- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

Dear West End Producer: ‘What is a headshit, dear?’

A ‘headshit’ is a bad headshot – one that makes an actor look nothing like themself. For example, a photo that gives the impression of a towering Greek god, when the person is actually 4ft 2in tall.

A good headshot is the thing that gets an actor auditions. When casting directors scroll through the thumbnails of thousands of actors on Spotlight, they pick out the ones that look good and appropriate (and of course it helps if they’re represented by Curtis Brown or United, dear).

But what is a good headshot? Well it should catch the essence of the person – not just the ‘sexyface’ of the person – and should ideally suggest something about their personality.

Over the years, I’ve seen many headshits – with actors posing on tables, yawning, wearing satellite-dish earrings, or just looking like they wanted to murder the photographer. While these were very entertaining and made the person stand out, they stood out for all the wrong reasons. Certainly, they didn’t land them an audition for the coveted role of Helicopter in Miss Saigon, dear.

Free actor headshots scheme launched for drama students [4]

Do your research on photographers. There are millions to choose from – the best tactic is to have a look on a variety of websites and decide which style you like. There’s no need to pay £500 for a session, but you should also avoid paying £50. Pick something that’s in-between.

Don’t let your mate do it on their iPhone – these are more likely to present you with brilliant examples of headshits.

Some tips on getting good headshots

• Don’t pout.

• Avoid having your nipples on display (unless you’re going for a particular type of adult entertainment work).

• Don’t wear tops that are too distracting (no stripes / spots or images of penises).

• Try not to look ‘dead’ in the eye – we tend to want to employ living human beings (unless auditioning for the new Night of the Living Dead stage show).

• Smile, but not too gummy. It’s not a dentist appointment, dear.

• Make sure your facial hair is trimmed appropriately – this is especially important for women.

• Don’t wear too much make-up – you don’t want to look like a drag queen, unless you actually are a drag queen.

• Avoid having your hands on display – those shots of actors pointing at the camera or posing while cradling their chin make me nauseous.

• Never look over your shoulder giving the ‘take me to bed’ smoulder – they were popular in the 1990s, but now aren’t used unless an actor is auditioning for Zoolander 5.

• Try to make the shot as natural as possible – it’s important that you’re relaxed in your session.

• Pay attention to framing, lighting and background – a fussy background can upstage a nice face (for example red brickwork or loud wallpaper will make your face look unimportant).

Never use props – wearing a Make Acting Great Again cap won’t make you employable, it’ll just make you laughable, dear. 

• Choose your photographer wisely. Going with someone who offers a £20 headshot session will invariably give you a lovely selection of headshits, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer [5]. Read more of West End Producer’s weekly advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/westendproducer [6]