Headshots 101: Casting Directors’ Pet Peeves

emmy young

Belinda Keller Photography

It’s that time and things are gonna get real busy.  So as an actor you really need to make sure you got everything in order.  I spoke with some casting directors and here is what they believe you need to know.

“Headshots need to be shot right, head on and from the shoulders up.  They should look like the person, be interesting and always have a truthful, well organized resume.” ~Jackie Burch

“Look like you, have good energy in the eyes.” ~Marty Siu

Some Casting Directors prefer you have two of them.  One for “commercial” open smile, happy.  The other for “theatrical” closed mouth with some sort of attitude in the eyes.  You always want to submit the theatrical shots for Film and TV.  The commercial, well for commercials.  Always keep at least 5 of them with you at all times.


I also thought it best to widen the spectrum and reach out to some more casting directors in town and find out what their biggest pet peeves were. I spoke with Emmy Young, Susan Cunningham, Missy Rose and Vanessa Neimeyer.  After a round table discussion of sorts, here is the group discussion.

Ladies, what are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to headshots?

EMMY: Too glamourous looking. ALSO…It is a big no-no to send in a headshot and then show up looking nothing like it.

SUSAN: White backgrounds- I really don’t like white backgrounds because it throws off the white balance and therefore skin tone and I agree with Em- a headshot that is too made up, etc is not a true representation of the actor.  I prefer shots in natural light but that’s just a personal preference.

MISSY: Yes, no severe touch ups… We want to see what you actually look like and I can spot altering/photoshop a mile away. If you want to take a pimple off or something, fine, but I want to see your true skin color and overall true complexion.

MISSY: As far as backgrounds go, I don’t mind white backgrounds as long as it is done naturally and correctly… Like David Pascua does white backdrops sometimes but he also knows how. As for the other, I agree with Susan, there is a difference of what you are selling when applying for model/print work vs acting… Mostly we are looking for an honest, true image of who you are.   But if we are looking for a “hot waitress” etc… It actually helps to send in an image that fits the part. In general, it depends on what you are applying for… But if you are sending in that kind of shot, always send a headshot, too.

VANESSA: I don’t like when headshots aren’t a good representation of the actor. Meaning the shots are too old or the actor now has red hair and the shot had blond or they had a beard and now the actor doesn’t.  I also personally prefer color to black and white photos that way the Director and the Casting Directors know what you will look like behind a film camera lens. Good lighting is always the key to great headshots!! I love outside and natural lighting. For me the subject pops off the photo.

A good example of a great headshot?  The ladies agreed that Emmy Young’s is perfect (pictured above).

Susan said, “This  is a good example of what I would look for in a good headshot.  For speaking roles for film, TV, etc and Em’s headshot works great for theater too.  It is a true representation of who Emmy is.”

Missy agreed.  “It’s definitely the best I’ve ever seen. It captures her features and emotion, it’s exactly what people are aiming for in their own photo session.”

There ya have it. I hope this was helpful. Got any other questions or comments?  Submit them below.


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FINALLY we made it to Friday!  Man, is it me or did this week feel like the LONGEST week ever?  Well, let’s get right to it!

riverrun-logoFILMMAKERS GET READY!  Winston-Salem’s own RiverRun International Film Festival announced this week that it has been accepted as a qualifying festival for the Oscars in the Documentary Short Subject award category. Evan Vetter, are you listening?  Tony Morin?  Rob Hill?

This is huge news for North Carolina Filmmakers.  Entering your film and trying to attend festival can get really expensive, so it’s nice to have an Oscar qualifying festival in our state.  This new change to River Run allows  documentary shorts to forgo a standard theatrical run, provided that winning films otherwise comply with Academy rules. Now in its 16th year, RiverRun will run April 4-13 in downtown Winston-Salem.


logoWe were doin’ a little touchdown dance when this news came out yesterday.  WILMYWOOD is #2 in Moviemaker Magazine’s Best Places to Live & Work as a Moviemaker in 2014

The article sited of course 3 of our flicks  were in the top grossing films of 2013.  I think our NC Film crew can take full credit for that.  That’s right!  Your welcome Iron Man!  Moviemaker also sites our North Carolina’s tax incentives, the increase of the project cap from $7.5 to $20 million.  But my favorite part was the last sentence which came from  Aaron Syrett, Director of our NC Film Office:

“If producers are not looking at North Carolina, they’re not doing their jobs!”

Haha!  Yeah, you right!  Tell ’em Aaron!  If you notice, the #1 cities are not mentioned.  You gotta buy the mag to find out. Gotta say that is pretty smart marketing plan on their part.  It hits the shelves on Tuesday.  So who is going to be #1 in the big cities?   Atlanta?  New Orleans?


nonoOkay  – Moving on.  I gotta complaint yesterday that actors were directly contacting Principal Casting Directors.   So, I said I would try to help in this department.  If you are a working actor, then you know this is a HUGE no-no.  This does not help you!  Okay, but you know what,  after giving it some thought, I know you don’t wanna hear it from me.

We should  probably get an expert to chime in on this subject.  I will let Casting Director Marty Siu give you some insight on this topic.  LISTEN NOW!

By the way, when I called Marty she was surrounded by a film crew who is shooting a Suicide Prevention Film.  She believes that this is a very important issue, so not only has she volunteered her time being part of the crew, but her son Logan Siu has volunteered his acting skills to bring this film to life! Way to give back Siu family! This little flick is written and directed by Missy Beasley and also stars Rebekah Cohen.  It is being produced by Clout Motion Pictures!

BEST_OF_2014_VoteREMINDER: ENCORE BEST OF MASQUERADE BALL will be Saturday, February 8th at the Brooklyn Arts Center.  Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Winners will be announced that night! BUY TICKETS NOW!

I wonder since it’s a ball this year, if I will have to get dolled up?


That just about does it for me; I will have the Wilmywood Week In Review for you tomorrow and more Wilmywood updates for you Monday morning (unless something breaks) and every weekday morning Sheila does “What’s Up in Wilmywood” at 7:30am & 8:30am LIVE on Sunny 104.5.  Got Scoop?  Email me: sheila_brothers@yahoo.com.  Or message me on Wilmywood’s FB  or on Twitter You can also just post your comments below!  Until then, that’s a wrap!!