Haven’t written a blog post in a while. Truth be told I’ve been writing other things for other projects. But I thought I’d share what I wrote on /r/acting in response to some actors who asked for advice on how to pick a headshot from a gallery of images. Hope it’s helpful to anybody that stumbles upon this site!
Picking your own headshots can be the hardest part of the process. We all have our own cognitive biases towards our own faces. Here's a metaphor to help you think about it. Take a look at the Fedex Logo. See the arrow? Took a while to find right? That arrow represents the things you dislike about your face. Nobody else is looking at that arrow, they are just reading the word "FedEx". Try to keep that in mind.
Here's how I pick headshots:
1.) Eyes. The best headshots have engaged eyes. Think opposite of deer in the headlights. If you cover up everything in the photo, even with your hands, and just look at eyes, pick the eyes that are engaged. Engaged eyes means there's something going on in that persons brain when the photo was taken, which makes it infinitely more interesting. You are communicating through your eyes in a headshot, and if you aren't saying anything, nobody is going to stop and look.
2.) Expression. Take the shots that have engaged eyes and look at the mouth in each one. if the mouth is approachable, keep it. if it's frowning or sometimes even neutral, take it out. It depends on the look you are going for. Approachable could mean a smirk, or a smile, or anything in between. As long as the vibe you get is confident and approachable, or comfortably cosmopolitan, or whatever you want to call it, it's a good option.
3.) Check out clothing, hair, and the background. if there's stuff in there that can't be fixed in photoshop, nix it.
4.) That should get you down to 5-10 images. from there you should clear your visual palate. This is really important. our brains assign more meaning to images the more we look at them. Don't look at the images for a few days. after that you can seek feedback from others.
A related pet peeve of mine: why do actors ask other actors for advice on headshots! Actors aren't casting directors. Actors aren't agents. Go ask a casting director, agent, or director you know for their opinion. I know everybody asks their friends for their thoughts, which is fine, but why not get advice from somebody who sits on the other side of the table. It's not always possible, but it's highly recommended.
One more thing: this is all HIGHLY subjective. I've had photos that a casting director loved but the client's agent hated, and every other permutation you can think of. It's a reflection of the industry as a whole, which is a "right place, right time" situation. Or rather a "right place, right time, and you better deliver the goods when your moment comes" situation. Casting directors sometimes don't know what they want until it's right in front of them.