A good headshot should do two things and serve one purpose. It should (1) give people an accurate shot of your fantastic head in professional lighting, and (2) give people a pill-sized version of you that accurately represents who you are, where you’re at, and the energy that you emanate. This should work for you (not against you) in serving the purpose of: getting you considered for the right projects that play to your strengths. So, the big question is when: when the hell do you get new ones? Like any business, sometimes you have to spend some money to make some money. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of making the pursuit of getting a paid acting gig more expensive than it already is. So before you jump in and fork out for another financial investment, think very careful about why you are getting new headshots. Just so you know, there are ways around this, and compromises that can be made, that won’t hurt your career and will keep everyone happy.
The two biggest reasons that you should get new headshots as an actor are:
- Your agent has requested new headshots.
- Your appearance has substantially changed since your last headshots.
Disclaimer: A good headshot shouldn’t stress you out, cost you a shit tonne of money or, make you feel anything less than confident
Ok, so reason number one…
Your Agent Has Requested New Headshots
Your agent is a really good person to follow advice with on this stuff, especially if they know you incredibly well, what you’re about, your skill set and trajectory this far in your career. Friends are amazing, but they will generally want you to feel good about yourself and will usually say ‘yeah mate, you look great in your headshots’. And of course you do! But just looking great in your headshot isn’t necessarily the point of the exercise.
Your agent knows better than anyone in the world whether: (1) your headshot is working for or against you, (2) it’s giving an accurate snapshot of who you are right now, and (3) if updating them right now might be a good move. Also they know whether it’s worth stressing about your headshot at this very minute in your career. They deal with headshots all day, every day and look at them purely with a professional and strategic eye with your employment prospects in mind. Particularly if a casting team hasn’t met you before or seen your work, your headshot can help you be at the very least considered for a role.
Let’s say your agent feels that it’s not that you look physically different to your headshot, but the vibe of the shot is working against you being considered for a lot of roles you could be auditioning for. That’s a very strong case to make, and it’s keeping your employment prospects in mind. If you’ve got the funds, you feel the argument is clear and justified then go for it.
Now we can all agree headshots are important, but they’re also expensive. So before you jump in and fork out another financial investment in your career we’d like you to ponder two things……
1. Can You Afford New Headshots Right Now?
Let’s say your agent has asked you to get new headshots, but you don’t have the funds for new ones right now. Which is the reality for the majority of actors who are just starting out, graduating, and/or moving to a new city.
You’re the most skint you’ve ever been: you’ve just forked out for a new bond, you’ve just paid your Showcast fees, your union fees, you got a new voice reel, and you haven’t got a part time job lined up just yet. Then being asked to drop $300, $400 or even up to 1K (AUD) on new headshots is anxiety inducing to the max. And sometimes an absolute impossibility.
If this is the case for you, don’t panic. Just politely let your agent know “I currently don’t have the money to invest in new ones right now, but I will be financially secure to do so in a month or two’s time, can we discuss it then?” And just ask what it is specifically about the current headshots that aren’t working. If it’s something that your representation cannot answer clearly on the spot, then you never know, your agent may feel differently about you getting new headshots when you touch base about it in a month’s time.
2. Can You Edit an Existing Headshot?
Let’s say you only got new headshots done less than a few years ago and you really love your headshots. But your agent doesn’t think the lighting isn’t right, the colour of your shirt’s working against you, or even say there’s too much airbrushing going on in the shot. Easy solve: reach out to the photographer to see if they can edit your existing headshot to follow your agent’s advice whatever it may be. This is way cheaper than getting new headshots altogether. You still get to use the shots you like and it follows your agent’s suggestion – everyone’s happy!
Your Appearance Has Substantially Changed Since Your Last Headshots
As a nice guide as to when you should think about getting new headshots, I was going to put something poetic here about your body completely regenerating all of its cells every seven years. But I just looked it up and it turns out it’s a load of bullshit; whoever told you that at that party one time didn’t check the medical journals. Turns out some of our cells are stuck with us for life.
So instead I’ll start us off by getting this out of the way:
Your. Appearance. Is. Supposed. To. Change. And. Will. Change.
We do a human job, not a robot job. Your hair, skin, body shape and face shape will completely change throughout your life. And as you change throughout your life, so should your headshot. It needs to do your career the service of reflecting who you are right now, capture your essence, and show how mindblowing you look. If your appearance didn’t change, I’d be worried that you’re not living enough. You don’t live, you don’t get life experience. You don’t get life experience, your acting gets weird.
1. So you’ve drastically changed your hair
If you’ve gone from blonde hair to blue hair, gone and chopped off 30 cm, styled it into a pixie crop, or even decided to shave it all off and you’re planning on maintaining this new vibe for a long period of time – I would consider getting new headshots.
But if it’s a haircut you’re planning on growing out, or you’ve just put a temporary dye in it and you reeeeally love the headshots you have, this isn’t an issue. Let your agent know what you’ve done to your ‘do. And if you’re being considered for a job where your hair length, style, or colour is super important your agent can notify the casting agent about it.
And besides, for some gigs now you’ll need to submit a recent selfie when you audition just so they’ve got a record of what you look like on the day. So ultimately it’s not worth noting if it’s not going to make or break whether you get the gig or not.
But if you’re really worried about it, just see if you can get a mate who has a really good camera to take a temporary headshot you can use. Just natural lighting, and styled up however you’d present going into an audition. Just so you’ve got a solid shot to use until that purple dye washes out.
**Hot tip for longer haired actors** If you’re getting new headshots, get at least one shot with your hair tied up, or pushed back behind your shoulders. That way whatever length you get your hair cut from then on won’t matter because your hair length isn’t visible in the shot.
2. Your headshot makes you look older/younger
A lot of things can contribute to this. Lighting, hair do, shirt colour, shirt type, your gaze, or a combination of all of them. If this is something you and your agent (if you have one) feel is working against you for what your casting actually is, I’d consider getting new headshots.
If it’s something that’s really bothering you about your headshot, that’s completely fair. We know ourselves really well and we know whether our headshot is matching the vibe we carry with us. But this is a really hard one to figure out and to examine, objectively, on your own. So get a second and third opinion on this from your agent and a respected colleague who knows you and your work really well. Because you never know, it can be something that it’s only you who notices, and isn’t too much of an issue career wise.
We look at ourselves in a way that no one else would, so we can be acutely aware of aspects of hair and face that no one in passing would notice or be bothered about. We work in a visual arts medium and our physical appearance is a big aspect of the job, but it is absolutely not the most important aspect of what we do. Changing it is a business decision, and should be done to help you operate your small business and ultimately book some gigs.
To Wrap it All Up
I’ve just done a whole lot of chat about headshots, but remember your headshot being completely and 100% up to date is not going to make or break that next gig. It’s just something to consider updating (when you have the funds and the time) if you and/or your agent feel that your current shot longer serves you.
It’s not the be all and end all, but it’s also never a bad thing to absolutely love your headshot, love what it does for you, and make sure it isn’t going to stress you out and distract you from doing your job well. Ultimately it’s something you shouldn’t even be thinking about when you walk in the room so you can just get in, feel nothing but confident, smash that audition, get out and get on with your day.
Ready for a new headshot?