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 6 Headshot Disasters To Avoid

Ok, let’s be honest headshot disasters are pretty common – more so than you’d think. I’m a headshot photographer and I talk to casting directors on a regular basis, and in that time I’ve heard about several headshot disasters that occur over and over again! In this article, I’m going to explain 6 headshot disasters to avoid and how doing so will improve your opportunities for more auditions and more work.

I thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the most common headshot disasters here.

  1. – Headshot Disaster no.1 – Your headshot doesn’t look like younickgregan headshots
  2. – Headshot Disaster no.2 – Your headshot is a bank and bland
  3. – Headshot Disaster no.3 – Face acting / overacting
  4. – Headshot Disaster no.4 – Distractions – background, jewellery, clothing
  5. – Headshot Disaster no.5 – Too much comedy
  6. – Headshot Disaster no.6 – Too much sexuality


And as you read these disasters ask yourself these questions about your headshot;

  •  Does my headshot look like me as I am now?
  •  What’s the message my headshot is sending?
  •  Could it be better, what can I improve?
  • Is your headshot dated, are your clothes, hairstyle and style of photography old-fashioned?
  • Am I connecting with the viewer, are my eyes alive?

Headshot Disaster no.1 – Your headshot doesn’t look like you!

I’ve heard this time and time again,  the number one complaint from casting directors is; when an actor walks into the audition room they don’t look like the headshot they submitted. Wow! Can you imagine that? What a waste of time, both your time and more importantly the time of the casting director and their team! A big no-no!

Why do actors do it? Well, there can be many reasons from laziness in updating their headshot, to not being aware of how they look now. And, a real or more likely, imaginary concert about the way they look. I don’t look 30 anymore… and the resulting fear they’ll be no more opportunities anymore. What a load of rubbish, there are acting roles for every age!

As a headshot photographer for almost 30 years, I’ve dealt with just about every possible insecurity known to men or women when shooting headshots. I’ve had men whose hair is thinning on top ask me to fill it in and give them a lush head of hair. Men and women who wanted to look younger, less haggard or less tired. I’ve had requests to remove double chins, wrinkles, bags, and scars, you name it and an actor has usually asked to have me ‘Photoshop it’.

It’s not fare

^ Headshot Disasters to Avoid

False Hair

The wear and tear of everyday life has an effect on the body, late work nights, too many parties, excessive drinking and smoking all leave their marks on our faces – it’s who we are. We should be happy about the way we look, it reflects the lives we have lived. It’s all part of our very own characters and therefore our castability.

One of my jobs as a headshot photographer is to advise my clients on how to achieve a successful headshot, sometimes that advice can be tough to hear. But it’s tough love – I want you to score more auditions and book more work. However, knowing who you are and accepting your look is key to a successful headshot and can sometimes be tough to accept. But when you do it opens new doors and opportunities. You should embrace who you are.

Understanding who you are as an actor and accepting the roles you are suitable to play based on the way you look is a big step forward. Shooting headshots to suit those characters and those roles will ensure you are pitching yourself at the right type of roles. It’s also helping you to avoid some of the more common headshot disasters.

Therefore roles you are more like to be asked to audition for.

Make sure you avoid the wrath of a casting director by submitting a headshot that looks like you do, not your younger sister or brother.


Headshot Disaster no.2 – Your headshot is bank and bland!

In today’s casting world where so much is done by digital submissions, it’s imperative that your headshot suits the role that is being cast. It works best if it sits perfectly with how the casting director also sees the part they are casting.

I see so many profile headshots that look flat, boring and lifeless and, the worst thing about it is, that most actors aren’t aware their headshots look like this.

So how do you avoid it?

First things first have a range of headshots that deliver various characters, it could be a cute girl next door or an edgy biker chic.

Your headshot must have a connection with the viewer, emotion in your eyes and should be showing your true personality. It sounds easy, and it is when you know how.

Headshot Techniques to Avoid Disasters

^ Headshot Disasters to Avoid

Blank and bland

One of the techniques I use to great effect when shooting actors’ headshots is assuming the role of a director. By that I mean, I give my clients a ‘scene’ with a character breakdown and they’ll act out the scene. On other occasions I’ll play one role and my client the other, we’ll bounce off each other and sometimes we might improvise. It produces great results, it delivers animation, emotion, personality and connection. As actors this is your bread and butter, it’s what you’ve been trained to do and more importantly, it’s what you thrive on – it’s performing!

It sounds so easy, to perform for the camera but for most actors’ this is an incredibly difficult thing to do. As soon as the headshot photographer raises his camera the majority of actors retreat into themselves and begin to listen to the little red devil on their shoulders called insecurity,  they begin to worry about their perceived faults in the way they look. The size of their nose, their hairline, their teeth, the size of their ears and often the double chin they think they have. And on and on.


All of these often imagined failings are simply that – imagined. The objective viewer never sees them, they see the face of an actor. What the casting director does see though, is the effects those thoughts have on the headshot. They see the uncertainty and occasional fear in their eyes. Or they see a blankness and a lack of emotion or personality and a disconnect between them and the viewer. How do you expect to impress a viewer if you can’t connect with them?

Why on earth would a casting director stop at your headshot and try to see past the blank, boring lifeless photo? They simply don’t have time especially when there are numerous other actors just like you with awesome headshots! Casting directors have seen the 6 headshot disasters to avoid on many occasions and spot them right away.

They don’t take notice of you and therefore another opportunity is wasted, a role you may well have been perfect for. And you never got the chance to show them at the audition because your headshot was blank and bland!

Obviously, there are more headshot disasters to avoid and I’ll cover numbers 3 & 4 in the next post, coming soon!


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