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A head shot or headshot is a modern portrait for todays actor branding and marketing needs, where the focus of the photograph is the personality inside the person captured. A headshot is a specific type of portrait. A head shot is an image that portrays a person as he/she is, however simple or stylized the image might be.

Head shot photographs are now being used for professional social media such as LinkedIn, casting work book and the section about us page or our team in most websites and in actors bio and press releases. Portraits are photographed by professional head shot photographers to illustrate the personality inside the actor.

Theater, film, and television actors, models, singers, and other entertainers often are required to include a head shot, along with their resume, when applying for a job. These head shots are usually more artistic, intended to portray the subject in the best possible light. They often have the subject facing off-centre (into the camera). A performer will often have head shots expressing different poses and expressions to give a potential employer an idea of the subject's range of appearances or expressions. Those types of head shots are called "looks". However, this practice is less common in the current market.It is still common for an actor to have different head shots for their sitcom audition as opposed to their film audition, but for the most part these would represent a change in attire. The headshots that include a person’s shoulders are called "three quarter" shots. In addition, in the past, head shots were often in black and white; however, most head shots are now taken in color.

Actors' head shots, when printed and not simply uploaded online to an industry database, are done in an 8"×10" format. Other promotional images, e.g., press shots and lobby prints, may be in many different aspect ratios. Acting headshots are usually 8"×10" prints. Acting headshots are often not photographic prints but will be printed via a lithographic process or the laser process.

The main purpose of an actor's head shot is identification. Therefore the most important feature of an actor's headshot is that it looks like the subject. Actors' head shots should be clear; theatrical headshots are usually very "neutral" looking shots of the actor clearly showing his facial features.

Headshots are intended to show a person as they currently are (age, look, style, etc.) and reflect their best qualities. Therefore, if an actor's hair is recently cut or coloured, they might then need a new headshot to reflect the new image of themselves. Additionally, if an actor has a scar of the face or moles, it should be visible on the headshot and not digitally retouched out of the image. Pimples or spots are temporary and therefore these are usually retouched.

Most production companies nowadays hold auditions online by asking actors to submit their headshots. This is what you send via email along with your resume and details about you. A casting director then goes through the pile of headshots and shortlists character required and later either asks for your showreel or calls you in for a private audition. This saves a lot of time and money for the production company compared to the traditional way of holding public auditions. However, it is recommended that even with the traditional casting process, actors should carry their headshots when attending auditions. You can also use your headshot on your actors business card.

A complete actors profile should have a headshot and a full body shot. A full body shot is a picture of your whole stature. While a headshot shows your character, a full body shot shows your height, body structure and physique.

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