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What’s the Difference Between Modeling and Acting Headshots?

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It’s important to understand the differences between modeling and acting headshots.  You can be both an actor and a model, of course, but you cannot use the same shot for both.  What’s the difference?  Plenty, actually.

Modeling headshots are normally used for those who want to be cast in beauty and fashion advertising, such as editorial spreads in magazines.  Models understand how to work the light, knowing which way to turn and which poses will illuminate their face in just the right way.  They also know that they must communicate with their eyes and make someone viewing the ad want the product or service showcased.  Editorial and fashion modeling consists of getting consumers to believe they must have certain styles to achieve a certain lifestyle.

Modeling headshots are often used to show a model’s talent for drawing the eye to an image.  There is a greater emphasis placed on lighting and artistry than that in an acting headshot.  

Acting headshots are very specific.  Unlike modeling shots, the individual is always making eye contact with the camera.  A model may or may not make direct eye contact.  The pose is normally cropped a little below the shoulders and the actor is posed upright, facing the camera.  The actor avoids wearing anything in the shot that will distract from his or her face, such as “loud” and intricate patterns, stripes, polka-dots, or colors that do not draw out and compliment the actor’s facial features.

While actors and models can portray fantastical worlds, their headshots have to reflect what they look like in person.  If you change your hair style, lose a significant amount of weight, or make any other drastic changes to your appearance, a new headshot must be taken.  If you have any scars, freckles, facial tattoos, or anything else that cannot be covered up by applying a little makeup, you must show this in the shot.  You also must keep your headshot updated to reflect your current age.

Casting directors, agencies, and other clients don’t want any surprises.  When they select your shot because you look like you can accurately portray the character you would like to audition for, what they want for an ad, or who they want to represent, they expect that you will look the same way in person.  For instance, if a CD wants someone who can play a down-to-earth, middle-aged parent, don’t show up with a neon green mohawk, a nose ring, and black lipstick.  This is just the nature of the business.  You are set to play a certain part and your marketing materials must match expectations.

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