5 Headshot Faux Pas Casting Directors Hate

Natural looking headshots that show us what our actor really looks like.

Natural looking headshots that show us what our actor really looks like.

1.     You don’t look like your headshot.

Are you thinking about getting a makeover for headshot day? Think again! Casting directors need to know what you really look like.

Put yourself in the shoes of the casting director. You’re trying to fill a very specific role and you probably already have an idea in your head of what physical “type” will fit that role. You spend hours going through thousands of headshots until you’ve finally narrowed it down and called some people in to audition. On the day of the audition one of your picks shows up looking nothing like their picture. Now you are not only disappointed, but angry that this person is wasting your time.

You shouldn’t be “dolled up” in your headshots the way you would be for a glamour photoshoot. Whether you do your own makeup or have a makeup artist, you want to go for a natural look. If your hair is straight, then keep it that way. Make sure you look your age. Don’t try to appear younger or older for the sake of getting a part. Obviously, you want to look good for your headshots, but looking good means looking like yourself on a good day, not looking like you’re doing your best Charlize Theron impression. The casting director wants to know if you fit the “type” for the role, making yourself up to look like someone you’re not isn’t doing you or the casting director any favors.

Two headshots, two “looks.” Just make sure your vibe fits the “looks” you choose.

Two headshots, two “looks.” Just make sure your vibe fits the “looks” you choose.

2.     Your headshot says sexy vixen, but your energy says cute girl next door.

Being an actor is a business, and in this business, you are the brand. It is important to understand how you want to represent yourself. Take some time to sit down and ask yourself what kinds of roles you want to play. Be honest with yourself when you do this. Maybe you want to be the leading lady in sexy romance thrillers, but do you have the right look? This isn’t about deciding whether you’re attractive enough. There are countless beautiful actors in the world who just don’t fit this role. The more willing you are to honestly assess your type, the more likely you will be to get steady work. If you’re not an obvious vixen, then don’t present yourself that way.

Figure out what the roles are that you not only enjoy playing, but that fit your energy and personality. Now tailor your headshot “looks” to these roles. Maybe you’re more sexy nerd than vixen. Once you’ve decided on the character types you’re best for, you will have a clear idea of how you want to be represented in your headshots.

Professional headshots show you take your career seriously.

Professional headshots show you take your career seriously.

3.     Your headshots look unprofessional.

Maybe you have a “photographer” friend who says they can do your headshots for free or you think your selfie skills are pretty on point. Again, acting is a business, and just like any other business, you will not only look cheap, but devalue yourself if you aren’t willing to invest in your brand. Unprofessional, poorly quality headshots tell casting directors that you don’t take yourself or your brand seriously, so why should they?

You want to spark the casting director’s interest, not because they are horrified you would submit selfies as headshots, but because your headshots are top notch and clearly represent who you are and what you have to offer.

The image on the left is overly retouched. The face loses definition and looks plastic. The image on the right makes our actor look naturally beautiful.

The image on the left is overly retouched. The face loses definition and looks plastic. The image on the right makes our actor look naturally beautiful.

4.     Your headshots have been retouched beyond all recognition.

While it’s a good idea to have your photographer perform some basic retouching on your headshots (think basic blemish removal and some color and contrast adjustments to make you pop), you don’t want to submit a headshot that is obviously or badly retouched. Casting directors can and will spot overly retouched images. This will get you instantly rejected no matter how great you might be for the part.

This harkens back to our first faux pas: you don’t want to look like a different person in your headshots. Retouching, when done right, can subtly remove imperfections, while maintaining skin texture, so that you don’t wind up looking like a mannequin. If your photographer doesn’t know a ton about retouching or you can’t afford a professional retoucher, just remember less is more! Ask your photographer to keep the retouching bare bones and let your natural beauty shine through.

These headshots have nicely blurred backgrounds that keep the focus on the actor’s face.

These headshots have nicely blurred backgrounds that keep the focus on the actor’s face.

5.     Your clothing and/or background choice is distracting.

The background and clothing in a headshot should not be the focal point of the image. You and your face are what casting directors want to see. The rest should serve to flatter you and subtly achieve the look you want.

For indoor shots a soft gray or white background serves as a nice compliment and contrast to you, allowing you to pop off of the background, while also ensuring that you and your lovely face are what the eye is drawn to in the shot.

In outdoor shots, the background should be completely blurred out so that nothing going on behind you pops out. The photographer also needs to be careful not to photograph you in front of anything too colorful or busy, as this will pull attention away from you and place it on the background.

Likewise, you want to keep your clothing simple. Try to steer clear of distracting patterns or overly stylized clothing. Stick with solid colors or simple patterns that compliment your skin and eye color.

Natalie Arriola