headshots 101
a site for actors

What is casting?

headshot example

A doctor going into medical school has an idea of where he wants his career to go. He might specialize in pediatrics, plastic surgery, general practice or specialize in the heart. There are just as many, if not more, choices on how to run your acting career and the more you have it defined, the better you will do.

You have to name it. Once you name it you can build around it. Otherwise you are shooting in the dark and there are just too many people shooting in the dark not going anywhere. It's not a lack of talent in most cases. It's a matter of never naming it and shaping your goals around it. That would include shaping your promotions and marketing around it as well.

So, what is casting? Casting is what you would be cast as. It would be what you are personally aiming for in your career. It would be what a casting director would see fit for you. It would be what you show the casting director what you are fit for.

headshot example

I have a method I use to know my clients and I think that it can help you as well if you don't have your casting nailed. Answer the questions below and this will help a little on the shaping of your career and what to aim for in your marketing. You can e-mail me personally at questions@headshots101.com and I would be happy to go over this with you as well. When I have a client who has not really nailed their casting they have found this little exercise very enlightening and helpful.

  1. Name three actors or actresses (pending your sex) that you admire and want a career similar to theirs.
  2. Name three rolls in three different films that you feel you would have been perfect for had you had the chance.
  3. Name three TV shows that you would be thrilled to be on.
  4. On the TV shows listed above name what type of characters. Example, if you named "24" then would you be a terrorist, a field cop, or someone in the actual office? If you named "CSI" would you be a victim, the bad guy, a new detective? Would you be the lab tech, etc? Shape it. Name it.headshot example
  5. What are your strengths in acting? Are you better at comedy that drama? Are you able to laugh and smile naturally? Are you more of "an actors actor?" Take a look here. And answer honestly.
  6. What age ranges are you able to play easily?
  7. What is your body type? Are you bald? In shape? Out of shape? Thin? Fat? Gorgeous? Pretty? Unique facial characteristics? Not so pretty?

With the above questions you can really see quite a lot. Now let me give you an example of what comes out of this questionnaire when I interview a client. I can pull the best colors to shoot with, what to aim for in wardrobe choices, what mood I am looking for in the shot, the stance, the make-up and so on and so forth. The results look something like this:

Paul is one of my favorite clients. He's got great energy and a real focus on his niches. He has great comedic timing, is very experienced on stage and can play the "bad guy" or the hip strong leading man. He does not want to focus too much on commercial work. Film his main drive. John Malcovitch is one of the main actors he is modeling his career on. Also Nicholas Cage would fit his career goals. He is the intense bad guy that can be well ranged and leading man material. He can play the urban cool and unique like Nicholas Cage does. He can do edgy comedies as well as drama. Do you see these things below? Check out his wardrobe, his poses. The communication behind each of these shots are slightly different and within the casting that he named.


All of these fall into what was in his questionnaire. All of these can stand on their own as a primary headshot, but each headshot has a slightly different communication behind it. Thus, these shots are really great for giving diversity in one set of images. But this is diversity within his specific casting.

Now let's take a look at Brandon. He is very different than Paul.


Brandon does not yet have his SAG card. Because of this he needs to focus on commercial shots so that he can more easily become a member of SAG. With these shots he can really show his diversity within his casting. All of them can stand out as headshots on their own. And this is important. Your headshots, even when they are specific to a certain kind of roll should stand out on their own as a headshot. Please see "How many headshots do I really need" to get more information on this. No one can really tell you what your casting is. On top of that, it will change as you get better and more versed. It will change with age and confidence in you abilities. Tom Cruise's casting expanded 100 fold since his "Risky Business" days. Tom Hanks went from Comedy to well rounded Comedy and Drama and Dramedy. But have your goals lined out so that you can have shots that really show you casting now and what you have determined will expand your career.

I do consultations with every client before I do a photo shoot. If you have questions or have trouble figuring out what you are shaping for you photo shoot day feel free to e-mail me. I would be happy to help.

To book a shoot with Jessica Pettyjohn Call 818.237.3044