Tips - Headshot Info

What is a Headshot?

In general terms, a head shot is a photographic technique where the focus of the photograph is a person's face. Headshot is essentially the same as portrait. However, headshot is an image that portrays people as they are and is more of a 'mug shot', however simple or stylized it might be. Whereas, a portrait will often 'portray' the person with elements of their life, such as their work, interest, etc.

As a form of identification, a head shot is a front-on (facing straight at the camera) photograph, with the face being the center of the picture and containing minimal or no surroundings. The facial expression is usually neutral. These head shots are usually used as a form of identification. They are used as passport photos, mug shots and on other forms of photo identification and often require the temporary removal of facial accessories such as glasses.

However, when we consider it as a term in the entertainment industry, a head shot is a market as well as a trend that goes in and out.

Throughout most of the 80s, headshots were black and white and cropped very tightly in, showing only from the shoulders up. In the 90s, there was a huge trend in getting three-quarter shots. Three-quarter shots show the actors from about the knees up.

When color became inexpensive in the late 90s, bright colors became very popular. Also, studio shots with lots of draping fabrics became all of the rage. About five years ago clean crisp greens and blues for the backdrops were huge. Sometimes tangerine orange colors, etc.

Currently, the trend has been horizontal shots of the performer, giving the photo a "film-like" property. The person is usually a bit to the left or the right of the print making them slightly off center. However, with today's technology, chroma-key shoots are beginning to be more popular as photographers are starting to venture more into the realms of the "digital" while keeping the core of the "traditional" photography.

I will explain more about the chroma-key technique and its advantage over the traditional studio portraits later in my dissertation.


Types of Headshots

Entertainment Industry uses three basic types of head shots:

1. Commercial headshot typically (not always) has the person smiling and projects warmth and friendliness.

2. Theatrical headshot is usually serious, focused and actors are not smiling.

3. Glamour headshot is more on the artistic side, and creates idealized images.

Actors or models and other entertainers often are required to include a head shot, along with their resume, when applying for a job. These head shots are usually more artistic, intended to portray the subject in the best possible light. They often have the subject facing off-center. A performer will often have head shots expressing different poses and expressions to give a potential employer an idea of the subject's range of appearances. The headshots that include a person's shoulders are called 'three quarter' shots.

The main purpose of an actor's head shot is identification. Headshots are intended show a person as they are (age, look, style, etc.) and reflect their best qualities. Therefore; the most important feature of an actor's headshot is that it looks like the subject.

* If an actor's hair is cut or colored, they would then need a new headshot.

** For kids, it is required that you submit a new headshot every six months, because they grow very quickly, and their facial features change and mature as well as their body.

*** If an actor's weight has fluctuated about 5 or 10 pounds that would change your posture as well as your facial features. It is always better to get a new set of head-shots other than being rejected because you do not look like the person you submitted.


Printing Aspects

Actors' headshots are normally printed in an 810" format. Other promotional images e.g. press shots and lobby prints, may be in many different aspect ratios. Also becoming popular in the industry are Comp Cards and/or Z-Cards, which is a single print consisting of several different images. My all time favorites are still the emotion-cards which used to be consisting of nine horizontal images (usually with the same outfit, and hair) portraying nine different mimics that shows the range of theatrical emotions a person can perform. Serious theatres around the world still require their actors' to submit emotion-cards, but commercial agents prefer Z-Cards which is more mainstream, and easier on the model considering not everybody is auditioning for an "Oscar Performance".

Acting headshots are often not photographic prints but will be printed via a lithographic process or the laser process, mainly because it is more cost effective. Your photographer would usually supply you with your initial package, and a DVD of files that you can upload to an online printing company, and get the best deal. However, make sure you include the copy rights of the images within your package, or pay separate if you are going for a cheaper package.


How many Headshots to Have

Before getting your headshots you should really think about your casting is and what you are aiming for. This way you can have a ton of images that communicate what you are going for.

Focus on what you are aiming to communicate in your primary headshots and your casting specific headshots. Then survey which shots are best before printing your two needed shots. Then take a look at the other shots. See which ones are really specific headshots that would be great for isolated submittals or show depth of range when put next to other shots. For anything you will submit through your agent, check with them and submit the one your agent likes so that you would have their full-support behind you.

I always make a contact sheet of the images my client picks as the best shots, and e-mail it to them as well as providing the hard copy. That makes it much easier on them when it comes to making that big decision of which headshot to use.


Modeling Industry

Modeling headshots are more like a beauty shots designed purely to be either artistic or flattering and are often used on comp cards for marketing purposes.

The 912" model prints will be photographic "wet" prints (meaning they are from a chemical process) or ink jet prints and the model will put these into their portfolio. The portfolio will not be just headshots but headshots are very important. Better models will have several identical portfolios.

Comp cards (Zed-Cards) are one of the cornerstones of a model's marketing materials. They will be about 58" and printed on both sides. Almost all of the comp cards are in color but may have black and white images. A model may have 4 to 5 images on the comp card and at least one of these images will be a headshot. Nowadays, comp cards or Zed-Cards has as many as ten photos displayed at once on both sides of a single sheet.

You can download the Headshot and Zed-Card Layouts from downloads section of this site. These layouts are for reference purposes, and if you have any suggestions, or preferences I am happy to accommodate them and prepare custom layouts for you.


Corporate and Business

Many business professionals and business' use headshots for annual reports, corporate catalogues and advertising, company publications and websites, corporate PR, press releases, online catalogue/shop/website, corporate brochures, mail order catalogues, marketing literature and advertisements, product packaging, and this list goes on.

At our studio, we are able to do commercial, and corporate shots for any purposes you would ask for. Different sizes of light-boxes as well as blue and green screens are available for use of chroma-screen and product photography.


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