Being an actor is hard work. They have to manage themselves and perform upwards before many people after memorizing a script that grows with the role’s importance. Actors do all of this while competing with other actors for roles in the first place. Many aspire to play the lead in major movies or perform in grand plays on Broadway, and they are all competing with each other for a spot that one person can only hold. But they cannot even compete, much less audition, without a proper resume, especially a headshot.
An actor’s headshot is their identity. It is the first thing on their resume when hiring managers or agencies view their applications. They will see it as the face of their social media profile. The headshot is the face of an actor’s career, and getting one right is essential to succeed.
Making a headshot is more challenging than posting a picture of oneself posting it online. A lot of work and thought goes into making a headshot. Some people think they can post a yearbook or graduation photo and do editing to make their headshot. Why put effort into making a new one if they have a perfectly good one? Any actor who thinks that will struggle in this field.
Firstly, a headshot should reflect the actor's current appearance in the field. Imagine an agency accepts an actor’s headshot, and when the actor shows up, they look ten years older. They will likely turn the actor away right then and there as the actor falsely advertises themselves as younger than they are.
A bigger concern about using a preexisting photo or a lazily taken one is the impression it leaves. Remember that actors compete with many fellow members of their craft for roles. Therefore, if an actor cannot create a presentable portrait of themselves, it will leave a bad impression on those who see it. After all, if a person cannot be bothered to put effort and care into how they present themselves, it is reasonable to assume they will not perform adequately in the role they want.
Conversely, a properly taken headshot can make an actor look presentable and desirable for a role. It shows a good amount of what they look like and that they can take care of their appearance, which is important for appearing in film and theater. A good headshot also proves an actor is confident and competent enough to take on a role, as they conform to the standards set by the industry. Finally, a good headshot tells casting directors that the actor can follow instructions and adapt to the roles. This concept is important because it would only be a worthwhile investment for a casting manager to hire an actor if they follow instructions.
One important part of the process is how much the actor should have the photo cropped. It is tempting to show one’s entire body to give those actors who want to hire them a better look at their looks, but the industry has specific standards for how to crop the photo. These standards are 8 X 10 size, generally in color, and taken vertically and tightly from the shoulders.
The reason for this is quite simple; it focuses on the character of the actor and their face, which is their most marketable aspect. This way, the actor’s brand takes center stage and makes it easier for the agency, casting director, or whoever is hiring the actor to know if they fit their intended brand.
However, the reason for the 8X10 size has less to do with actors and more with the way prints work. In general, most printing companies use paper sized 8X10. In other words, it will become a hassle for the casting director if the actor uses a different photo size. Several actors in the industry have their resumes on the back of their headshots. If the headshot did not match the size of the paper, it would be hard to look at and unwieldy, especially if this size is much larger than 8X10. Remember that casting directors likely have a lot of candidates to sift through, actors to manage, and other duties to handle. If an actor makes something inconvenient for them, chances are the casting director will throw their resume in the trash and be done with them. The casting director can throw all of an actor’s hopes and dreams away if they do not like the photo size, which is as ridiculous as it is sad.