Panning Gold

Every casting agent must go through hundreds of submissions a day to find what they’re looking for. Whether it be a music video, print advertisement, commercial, feature film, or TV show they’re all looking for a headshot that jumps out at them. It’s kind of like panning through dirt in a river bed to find a gold nugget. Once they catch a great photo, it’s like a breath of fresh air. I’ve never been a casting agent, but I’ve read through articles to better understand their process and what they want.

I figured as long as you had a decent picture that looked like you, it didn’t matter if it was taken professionally or not. Boy, was I wrong. When I first signed with Talento LA back in April of 2010, I had my husband use my professional camera to get some new headshots in the can. I thought that those photos–paired with having the backing of an agency–would be good enough to get work.

That’s only half the battle. What I’ve realized–by going to auditions and seeing the kind of photos the other actors have–is that their photos show the “best” them. Imagine your best hair day, favorite outfit, glowing skin and multiply the beauty by ten with lighting and a professional eye. That’s really putting your best face forward. Sometimes, this is the only impression those agents are going to get.

Most people new to the industry think that you have to audition for everything. That’s not the case. Background actors for TV, film, and music videos sometimes get cast directly from their photos. If your normal everyday photo is seen next to a glamour shot, who do you think they’re going to book? However, don’t rely solely on getting cast from photos. Less than half of the jobs out there go by that process, and if you really do want to make a career for yourself, you don’t want those to be the only gigs you book.

As I say this, I don’t want you get the wrong idea. This doesn’t mean to photoshop yourself beyond recognition and spend $1,000 on a photographer. Great headshots will get your foot in the doors of many casting offices, and you don’t want them to be a misrepresentation of you in the chance that you do get a face to face audition. What I’ve learned from my agency and from doing other research is that nothing makes a casting agent more upset than if they see an actor walk in looking nothing like their photos.

On average, your headshots should be updated every 6 months to a year, so don’t go crazy with changing hairstyles frequently unless you want to set up a new shoot and pay the fees that go into updating your portfolio.

How do you know what kind of headshots you need? We’ve all heard that phrase people use a lot when they first meet you: “You know who you look like? A cross between _______ and ______.” It gets annoying, but it’s quite helpful in deciding what photos to take. For instance, I get Zoe Saldana, Rosario Dawson, and Lisa Bonet. So I could look up their photos on Google and try to replicate an eye-catching photo of theirs. Another helpful tool is your age range. New acquaintances might exclaim “You’re 27?! I thought you were 19!” or vice versa. Use that to your advantage as well and stick within those ages when trying to portray alternate life stages in your photos. On different casting websites, I’ll see the same categories for jobs all the time. Urban hipster, bubbly teen, business professional, sexy hottie, young mom, etc. This is why I chose the most common categories and styled my shoot after them.

I hope this all helps. As I get more insight, I’ll be sharing it with you. If you are in need of headshots, I recommend MLove Studio Photography. The photos featured in this post are from my latest headshot session with her and were the top picks that my agency chose for my portfolio. You can also check out my LA Casting to get an idea of what their profiles look like. Until next time…


❤ K. Love

2 Comments Add yours

  1. j con says:

    yet ANOTHER great post!
    you’ve got me hooked now…
    i can’t wait till your next informative post!

    it is really opening my eyes to the industry in ways i had concept of.


    1. I’m glad you’re interested. Perhaps I’ll see YOU in a commercial some day!

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