Common advice: you need a professional headshot now!
People told you this many times, and this may be a part of why you are checking out this website. A very business-minded photographer will agree immediately and takes your money. But I want you to pause and think a bit.
Every week, a few people contact my studio and tell me that they want to be an actor, and they need a headshot. I ask, “Who told you that?” They say they are told to get a professional headshot to start an acting career by an agent, agency, acting teacher, knowledgeable friend. Sometimes, the story sounds like they are targeted by a bogus agent, or someone gave a generic advice perhaps too soon.
My next question is “Do you have an acting resume?”
Is should be at least 1/3 page full of something legit looking. If you do, you pass the test. Skip the rest and sign up for your headshot session.
If you don’t have one, Google search “how to make an acting resume” and start drafting your resume now. You’ll also find resume stuffing materials by Google searching for local stage work, school productions, and local film production community website. Craigslist gigs section is often useful. Student film, local business sales video on youtube, tourist guide video for your local municipalities, nonprofits who need to create video contents, voice acting work, whatever. At this stage, it is more useful to work with patient and helpful people who don’t pay than impatient people who pay.
This is important for you because:
1. If you have a professional headshot and no experience in the resume, you’ll look skeptical.
2. If you don’t have any experience, you probably don’t understand yourself well enough. You will need this knowledge to create great headshots.
3. If you shoot a headshot without having some experience, you’ll grow out of it fast and will be re-shooting soon.
If you understand that, and you still have to shoot headshot now, just tell me so, and no further questions asked. I understand that there are sometimes deadlines and such that get in the way and things do not always happen on an ideal schedule. Or call a headshot photographer who doesn’t ask questions and always cheerful (there are many, though the cheerful part is questionable). I’m glad to take your headshot. I’m just suggesting that you get more value for the same price this way.
Isn’t it a chicken and egg problem?
One good thing about student production and no name theaters is that they can’t be too picky about everything. Take your headshot at home for now. Those people tend to check out your social media or meet in person if they are interested, anyway. Another good thing is that they are usually helpful. It’s always good to know actors who were, in the recent past, where you are and growing together.
When your resume improved somewhat, it’s time to invest in the best quality headshot to get to the next level. You’ll get a lot more value out of your money at this point. Don’t over stretch an amateur photo, no matter how good it is. You’ll need a real headshot before going to casting for real productions.
Then, you’ll have the experience and the headshot, both of which together make you credible. You will be taking out those resume stuffing and adding the real experience in the resume while getting paid.
Keep in mind
Actor headshot is not about looking cool or fancy. It is about giving casting director confidence that you won’t disappoint them.
Most headshot advice articles are headshot photographers’ marketing material. There are nothing wrong about that, but each photographer’s practice and preference shape their dogma of what you should and shouldn’t do. Some advice comes from acting teachers and casting directors, but their way of looking at headshot may not be the most effective one to execute a photo shoot, or may not even be actionable. There are also a lot of advice out there that are cut and pasted from the pre-digital era, describing obsolete things. So, this is an unfortunately confusing situation for beginners.
An advice from a casting director...
Among many actor advice videos from casting directors on youtube, I think this one has the key elements in one package. If you want to watch just one video, this is it. (Note: I don't have any relationship with Amy Jo Berman. I just did some research for you.) She emphasizes the importance of knowing your character so that you can line yourself up with the role being cast for, starting at 2:15. This is absolutely true.