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Dear West End Producer: ‘Should I buy a good quality wig and get some new headshots?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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You should never wear a wig in a headshot, unless it’s bright ginger and you’re desperate to play Annie (or Ron). No, a headshot should be a true representation of yourself, so that the moment you enter the audition we recognise you. There’s nothing as embarrassing as an actor walking through the door looking like someone completely different.

One of the most important things every actor has to learn is the difference between a headshot and a headshit. If you missed this at drama school I hope the following helps:

A headshot

Will look like the actor.

Will be well lit, so the eyes don’t disappear into cavernous dark holes and the skin doesn’t look like it wants to do a tour of Grease.

Will be 10in by 8in and high resolution.

Will be framed from just above the shoulders to slightly above the head.

Will have a nice ‘shine’ in the eyes.

A headshit

• Will make you look 15 years younger.

• Will look as though you’ve never heard of a hairdresser.

• Will be out of focus.

• Will have a distracting background (random people posing, or a luminous ‘kebab’ sign).

• Will make you squint.

• Will be framed so it appears you’re naked.

• Will be taken on an iPhone.

• Will have your head tilted at a ridiculous angle, your hand bizarrely cradling your chin, or your mouth yawning (this type of shot is reserved for arrogant famous people who think it looks arty. It doesn’t. It looks farty).

Obviously it is very important to go to a photographer you like and admire. Have a look online and find examples of photographers’ work – and ask for recommendations from friends. Most photographers will spend a couple of hours with you and ask you to take a selection of tops so you have different ‘looks’. This is so your agent has a selection of headshots to choose from when suggesting you for roles.

Pursing of lips and winking of eyes is to be avoided – it gives the impression you want to be a porn star

The pursing of lips is to be avoided, as is the winking of eyes – as it gives the impression you want to be a porn star. Also be aware of how the background affects a photo. Generally a brick wall indicates you want to be considered for prison or council estate dramas, while green foliage suggests you want to understudy Alan Titchmarsh. If you have any headshots that are more than 10 years old they should be updated immediately – or kept until Christmas when they can be used to decorate your tree.

So no. Don’t invest in a decent wig. Invest that money in going to a decent photographer (you don’t have to go to the most expensive one – some charge far too much). Or you could simply borrow a camera and get a mate to take your shots. But whatever you do, ensure your headshots look like you. And don’t use a filter. That’s what Instagram is for, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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