Why some actors choose the wrong headshots
Why do some actors choose the wrong headshots? A couple of weeks ago a well seasoned actor – by that mean an experienced actor, they’d done plenty of stage, film and TV in their career.
They came to see me as work had started to dry up recently and they and their agent felt a new set of headshots could freshen up their image and reintroduce them to casting directors.
Sometimes before a shoot I look at an actor’s previous headshots to get a feel of how they’ve been promoting themselves, and what may or may not have been working for them in the past. It helps to give me a better picture of the actor’s situation.
When I looked at this actor’s online profile I immediately thought ‘why do some actors choose the wrong headshots?’ Every shot was taken from above looking down onto the top of their head, I couldn’t really see their eyes and in 6 out of 7 headshots they were looking away!
Some actors choose the wrong headshots
Simply because they don’t know any better, or their headshot photographer took poor photos of them and they didn’t know how to complain or ask for a reshoot. I’ve blogged about this scenario several times and you can read more here headshot complaints here.
Knowledge is Key
Some actors choose the wrong headshots because they don’t know what a good headshot is, especially at the start of their career. At many drama schools and acting courses modules on headshots simply aren’t taught. I go to several universities and give my ‘Headshots 101’ talk for free. I feel bad when a good actor doesn’t get any work simply because they have a bad headshot.
However in this case the actor had a well-known agent, had lots of experience but they obviously saw themselves in a different way to me – I saw them as a completely different character. There’s nothing to say I am right, an agent may want to pitch their talent in a specific way – who am I to disagree with them? It seemed clear to me that this actor wasn’t the same person as their headshot portrayed.And the number one complaint from casting directors? When an actors doesn’t look like tehir headshot!
As a side note, there is a specific condition known a body dismorphic disorder (BDD) and possibly this actor may have this condition, but probably not. It’s a mental problem where people think they look different to how they really look. People are usually said to have BDD if they are extremely critical of their body, even though there may be nothing noticeably wrong with it. Read more here.
As an actor they imagine themselves playing characters they’d like to play rather than rather than accepting what they are likely to be cast as. I understand this issue of misunderstanding your castability and using headshots that don’t suit you and restrict the roles you will get. Read more here
The Selfie Conundrum
There is a bigger issue than misunderstanding your castability, it’s recognising that you normally see yourself in the reverse. That is, when you look in the mirror you see a reverse view of your face, others including the headshot photograph see you straight on. This can lead to viewing yourself in a different way. Researchers at University of New South Wales (UNSW) have done some investigation into this very topic and it helps to explain why some actors choose the wrong headshots.
Here is an excerpt from the article.
“However, although we live with our own face day-to-day, it appears that knowledge of one’s own appearance comes at a cost. Existing memory representations interfere with our ability to choose images that are good representations or faithfully depict our current appearance.” Read more here
Many actors have set ideas on their castability and the roles the can play. It takes a brave person to take a step back and be honest with themselves, to ask friends, family and others in the industry with knowledge and experience to give an honest appraisal of their looks. Sometimes the answers can be tough, even unpleasant. The upside to this kind of exercise is it can lead your career in a new, more exciting, more fulfilling direction.
By understanding the psychology of why some actors choose the wrong headshots, actors can shoot headshots that suit their castability and will have a much better chance or getting in front of a casting director and showing them what they can do!
Please leave any thoughts or comments below.