabs the attention of the viewer and pulls him/her in. Agents receive thousands of headshots a month. Your headshot has to stand out from the group and grab that agent by the lapels and say, “Look at me!”
  • Secondly, it has to place the actor within a context that makes it easy for the industry professional to mentally cast you. They should be able to envision you in specific types of roles. This actor would make a great romantic lead, that one would make a great villain. The headshot should be specific enough to define elements of your “type” but not so specific that it limits you to only one note. No one headshot can represent all of the possible roles that a talented actor could play, but an effective headshot can represent qualities that give a perspective for casting that actor.

Audiences take in cues from the presence of an actor, i.e. looks, physical attributes, voice, style, and they make judgments on who that character is.  The cardinal rule of a great headshot is that it represent the “truest presence” of the actor.  Photography is a visual language that opens a wide gamut of interpretation of a subject.  The best headshot photographers stick to the truth as “ground zero” for the basis of what they do.

Joe Henson will be a panelist at Monday night’s Photographers Forum at Reproductions. Click here to learn more about the event.

If you’re interested in exploring our full list of New York acting seminars, click on the Seminars tab at the top of this page.

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