Step into a Casting Director’s shoes, and this is the standard that must be met, or you’re lost in the shuffle and passed over.
Here is an example how they first encounter your headshot online, as a small thumbnail.
Amidst hundreds of shots they’re flipping through, your headshot must pop off the page. It needs to catch their attention, convey your essential qualities effectively within seconds, and then look just as good, even better, when they click on it and view it full size.
This is not a simple task technically or artistically, and many photographers are simply unable to meet this criteria, regardless of apparent skill or experience.
Casting Director’s have a tremendously challenging gig. They must answer to Director’s and Producer’s, and they act as gateway guardians to the room you really want to get into, the final callback room, sometimes referred to as “going to Producers.” Every single time they get a script or project to cast, they are responsible for bringing their personal strongest choices to the people who actually make the final casting decisions, the folks producing the show.
Therein lies the problem. To find actors capable of not only bringing life and passion to the roles being cast, but those who are professional, personable, easy to work with, reliably excellent in every way. And yes, that’s a tough challenge to find, every single time. It’s stressful, and demanding, and Casting Director’s jobs and reputations are ultimately on the line.
Your headshot is your frontline tool to convey all of those qualities. Every single role generates somewhere from 1200 to 1500 submissions from agents and managers. So you need an image that stands out, for a specific role. Your key to getting hired is to help make a Casting Director’s job easier, by solving their problem, and answering their question: where can I find the person who will play this role?
That’s why shooting multiple looks is essential. Yes, you can and should have one, general, all around “you” shot, one that best represents you as an artist, a human being. But currently, the business is focused on targeted shots, one’s that convey clearly a specific casting demographic.
Are you a CSI detective? An edgy perp lurking in the shadows? A Hell on Wheels edgy gunslinger or tough as nails frontier woman, capable of surviving in any circumstance? A professional, lawyer, doctor, or psychologist? Do you lean towards romantic roles, or more colorful characters? Are you a commercial “casual mom” or dad? Having shots that convey the essence of your most castable types, without resorting to out-and-out costuming, is essential.
This is not to say you need to “fit” into a box, or a generic category. Oh no, just the opposite. You need a photographer to help you convey your unique take on these characters. Your mission is to help the Casting Director clearly see you in the role they are searching to cast. You aren’t trying to show them whatever it is you imagine they want to see. Rather, who you are as the character. They must see that in your eyes. Otherwise, even the most technically competent headshot is just a pretty picture. Into the trash, “next!”
That’s what Casting Director’s are looking for in a great headshot. The solution to their problem, so they can get on to the next role. Your headshot must convey competence, character, castability, and clarity. It must make them wonder what you’re thinking, and want to see you bring the role to life. Nothing more, nothing less.