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Face acting, are you guilty?

Today I want to talk about ‘face acting’. This is a term I invented to describe the way some actors make their headshot all about their face.
They present the character on the surface of their face rather than find the emotions within themselves.

I’m sure we’ve all seen lots of actors’ headshots where the actors’ eyes are blank and lifeless, yet there is a huge amount of expression and animation on their faces.

Within a split second we instantly recognise that everything (the expression and animation) is at the front of the face, on the surface. We also can’t help but feel this is false –  as though this surface presentation is hiding something. Just like a thin layer of beautiful wood veneer over a chipboard core, all of the important stuff is on the surface. And, there isn’t any real substance within.

This is exactly the same in a headshot of any kind. But it is particularly evident in an actor’s headshot where we must believe the character they are portraying.

I’ve seen it happen a lot in headshot sessions over the years, but it’s also an easy fix.

We know your headshot is crucial to catching the eye of a casting director or an agent because it’s usually their first sight of you.

The Performance Mindset

It’s incredibly important to have a selection of headshots that suit your castability – whether that is the edgy, attitude fuelled outsider or as a warm friendly person – it’s better to have a headshot that looks like you ‘in character’.

No face actingTo be ‘in character’ you need to invest emotionally and ‘play the part’ however, there are many times when an actor is in front of the headshot photographer and they won’t or can’t do this.

Actors may either lack the will or the capability to engage deeply with the character’s essence, they may not be able to enter ‘the performance mindset’. Which I talk about in depth in my new course – The Actors Headshot Blueprint.

They act with their face and generate facial expressions instead of digging deep inside themselves to engage with the character profile and express real emotional content.

True emotional depth requires internal engagement with the character profile thus transcending mere facial gestures.

The Paradox of the Tough Guy

Consider an actor portraying a tough guy in their headshot. Many might default to a vacant gaze paired with a superficially tough but flat facial expression. A curl of the lip, a narrowing of the eyes or even baring teeth – what I term ‘facial acting.’ In contrast, a truly skilled actor draws from their inner emotions, presenting eyes that convey genuine menace and resolve, imbued with a potent and unequivocal intention.Obviously they use their face too but it is as part of the whole character and not the sole presentation of the character.

The Photographer’s Job And Face Acting

Part of a premium headshot photographer’s job is to see this face acting and offer the actor a solution.

As professional actors’ headshot photographers, our role extends beyond technical proficiency. Face Acting are you guilty - yes you are.
We must be adept at recognising ‘face acting’ and guiding and enabling clients to authentically express emotions.I use my Rapid Rapport™ framework.  This involves engaging with clients, offering specific directions, and suggesting scenarios that tap into emotions. Part of our remit is to make the headshot session easier and super productive.

A top-tier headshot photographer’s responsibility surpasses technical perfection. It includes relating to, coaxing and inspiring actors to elevate their headshots, ensuring they stand out from the crowd.

If your headshot doesn’t stand out from the crowd, what’s the point of using it?

The eyes reign supreme in an actor’s headshot. They must establish a connection with the viewer, exude personality, convey emotion, and be precisely focused. I talk about this in greater detail in the headshot conversation™. This is another framework I use and also a way of describing the job of your headshot. Your headshot must connect with the casting director. Face acting is a sure fire way to disconnect.

In all honesty, your headshot photographer should spot when you are face acting and show you how to avoid it.

Personality and face acting

As part of my new Awesome Headshots Blueprint™ course I include 9 technique videos showing actors how to avoid face acting and deliver real emotion and personality into their headshots.

Injecting YOUR personality into YOUR headshot is part of what helps it stand out from the crowd. It’s a large part of what makes YOU stand out from the crowd and marks YOU as unique.

An actors’ personality is what makes them unique, it’s what sets them APART from the crowd. Casting directors see hundreds if not thousands of headshots every week. Why would you risk NOT standing out from the crowd by being a face acting actor?

Give yourself the very best chance of success by avoiding face acting and injecting your real, authentic self into your next headshot.


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