Dear Bonnie,

I have pored over your articles from the past several years and I did not find anyone who had presented a question that I have been pondering for quite some time. Why has the industry insisted on staying with 8″ x 10″ for the standard size of headshots? Do you think that perhaps there will come a time in the not too distant future that the collective body of auditors will cut us a break and accept 8-1/2″ x 11″ as the standard so that we can focus more on our craft and a bit less on the busy work of trimming down photos?

Michael Chappelear

Hi Michael,

Great question… and one of those that’s always very amusing to me, as it assumes that 8×10 photos didn’t exist until there were actors to use them and casting directors demanding actors hand them over.

The origin of the “industry standard 8×10 photograph” has nothing to do with acting or actors and everything to do with the photographic industry, which came to be long before actors — and their marketing materials — became the big business they are today.

Remember back to grade school. Y’know how you’d get your school photo taken and your parents would have the option of ordering the wallets, the 3x5s, the 5x7s, the 8x10s, or the… What was that gigantic size that grandmas always loved? …something huge. Anyway, those are photographic print standards and have nothing to do with actors or acting (and certainly have nothing to do with what the industry would prefer you give ’em). It just came to be that — when Hollywood started needing actors’ photos — 8x10s are what were provided.

The need to attach 8.5×11 paperwork to the backs of photos, however, is an element of the entertainment industry, and I guess folks figured it’s easier to get the paper cut down to the standard photo size than to try and get the paper industry to start supplying paper that would be the “right” size for attaching to photos (something that is only needed in the entertainment industry). And to try and get the photographic standard changed would require some sort of mandate passed down from Eastman Kodak or beyond. 😉

Since probably 85% of photographic paper-users are happy with the 8×10 size of photographs and about 99% of plain paper-users are happy with the 8.5×11 size of paper, neither industry is likely to change its standard in order to accommodate a tiny portion of the customer base, when it’s just a matter of trimming down a couple of edges for actors.

Honestly, I’m sure Hollywood would be just fine and dandy with adapting to larger-sized headshots if you could force everyone to do it all at once. But for now, the few (like, seriously, almost NONE) who do pay extra to have their headshots printed up at the 8.5×11 size end up risking that their photos are tossed out, because they’re “odd sized” for our files and cause us more work in the end.

So, while it’s fun to imagine some entertainment industry conspiracy in which we’re giving you “busy work” to keep you from focusing on your craft or marketing to your primary type or building your network, it actually has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the intersection of two things (photography and office supplies) that happen to impact a very tiny part of the population (actors) in this way.

Wanna be sure your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form? Let us get you in gear with some FREE training right now!

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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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