A head shot or headshot is a photograph of someone's face. Many head shots are promotional pictures of actors, models, authors, or other famous individuals. A head shot is a specific type of portrait that realistically demonstrates a person's appearance. Simple and stylized images, although not strictly realistic, may still qualify as head shots. To portray a person with elements of their life, such as occupation or interests, the preferred style would be an environmental portrait.
Head shot photographs are most commonly used in "about us" pages and many people represent themselves using head shots in social media. Other usage includes, for example, an online dating profile picture. Actors often have a printed head shot with an attached résumé for auditions or an online presence in a casting workbook.
In theater, film, and television, actors, models, singers, and other entertainers are often required to include a head shot, along with their résumé, when applying for a job. These head shots are usually more artistic: they intend to portray the subject in the best possible light. Head shots often feature the subject facing off-centre. 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". It is 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 head shots that include a person’s shoulders are called "three-quarter" shots. Previously, 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 head shots are usually 8"×10" prints and are often not photographic prints, instead they are typically printed via a lithographic or laser process.
The main purpose of an actor's head shot is identification. Therefore, the most important feature of an actor's head shot is that it represents the subject. Actors' head shots should be clear; theatrical head shots are usually very "neutral" looking shots of the actor clearly showing their facial features.
Head shots 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 would need a new head shot to reflect their new image. Additionally, if an actor has a scar or facial blemish, it should be visible on the head shot and not digitally removed from the image. Pimples or spots are temporary and, therefore, are usually digitally retouched.
Modeling head shots or comp cards, sometimes also called tear sheets, are images and/or a compilation of images for casting in one sheet with a résumé of work, name and relevant statistics. They are often done in color; however in some jurisdictions, such as the UK, they may be in black-and-white. Models often use them for castings and modeling work applications. A close-up head shot is often required to show a model's skin complexion for beauty work.
Modeling head shots are usually used for:
- Comp cards or tear sheets
- Modeling portfolios
- TV advertisements for skin products
- Magazine advertisements for creams and other skin or hair products
- Online industry profiles
Model head shots are also often professionally retouched to ensure their close-up beauty photograph appears perfect without blemishes or spots.
Comp cards are one of the cornerstones of a model’s “marketing materials”. They will be about 5½×8” and printed on both sides. Almost all of the comp cards are in color but may have black-and-white images. A model may have 4 to 5 images on the comp card and at least one of these images will be a head shot.
Corporate and business industry
Corporate head shots are similar to those used by actors. These images are often produced digitally and distributed electronically, though some companies still favor displaying a printed version. Lighting for corporate head shots is simple and non-dramatic, yet still flattering. Traditional head shots are still taken in a studio setting, though shots "on-location" or "in-the-field" continue to increase in popularity. In both cases, backgrounds continue to be simple. Subjects are often shown head-to-chest or head-to-torso.
Corporate head shots serve a variety of purposes:
- Annual reports
- (Nonstandard) résumés
- Corporate catalogs, brochures and advertising collateral
- Company publications and websites, internal and external
- Press releases and other announcements
- Marketing materials
- Articles and newspapers
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