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Headshots 101

March 08, 2017

Headshots: Your First Impression
Whether you are just starting out in search of an Agent or Manager, or are already represented and actively auditioning, your headshot is often your first impression.  

Before you have the chance to meet an industry pro face to face, most likely they will look at your headshot to see how you will fit in their roster or project that they are casting.   Casting Directors, Agents and Managers look at hundreds of headshots a week (sometimes hundreds a day) and you want to yours to stand out for all the right reasons and be an accurate representation of your child. 

By following certain guidelines you can give your child a leg up on landing that role, agent or manager.

Just starting out?  

You don’t have to hire an expensive photographer for your very first photo shoot. All too often people spend money on professional headshots before acquiring an agent only to have to have them redone at their agent's request once they do find representation.  Also, it is completely acceptable to use snapshots for children under 3, as they change so quickly.

Try taking your own great photographs following these tips:
  1. Refer to our Photo Contest Winners page to get a sense of great headshots.
  2. Use a high-quality digital camera.  If you only have access to the camera on your phone, avoid those fancy filters.
  3. Use outdoor, early morning or late afternoon light.  Cloudy, overcast days are best, as they eliminate shadows and create a nice, even light.
  4. Get on your child's level to help them achieve direct eye contact with the camera
  5. Don’t use props, busy backgrounds or patterned clothing and NO LOGO’s.
  6. Choose colors that show off your child’s eyes, hair, and skin tone.  Make sure your child’s clothes are comfortable, too. 
  7. Do not use makeup on small children.  On older kids, moisturizer and lip gloss are usually enough.  Use foundation only to cover blemishes.  Heavy eye makeup should be avoided, even by teens.
  8. When selecting your winning shots, look for natural expressions. 
  9. Print in a matte, rather than a gloss finish.
More advanced?

Invest in a professional headshot. This is a place where spending a little can be well worthwhile.  Ask your agent or manager if they have any photographers they recommend (but remember photo packages should NEVER be sold as a condition of representation) and search the CIF Member Directory for highly rated photographers

Set up an appointment to review the photographer’s portfolio and feel free to bring your child along to the meeting so that they can give input on the rapport they have with the photographer.  If you child is comfortable and likes the person they are working with, it is more likely that it will elicit a headshot that will conveys something special.   As your agent and/or manger may have a different opinion of what makes a winning headshot, make sure to have variety in expressions and looks so they have plenty to choose from.

Remember, you will need to periodically refresh your headshot.  Every time your child hits a new phase or milestone you may have to get new photos (i.e. losing teeth or braces, from youth to tween, tween to teen, etc.).  A good rule of thumb for those under 18, depending on how quickly they change, is to update their headshots every year to year and a half. 

Most importantly, regardless if you are using a snapshot or a professional photo, your child’s headshot must look like the child who will be walking in the door.  If a Casting Director calls in a girl with blond haired girl with braces for an audition that is who they expect to show up.

Put your best foot forward and follow these suggestions for good quality headshots!   You will be taking a step to ensure that agents and casting directors first impression of your child is in the best possible light.