The Secret Sauce for Captivating Actor Headshots – for your child to get picked for more auditions

actor1Most “Effective” (captivating) Headshots is a fascinating and extremely important topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, as it’s almost that point in time where our own young actress will need new photos. For us, it’s been about a year, but I’m guessing somewhere between the next month and 6 months out, she may need new ones.

I’ve actually also been studying it. Yes, studying it with samples from IMDb. I have reviewed TV shows and TV Movies (that are doing well) with young actors and looked at headshot by headshot.

Professional headshots are the key to your child even “getting” an audition in the first place. Without a very interesting, professional, unique headshot, they will be overlooked, most times. I actually like to equate a headshot to the home page of a website. Let me explain. When a person on the internet goes to a website, the website literally has under 10 seconds to load, captivate and also hook the viewer. The viewer of a website needs to find what they are looking for in under 10 seconds too. If the viewer cannot get quickly to what they need, they ditch that website very quickly and never come back. A headshot is the same way.

When a casting director or assistant to a casting director looks at a headshot, it needs to “impress” them in under 5 seconds. It needs to be what they are looking for very quickly, or, they will simply move on to the next actor.

Can you imagine being that casting director and looking at thousands of headshots in a very short amount of time? Efficiency and moving super quick are the only way to do your job well.

sofiaSo how can they decide so quickly? Well, there is a formula to it. And that formula also includes a few secret ingredients that make up the secret sauce.

1) Professional (meaning good lighting, correct paper size, high quality photo, no makeup, hair out of face)

2) Captivating (natural, bright eyes, confident look, something interesting, they look “real” not “posed”, stand out)

3) The Secret Sauce – This is the one I will be discussing a bit below. This is the one some people agree on and others do not, but I will tell you, today I saw the headshots of 10 actors that all were chosen for a brand new TV show, and I happened to notice that all 10 of these actors headshots had this secret sauce below. What are the chances of that? Then I went directly to IMDb and studied another TV show cast headshot by headshot and guess what? I found the same secret sauce in those headshots.

Now on to the Secret Sauce for Headshots:

This may come as a surprise. But there has been some debate on whether or not in a high quality, professional headshot a child should be resting their chin on their hand. Or, even further, whether or not their hands should even be in the photos at all. What have you been told, if anything at all? Read on…

There are a lot of casting directors that do not want to be distracted by hands/nails within photos. It’s called a HEADSHOT and they feel the main focus should be the child’s face. Some Hollywood casting directors may even look at a headshot that have hands in it and the photo would read “amateur” in their mind.

actor2They think that “In a Professional HEADSHOT, the ONLY “Stars of the Show” are Your FACE and EYES. In a Commercial HEADSHOT, then your TEETH and SMILE join the Show.”

The author of that post (the one I mentioned above who is a reputable director) actually said this, “No peace signs, weird facial hair, or the famous “hand on face” pose. It’s all about the eyes. Just like with on-camera acting, it’s all about the eyes, and what’s happening behind them. It’s your closeup, your moment”.

The truth is, you will helping to choose the final photos for your child actor, so look out for the above. I didn’t know that until very recently and I’ll be taking that to heart.

I just took a peak, for fun, at Disney Descendants Cast and Crew on IMDb, just as one sample of actors and what headshots they are choosing to use as their default ones and here is what I discovered. This is the same type of thing I have seen in sampling other shows on TV right now.

To follow along with my concrete example below, open this IMDb link here first in a new tab or window:

Let’s sample the first 15 actors listed on the Main Cast/Crew page:

Remember these are actors that are intentional. They get a lot of auditions. They are hugely successful. They know exactly what they are doing with the help of their teams too. They chose these photos for a very intentional reason.

Out of 15 (read below) 12 of them DO NOT show their hands, and 3 of them do. (in their main photos). That is 80% don’t show hands and 20% do show hands.

actor3Of the 20% that show hands, I have a theory on why below just for these particular actors.

Here’s that link again if you want to “see” the below headshots of these actors:
Dove has her hands in her pockets. So does not show hands.

Cameron shows no hands.

Booboo shows his hands. Interesting. Fits into his branding though. So I understand this exception.

brennaSofia shows no hands.

Mitchell goes against the theory and has his hand actually be a focus. However, I will note, I did look through his other headshots and most of his headshots do not show any hands at all. Also, his photo is so very unique on how he is holding his shirt, and the way he is holding his shirt totally fits into his brand. So, I can see the choice to make this his default.

Melanie shows no hands.

Brenna shows no hands.

Sarah shows no hands.

zachZachary shows no hands.

Jedidiah also goes against the theory, but his photo is so unique, like a lifestyle photo, not really even a headshot. He is also a very unique personality and fits into his branding.

Dianne shows no hands.

Dan shows no hands.

Keegan shows no hands. (hides behind head)

Wendy shows no hands. Also, it almost looks like they told her to put her hands behind her arm and off to right and they cropped it to have no hands. They possibly focused on not having hands in this photo.

Maz shows no hands.

Kathy shows no hands.

So in doing the math, on the project above, and the one I saw just yesterday, my first 2 samples showed:

80% of actors on a working TV show do not have hands in pockets in their main headshots.
And 100% (in the one I saw yesterday) did not have hands in their pockets.

That leaves me with 90% of the most successful young actors right now do not have hands showing. This is of course a sampling, but it was random sample and it’s showing to be consistent across all that I review.

Interesting, huh? New to me and glad I came across that original article that sparked my curiosity. Will use for future considerations of headshots as it makes sense to me. The photos I see without hands are the ones that have the faces and eyes pop. Those are the ones I remember.

So… what are your Thoughts, Comments or Questions on whether to have your child’s hands be part of their actor headshots? Scroll to bottom of the page and comment.