Theatrical Headshots for Actors Los Angeles - OSCAR [HEADSHOTS]
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Theatrical Headshots for Actors Los Angeles

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What Makes a Good Theatrical Headshot?

Despite how the term "Theatrical Headshot" sounds, it isn't necessarily a photo specifically intended for theater (stage) work. When trying to contact developmental talent agencies, you might find that some ask to submit a headshot of you "smiling" and one "not smiling". When they're asking for a non-smiling headshot of you, they're likely wanting a theatrical headshot from you. It's also sometimes referred to as the "legit headshot." Talent agents will ultimately use your theatrical headshots to submit you to on-screen theatrical work which is television show and movie productions. When they ask you for your smiling headshot, they'll likely be wanting to use it to submit you for commercial work. Commercial work is where an actor/model is hired to help advertise a company's services or products (tv commercials, print ads etc). This is an overly-simplified definition of what a theatrical and a commercial headshot is. You may want to read through to the end of this page to better fully understand the nuances.

So I need to look serious in my theatrical headshots?

Not necessarily. Movies and tv shows are diverse and involve various characters, so you can have different headshots that reflect the range that you might embody as an actor. While researching headshot photographers, you've likely noticed photoshoot packages being offered based on a number of looks. If you book a multiple-look photoshoot, it's an opportunity to capture different looks of yourself while bearing in mind that not every production has a serious/high-drama storyline. So how you should look in your theatrical headshots depends on which theatrical genres you're compelled to seek out. There is no textbook definition of what a theatrical headshot should look like. Comedy for example is a theatrical genre for which an actor might want to have a headshot of themselves that doesn't feel "serious".

What exactly is a "look"?

The goal of a look is to inspire casting to envision you embodying a specific type of persona. How to achieve that is often a source of confusion for actors. Having headshots with different looks doesn't mean having photos with different wardrobe, or different hair/makeup, or different photo backdrop/lighting setups. While all of those elements can take part in composing different looks, the driving force to any given "look" should be the energy you exude in the headshot. The hairstyling, the outfit, the lighting are all there to enhance the look but not to define it. One way an actor can throw their hard-earned money in the trash is to book a photoshoot for a ton of looks and rely on the outfits and styling to achieve the looks for them. If you're not careful, you'll end up with just a whole bunch of photos that look like the same persona who simply changed outfits. A headshot photographer who specializes in working with actors knows that helping an actor achieve a different look isn't about letting them change outfit and then just shooting 50 more shots. It's not to say that styling doesn't matter. Styling can contribute in many ways, but it's what YOU emanate that truly marks the difference.

How many looks do I need?

You don't need a specific number of looks to get noticed or to be taken seriously. What's right for one actor isn't right for another. At the most fundamental level, you should have a professional headshot of you that looks like you and projects your unique essence. If you've come across lists online that encourage you to check through a long catalog of uber-specific, "in-demand" character roles that you can target as your looks, you may want to resist the temptation of getting carried away with that. If you're new to the business and you're wanting to show a little bit of range in your materials, consider instead picking some genres that you resonate with, make them personal to you and get some shots where you channel a bit of the feel from each genre. If you like the Romance-genre for example, you can get some shots of you that express some passion. If you envision yourself in some Action-genre, you might get some shots that emanate a bit of your relentless energy. It can often be a better investment at first to focus on showing a few different facets of YOU instead of trying to look like a whole bunch of character stereotypes. Once you start working with a reputable talent agent, that's when it may be a better time to discuss if it makes sense for you to get hyper-specific in your materials. Tap into your agent's knowledge of the market that you're in and what type of work it might make sense for you to target. Just make sure that you understand the reasoning behind whatever strategy is considered and that it aligns with your goals.

Speaking of how approaches might differ for commercial work, jump over to the commercial headshots page to delve more into that.

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