Whether you’re updating your casting profiles or pulling one together for the first time, you’ll come across options to post commercial and theatrical headshots. Your agent is going to want at least those two options as your defaults. But what’s the difference? Below are some things to keep in mind so you can show appropriate range and maximize your submissions.
Your commercial types will be different from your theatrical ones. Think about the character tropes you see in commercials and try to place yourself. I, for example, am solidly in the young mom/millennial professional/perky host/quirky friend category. When it comes to determining your theatrical type, think about what kind of shows are filming in your area and where you might naturally fit. Once you determine your type, do what you can to suggest it with the rest of your aesthetic.
Even though you’re taking photographs, that doesn’t mean you stop acting. Your headshots need to tell a story and show off your strengths. Remember that you absolutely want to look like yourself, but through a filter. Your commercial shot should be yourself at your happiest and most wholesome. Your theatrical shot may vary with your type. Are you the sweet, vulnerable ingenue? The strong, capable leader? The gritty, disenfranchised rebel? Remember to suggest, not perform. Headshots are like the La Croix of character shots. You might get the faintest whiff of flavor, but at their heart, they’re about the basics. (You’re basic).
You will likely want to change up outfits for commercial and theatrical shots. Your commercial outfit should be clean-cut and flattering. Something that wouldn’t look out of place on an after-school sitcom. Brighter, happier colors are all right, as long as they complement and don’t distract. For theatrical shots, you can get slightly more creative. Lean into darker colors and maybe play with lines and styles that suggest the kind of roles you go out for. Just make sure that what you’re wearing is still generic enough to be flexible.
This is where we get a bit shallow. For commercial, an open smile is preferred. Casting directors want to see your teeth. So find a natural way to flash those pearly whites!
All of these differences come down to your audience. Specifically, agents and casting directors. When you’re preparing to take headshots, think about who will be seeing them. What story do you want to tell? What version of yourself are you promoting? All following decisions should be made from that point.