There’s a lot of emphasis put on the importance of a great headshot. I regularly get emails from strangers asking for feedback on their headshots (I won’t provide it; I’ve written extensively about what makes a good headshot, over the years, and I won’t tell a stranger via email whether a headshot is good since its primary job is to represent you — as you are in person — effectively). Everyone wants to be sure they have a fantastic headshot because everyone else talks about how dang essential the headshot is.

But I’m gonna say something that — taken out of context — will piss off a lot of people: Your headshot doesn’t have to be that fantastic.

And now the context, so that statement actually makes sense (because I know, it totally doesn’t, otherwise).

Your headshot is vitally important, had better look exactly like you, needs to be with you at all times, and is essential to your ability to get called in… until we know you. Once we know you, your headshot is simply a placeholder. It’s a bookmark. It’s a reminder of the essence of you, which we now know. It represents how we feel when in your presence. It becomes a reference point for what we know about your work, your personality, your energy, your YOUNESS.

Think about it. When you don’t know someone, their photograph is a representation of what they may or may not look like, even outside of this industry. If you see a photograph of a stranger, their photo is (hopefully) a good indication of what you may expect, when you meet in person. But once you know someone — once you have spent time together, engaged in conversation, gotten a sense of who someone is at a deeper level — that same photo looks different to you, doesn’t it? Because now it’s not a “what if,” it’s an “I remember what is,” in your life.

Headshots have to work their hardest when those folks who cast actors don’t yet know the actor in the photograph. Headshots don’t have to work as hard, once you are known. Your work has already done the work. Until then, though, your headshot is working very hard, and it had better be fantastic. After your work is doing all the work, your headshot is just a playbill for a show the audience of buyers already knows and “gets.”

So, my advice to you is this: Have a great headshot, yes. Absolutely. Make it really great, because it is important, of course. But focus on building relationships, so for more and more people in this industry, your headshot becomes a placeholder.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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