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Stonehenge Actor Tip: The Best Headshot, Period

Ready for some tough love? Welcome to the second in a series of tips for actors attending Stonehenge. You’ll find these blog entries are a bit snarkier than the exhaustive FAQ even though they contain a lot of the same information. Why are we doing this? Well, some of you actors seem to be doing your best to make Stonehenge a horrible experience for yourselves. We don’t condone this. So, if you want to avoid some of these pitfalls, read on.

Now that we’ve mentioned easy resume problems to avoid, we’d like to address a common question:

What’s the right headshot?

From a logistical standpoint, the right headshot should be the industry standard 8″ x 10″ (though Stonehenge does accept 8 1/2″ x 11″ or letter-sized headshots). You should also have enough of them properly secured to your resume (which we already covered).

“But what about aesthetics?” you ask. “What’s the right type of headshot–the best headshot–that’ll make me look good?”

As it happens, we have an answer to that too.

Moreover, this answer will never change. Princes come, princes go, and all that. This answer was true 30 years ago. It’s true now. It will be true far, far into the future.


The best headshot is the one that looks like you look, everyday.

Yes, we see you out there saying, “but, but–” Hold on.

‘Good’ in this case means “recognizable” as in “ah, that’s the person who auditioned for me yesterday.” It does not mean, “My lord, that is the most attractive example of the human race I have ever seen.”

Nevertheless, too many of you fall into the glamor shot trap. Oh you may do it unconsciously, but it’s clear you take special care with your headshot. That’s fine. Headshots should be special, but they should look like you.

Unless you ensure that every day and every audition, you have the same glamazon or pretty boy look painstakingly achieved in that headshot, that headshot will not look like you look every day. And before you say, “Oh, of course I can repeat that” we know the truth. Whomever you got to do your hair and makeup for your photo shoot–even if it was you being extra careful–that person didn’t show up helping you prep for Stonehenge.

Every Stonehenge, dozens of you bear no resemblance to your headshot whatsoever. We can go along with it while you’re auditioning. We can note the difference between the person in the headshot and the person acting in front of us. But when we’re back in the comfort of our production offices looking at headshots trying to jog our memories about who to call in? Headshots that don’t look like you don’t help.

And by “don’t help,” we mean “don’t help you get hired.”

Is the definition of ‘good’ beginning to become apparent?

And guess what? It’s not as easy as taking some candid snapshot of yourself.

Because ‘everyday’ does not mean ordinary. It does not mean “blah.” The headshot is the 1/125th second audition after all.

As filmmakers, we want to see someone who is interesting, presentable, has energy in their expression, energy in their eyes, is telling a story, and is capable of telling our story. We want to see someone who is familiar and unique at the same time.

Because that’s who we want to hire.

That ‘familiar and unique’ would seem to be a contradiction doesn’t matter. We find people every audition who are familiar and unique, because you yourself are unique–even if you’re a twin. Mister Rogers had it right. You are special–and you can get a headshot that shows that.

Let’s repeat and amplify that: every single one of you reading this right now can have a fantastic headshot. (statistically speaking, some of you reading this probably do have great headshots and are just nervous).

So how do you do this? Go back to basics. This is a job interview. You want to be presentable and you want people to recognize you. This isn’t your friends and relatives identifying you. Imagine one of the casting directors had to pick you out of a lineup using only your headshot. They should be able to do it quickly.

You do not want them to say, “Oh, how long ago was this shot?”

You do not want them to say, “So, did you do the airbrushing?”

Makeup is fine. The last time we checked, women (and some men) do wear makeup everyday. There’s a place for comp cards (aka z cards). It isn’t Stonehenge. Remember, you can always show a different look on your resume side.

That also goes for you character actors who want to show some dramatic look. Let’s see the everyday you, the one that’s most likely auditioning, and on the resume side we can see you with the eye patch, beard, and dueling scar (for women, this is doubly true).

Remember, we’re going on about this because we want you to get called back in–and one of the number one complaints we hear from filmmakers is that actors do not look like their headshots.

You don’t have to have that problem.


P.S. Photocopying your headshot is cheap and looks cheap. Remember, this is a job interview.

P.P.S. No one is going to curse you for your black and white headshot, but color is so much more affordable these days–and that’s what most of us plan to shoot in. While you’re asking your peers for good photographers, ask where you can get good color duplication.


  1. Chi Hausen

    Very nice info and straight to the point. I am not sure if this is really the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to get some professional writers? Thanks in advance 🙂

    • admin

      If you’re talking about this area (the DMV), you can check with the professional organizations, Women in Film and Video (WIFV) or TIVA-DC. Both of those would be for scriptwriters of course.

      If you want professional writers in general (e.g. for articles, ad copy, etc.), you could check with The Writer’s Center as they’ll probably have resources. Most likely, any professional writer will want to know the general scope of the project you need them for and the ballpark rates you’re offering to pay.

    • Elena

      I couldn’t agree more! Amen! Hallelujah! Thank you. I can’t tell you how upstteing and disheartening it is to hear actors say they are looking for headshots for under $100.00. It seams like the thing someone should spend money on is the one thing that the casting directors keep, and review when making their decisions on a role.But yet actors get discouraged when they go in for an audition and totally nail it and then don’t get the job. Maybe its because the headshot doesn’t match up to the performance. If they loose the wow factor right after the audition, your chances of loosing the job go up. You really want to do everything you can to make that wow factor linger. . .


    I like what you guys tend to be up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the fantastic works guys I’ve added you guys to blogroll.

  3. Rosalie Roche

    Howdy! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects? Appreciate it!

    • admin

      We don’t have any websites per se to recommend, but you may want to check out the Audition Book ( by local casting director John Strawbridge.

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