Headshots, the word sounds like something a mafia boss might order done to a rival. It could not be further from the truth. While it does involve heads, it has nothing to do with guns, and everything to do with getting a job. To be precise, a job in the performing arts.
Actors, singers and dancers often have to rely on their looks to get a job, and not necessarily good looks either. In Orlando, Florida, Universal Studios holds Halloween Horror Nights every October at their theme parks. A lot of those performers are not hired because they are tops in beauty! Still, often good looks are a plus. Thus was born the headshot. A performer goes to a photographer and gets a series of pictures taken, all with the express purpose of highlighting their assets, whatever they might be. The right lighting, the right pose and make-up, and presto - a person can look fantastic. More often than not, the pictures are in black and white, but not always.
Then comes the all-important job interview. Or, as they say in the industry: the cattle call, the audition, the tryout. Now, in some cases, the performers answer newspaper ads by mailing their headshot in to a producer/director looking for talent. Normally, the actor/singer/dancer also puts their resume on the back of the picture. That way, the production company can see if they fit the part.
In the case of many theatrical shows, the talent shows up for the audition. Depending on the show, they may have to sing, dance and/or act out a brief scene. With that kind of tryout, they do not even get to submit their headshot until after the initial selection process. The whole thing is wonderfully portrayed in the musical "Chorus Line" when the characters are told to get their headshots/resumes. One man sings, wondering who he really is, is he his resume? Is he right for the part; is he what the director is looking for? This is a question that has plagued performers since the dawn of theatre. While actors in ancient Greece certainly didn't have headshots los angeles, they faced the same issue: getting the part.
Today, modern singers, actors and dancers strive to get a headshot that will catch the eye of that certain director and/or producer. Some people will dress them up; put a full-body shot in the corner - especially if they feel their body is another asset. Others will put several pictures together; split the sheet into blocks, each with a different picture, and each featuring a different outfit and pose. Here again, they are trying to show the production company how versatile they are. As to how successful they are, well, that all depends on what the company is looking for.
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