How to properly crop actor headshots and why

One of my jobs as a photographer is to capture the most compelling and interesting photos I can. Casting directors for television, film and theater have specific tastes when it comes to actor headshots. For them, one of the most important aspects of an actors headshot is just how compelling it is. They want to feel they can make a connection with you. This goes beyond the physical attributes of the person they may potentially cast. Casting directors sift through hundreds of headshots a day. A good first impression is vital to the success of your headshot and if they aren’t drawn to you in a compelling way with in seconds then chances are your going to be skipped over. 


The crop if your headshot is part of this communication. It needs to have a way of drawing a casting director in so that they want to get to know more about you. I often see headshots that, in my opinion are cropped in a way that does not effectively do this. When it comes to acting headshots I believe (and so should you) and trust in the Rule of Thirds. If you’ve never heard of this rule it’s the science based idea that the human eye is drawn in, and captivated intuitively to certain parts of an image. By dividing an image into thirds you get four intersections. It is at or near these four main intersections that the human eye can be first drawn to if there is a compelling aspect of an image in it. With that in mind the best way to crop the image is to put my subject at or near one of these intersections. For headshots it’s typically one of the upper two intersections or the upper third portion. It’s not just any part of my subject though. It needs to be the most compelling part, the part that will make a viewer feel that connection,… the eyes or brow line. We connect with people on an intimate personal level through our eyes. Whether it’s one eye, both eyes or the center of your brow line if it’s properly placed within your headshot then according to science the odds are that will be the first thing a viewer will be drawn to. In the screenshot below you will see this Rule of Thirds in play. 


As viewers we are automatically lured into her eyes. Notice how her far eye in place directly at the intersection but her near eye is at the center of the upper third. 


Another very important aspect of the headshot crop is how tight it’s cropped. The example image above is the ideal cropping for an acting headshot. It’s typical for a actor headshot to have a portion of the top of the head cropped off.  (Note:This is NOT a good idea when shooting executive or corporate headshots) It’s also typical to have it cropped to mid chest or three quarters. Why ? Because again, it all helps draw the viewer into the eyes. There are no  distractions. Your measurements and physical attributes should be outlined in your bio. A casting director doesn’t always need to see your hips, your bulging bi-cepts or your trendy jeans. Again, they want to make a connection. Remember,  first impressions! 


Now, with all that said. Because, I know there are some of you cringing in disagreement. Rules are made to be broken. What I just spoke about is ideal, perfect, the quintessential headshot that should be used as your main headshot when sending to casting directors. It also should be how your first headshot should look. For those who already have a main headshot, those who want to have different looks or want to create a comp card then it is ok to ditch this rule and have three quarter length or even full body images. As long as you use at least one main headshot pic in your collection. A poor comp card or portfolio is one that has three or four images with the same cropping and just different clothes. If you book me for a three look session then it would ideally consist of images with different cropping. I will always, always recommend the tightly cropped image as one of your images though. In fact, I will most likely take it upon myself to produce this as your main acting headshot.  It’s the one “money” image that will hold someone attention. 


Happy Headshots……. : ) Frank


Instagram vs Portfolio. A love hate relationship

What is better - using an online Portfolio or an Instagram feed to promote your work as a photographer? I don’t know anymore but this is how I feel about it. 

For starters, I admit I have a love hate relationship with Instagram.  Yes, it’s used by over 700 million people a month and has become the primary way people like to see your work. Instagram helps you promote your work and learn more about your audience. It allows you to target specific people and to engage in those people in a way that can never be done in the past. Potential clients will be able to see images with out having to navigate through your website. Also, within an Instagram app, you will get insights and analytics on the performance of specific posts, preferable posting times, and demographic breakdown of your followers. Every day millions of people capitalize on it’s vast audience. With a good social media marketing strategy one can see a lot of success from this little monster. Then why is it that I loath the questions “Do you have an Instagram” or “Can I see your instagram” from potential clients or even strangers. Maybe I’m old school (or just old), maybe it’s fear. Maybe a little of both. Less and less people ask to see your portfolio these days. I like the idea of sending people to my portfolio and not my instagram. Although I do get that little rush of endorphins we all get when we see someone like a photo or follow us but it doesn’t define me. I don’t want the personal attention. I really could care less. All I want to do is get more clients and work. 

An online portfolio is a well thought out representation of your work. It allows for high quality images to be showcased in an organized fashion whereas Instagram doesn’t except high quality images. In fact, image compression on Instagram is a common nuisance that affects image quality. There are way’s around this and because most people are viewing on there phones the loss in quality may not be noticeable but there’s no question that the quality of images as well as the viewing experience on a website out-shine Instagram any day. Also, a good website portfolio will have a good bio along with testimonials giving a potential client insight into who your are and what previous clients thought of you. A good online portfolio will also be streamlined and simple as to not allow for a lot of navigation. In terms of SEO, a website gives me the possibility to rank in Google, Bing, or Yahoo to be found by those customers who are searching online for my services. Undoubtedly, Instagram offers mind-blowing advertising possibilities as well. A portfolio is more personal in every aspect. 

The thing about me with Instagram is that I like the ability to post non work related photo’s. I love photography and having been influenced by so many types of photography I shoot all types of subject matter. This leads to an unorganized mishmosh collection of photos that’s probably not that appealing to a potential client. I have such a diverse background as a professional photographer that it’s hard enough to keep my website organized. With instagram you also have to be constantly posting in order to keep your audience attention. Whether daily or weekly it needs constant attention. For me, this all leads to a frustrating experience with instagram. It certainly doesn’t help that I am my own worst critic and have a hard time sharing photos in the first place and what do I post in the slow times? I’ve been on instagram for a few years and I’ve yet to break 400 followers yet some of my competitors have thousands. 

Maybe I’m just not good at it. It’s probably a good idea to work on getting good at it. As much as I don’t like it I have to stop posting photo’s that are not work related and make my feed an extension of my business, an extension of my website. 

At the end of the day I believe my best attributes are providing good customer service, quality work, building relationships and making my clients feel that they are getting a great overall experience. I can’t spend too much time thinking about things like Instagram. I won’t change my mind, a good or even decent website will always be better then an Instagram feed. I think more people should be asking for it and more people should be putting it out there. That’s just by opinion. Times have changed however and I think utilizing both is the best course to take. 

You can view my instagram mishmosh feed and follow me here: https://www.instagram.com/frankcalphoto 

How do you feel about Instagram vs online portfolios in this day and age ? 

Thanks for reading…..




Dusk at Venice Beach…..

Growing up in the shadows of New York City exposed me to things a lot of kids don’t get to see. Manhattan and the East Village was just a train ride away yet my brothers and I also had the advantages of suburban life. We were close to cutting edge music and art. We had the best radio stations, like WLIR that played the latest hits from the newest bands. We were exposed to New Wave and Punk and at the same time had empty lots, Village Greens, and Little League Baseball. We had house parties and sleep overs… except they weren’t really sleep overs. We’d stay out as late as we could, sometimes all night, in a place we weren’t suppose to be listing to the latest music. Skateboarding was a huge part of my life as a kid. I actually only skated for a short time but my older brother was hooked from the time he was 9. At 50, he still skates today. He was a big part of a counter culture that mixed hard core city life with suburban life. Skating was all around me. Skate kids, skate music, skate magazines….we even had a half pipe (rusty nails and all)in or backyard for a few years. As someone who has always loved photography and has been inspired by all the creativity around me I was aware of the Photography work by people like Larry Clark and Glen Friedman, both of whom captured youth counter culture of the time. Having recently relocated to LA I couldn’t wait to go to the home of the Dogtown boys and the Z-Boys. The stretch between Santa Monica and Venice Beach was synonymous with skateboard and surf culture growing up. Some of those skate spots are long gone but I wanted to see Venice Beach so I took the time to visit a newer one, the Venice Beach skate park. Skateboarding had a huge resurgence in the early 2000’s. The Venice park was built in 2009 to accommodate the need for a new park and to help continue this California tradition. I was determined to get some ‘rad’ images of this generations SoCal skaters but one thing got in the way…….waves! You see I am a surfer of sorts and I have waited a long time to surf in California. Once I saw those waves I had to find a board. First objective, rent a board and go surfing! By the time I finish drinking my share of the Pacific Ocean the sun started to set. To me this didn’t pose a problem. It posed an opportunity. Magic Hour….Below are a few images I call Dusk at Venice Skatepark. It’s simple. Expose for the sky so that the part of your subject facing you goes dark. The area not exposed to the sun light. Set a high shutter speed to freeze the action, sit and wait…


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