Bad Headshots, Good Headshots IV

The following example headshots accompany "The Actors Voice" column by Bonnie Gillespie posted here:

"Bad Headshots, Good Headshots IV"


We'll start off this week with a headshot I closed with
 in the last column. This is an actor who knows how
he gets cast, and he isn't trying to be anything
 other than what works as his primary type.


All three of these headshots are what I would call "type-neutral." They're sort of like those "vanilla
auditions" wherein no one leaves feeling really connected to what they've just seen. While all three shots are
fine, that's just it. They don't go above and beyond "fine" to tell me how these actors should be cast.

Now, with both of these sets, I think we're bordering on type-neutral BUT the fact that they're commercial headshots saves them. See, while type-specific
headshots are essential for theatrical casting, the straightforward commercial headshot CAN be more type-neutral, since the focus will almost always be on
a product or service rather than on any particular actor. Note that I cropped each of these headshots just a bit, for even more "pow" in both cases.

Three more really type-neutral headshots that do amazingly well, simply because they are commercial
shots. These are very straightforward "client-friendly" shots that are ready to sell anything.


I like all of these headshots, I really do! And they all come close to nailing the "primary type" goal, but they seem just shy of REALLY
capturing the essence of these performers and their "in the room" vibe. When I see shots like these, I want to see the whole contact sheet, because I
always imagine that there is another shot (usually in sequence just before or after the one the actors chose to use) that really nails the type-vibe.


If you're having trouble "getting" the concept of an off-type/on-type headshot, here are a couple of great examples of before
and after. In the first photo, there's a hint of "snarky" behind that smirk, but it could also be a little bit of "nerdy shyness," it's hard
to tell for sure. But in the second (and third, which is just a better thumbnail cropping of the same shot), we really GET that this is all
 snark and no shyness. There's a lot more Janeane Garofalo in the second shot, and it turns out this is how this actor gets cast. Go figure!

Another great before and after set. In the first, the actor's look is clear, but her
dominant type is a little fuzzy. Is she a strong leading lady? The best friend? Does
she win the well-meaning supporting role? Or is she the bad girl whose story doesn't
reveal itself until act three? In the second shot, there's an intensity behind her eyes that
definitely sells "trouble." She's got indie film badass going on in the second shot, and
that's specific enough to really help get her into the room, where she can close the deal.


Awesome type-specific shots. The young lady on the left is obviously the teacher's pet-slash-golden child. She aces all of her
classes and has her hand raised before the teacher completes every question. And both versions of the headshot sell that (I just prefer
tighter cropping for online thumbnails, of course). The next set of shots feature a young actor who is today's Andrew McCarthy (from back in
his Pretty in Pink and Class days). He's skipping classes at boarding school but somehow never gets in trouble for it. He's that charming... the cad!

Another good set of type-specific shots. On the left, we have an actor's "detective shot." He could go in for CSI with this, as well as Law & Order
or any number of procedural shows. The next set is from a definitely quirky character actor. He's not looking to be the action hero (and his leading
man roles would hover around the Hugh Grant aw-shucks style) and that's clear from this shot. Again, I just like tighter thumbnail cropping.


(L-R): Even if you play a real estate agent type, a headshot that looks more like a photo on a realtor's business card won't do. "Wacky" doesn't
have to look forced. You can sell that you're a bikini babe type without actually getting dressed for the beach. And there is such a thing as just way
too goofy, as photos go. Bottom line: BE YOURSELF and the dominant type will come through in your headshots! You don't have to work so hard.


Excellent "sinister momma" shot.
Excellent "soap hotty" shot.
Excellent "assistant DA" shot.

Excellent "smarty pants" shot.
Excellent "character
gramps" shot.
Excellent "trailer gal" shot.


And finally, we'll wrap up with some great rule-breakers that work. There are just some shots that will be winners
 for you, even if they wouldn't work for someone else. And that's why the MOST important part of your headshot
 experience is this: Know who you are. Have fun. Connect with your photographer. Target your primary type.
 And be willing to go with the shots that will help get you WORK (not the ones that make you feel best).