Thanks to all the actors who came to Surviving Actors in London on 8 February!

I was happy to have the opportunity to speak on a panel  with (actor/author) Robert Ostlere, and (Theatre Casting Director) Neil Rutherford. Geoff Colman (Head of Central School of Speech) moderated the panel very well and I’d like to further elaborate on what we discussed about headshots here.

At the panel, I emphasized the importance of creating an effective headshot that works in thumbnail size. Remember that when we post a breakdown on Spotlight, the first image we see is in miniature. If it catches our eye, we will enlarge it.

What makes a good headshot?

It needs to:

–       look exactly like you on a good day

–       be current

–       be active in the eyes with you looking straight into camera

–       look neutral but suggest archetypes for casting

The other item that I wanted to mention is that the style of headshots is now changing. For many years, headshots were presented only in black and white. This has long been out across the pond where American casting directors have stated a strong preference for colour photos. Why? Because they are simply more descriptive. Naturally it’s important for casting directors to see if you have blue eyes and red hair. In the UK however, photographers and agents seemed to stubbornly hold on to the old style of presenting actors in black and white.


As I am researching my new book, I asked my own agent, Jeremy Conway, to send me some photos of up and coming actors so I could feature their headshots and– lo and behold!– I was delighted to see this photo come through of Barnaby Sax. “Colour! Yay! Bravo!” I thought. The Brits have finally discovered colour photography. It makes sense since we do shoot in colour, afterall.

Barnaby Sax


So I encourage British actors to join the rest of the world in presenting headshots in colour.


Another fad in headshot presentation is what you see happening in the US which is the landscape photo. Here is an example of L.A. based actor James Babson. Do you see how the photo is shot landscape rather than portrait? In this particular shot, he is facing three-quarters towards camera, as apposed to Barnaby’s in which he is facing head on into the camera. Both of these shots work very well.

james babson landscape

I must say, just as a personal aside, that I’m not terribly fond of the landscape headshots. They mess up my casting boards. I pin up cast photos on a bulletin board in my office and when some are portrait and some are landscape, it makes them harder to fit.

The most important thing, however, is to get an effective shot. Check it out with your agent and other industry professionals before you make your choice. Remember that the photo that gets you the most work is not necessarily the photo that your mother would choose or your boyfriend likes.