"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to Use Actors Access Effectively Part 2

I like to think I know a lot about how to market myself, but the truth is, I don't. I DO know that Actor Update emails are nothing short of annoying and if I do that, I immediately get cast as Spam. But that's my take. If they work for you... great, but Actor Update really should only be for family and friends.

I also like to think I know everything there is about using AA effectively. But even after my little casting assistant help, I realized whoa. And changed something.

As I mentioned in Part 1, having an effective picture is everything. For one juicy role, your headshot is competing  against 1,334 others. Yes, it's daunting, but don't worry. A quarter of them are outside the specs, and one or two are the opposite sex we need. Wish I was kidding. Sigh.

But, what MAKES a good headshot? Everyone has an opinion based on their own aesthetics, and if you're new to LA, congrats, you don't have a headshot aesthetic yet. You think everything looks good. Give it a few years, look at all your friends' headshots and really try to pinpoint WHY you think their photo is good or crap.

And here's the part I promised: Thumbnails of what we see on Breakdowns.

I hate to do this cause it sounds mean and terrible and I hate negative energy, but it's for the greater good, right?

Here's how I'm doing it. I'm opening up the page and simply scrolling down. Anything that makes me stop gets a mention.

And listen. Here's the truth. If you're in LA and you want to be a Leading Lady, you have to be pretty. Drop dead gorgeous is better. Thin is fantastic. And under 5'8 is preferable, cause all Leading Dudes are tiny. If you're over 5'8, don't sweat it.

If you're average, you fall into character. If you're pretty, you walk the line.


Everyone is beautiful with proper lighting, professional makeup, a professional photographer and photoshop!

Here's a few pictures (actual size!) that stood out to us.

Irena is gorgeous, her skin looks amazing, her makeup is flawless and I'm a sucker for redheads.

In a sea of faces, Tamara's eyes POPPED the most out of the other girls in her row.

I normally strongly advise against wearing white in your headshots because it reflects all the light the brightest, thus washing you out, flattening your bosom, making your waist appear bigger and on and on, but this works for Beth because it draws the eye to her face and the pink background. This shot works when it shouldn't because the photographer was smart with the framing.

This one popped out to me cause I recognize her.

A simple, clean, effective headshot. Candace is obviously a major hottie but has a fantastic warm, girl next door look. She can choose to be the character or the leading lady.

 Mirai's skin is glowing. Beautiful.

Love Stephanie's eye makeup, her lips, her bangs, her pose, the dark clothes forcing the eye to look at her face - this is an EXCELLENT headshot. 

Julianna's lips popped and made me look at her.

This photo is cropped a leeeetle too closely, however, look at Liz's eyes. There is something to be said for using eyeliner on the bottom inner rim.

Emily looks clean, doesn't she? Simple, great.

If you don't have the audition rate you want, get a new haircut. I'm serious. Because if you look current and trendy, you look like you work a lot. And I'll bring you in. The dark color and blunt bangs are fantastic on Natasha.

 This is a FANTASTIC example of how to have an incredibly sexy shot without revealing hardly anything. The hair is soft, if frames her face, and we see just a bit of cleavage. This is perfect for either character or lead. And it's Victoria Secret sexy without being Victoria Secret vulgar.

 If Alex could crop this closer to her face, it might be better, but it's a great smile, a great pose and she looks refreshing and real.

Stacy pops out. I love her skin, her hair, her expression, the background.

Like Erica above, this  is another FANTASTIC sexy picture without being vulgar in the slightest. Love the makupe, the pale lip, and the tank top strap with the shoulder. Very sexy and piercing, yet soft. We want to know her.

The above photos were culled from only the first five pages of the 13 we got. They stood out for good reason. The trend now, because everything is digital, is to have closeups of the face. If your headshots don't look similar to the ones above, you have a problem.

You have a problem if yours look like the ones below too, because they stood out as well. For all the wrong reasons (I'm sorry if I'm mean, here! Really! Greater good, I swear!!)

[UPDATE: If you see yourself in one of these photos below and would like it to be taken down, please email me, letting me know which one it is. I will be more than happy to remove it as quickly as I can. I honestly do not mean to offend, but to educate.]

I know this is shot by the same photographer who did Beth's (third from top) up above, but the photographer went a little too extreme with the cropping.  HALF the photo is negative space! This girl's face is almost cut off! If you are paying a photographer for your headshots, it is absolutely necessary to go through their portfolio and say, "I don't care for this cropping," if you feel that way. Since the industry is trying to go green more and more each year, in the next five years, and possibly sooner, we won't be bringing headshots with us to auditions at all. There is no need for 3/4 shots anymore. You'll see why. Hang on.

The lipcolor is very 1996. It's an out of date photo because of it. If you don't like what your makeup artist does to you, you can ask her to change it. You're her employer and she has to do what you want.

This is not a headshot. I can't see what you look like.

This is not a headshot either. It's a modeling shot. I can't see your face. To me, it screams you're not an actress.

This IS a headshot, but I still can't see your face. This is a 3/4 shot, showing 3/4 of your body. And in today's digital age, if it's not focused on your face, we can't see you. The photos are just too small.


Needs to be cropped in so we can see more of your face and the color NEEDS to be corrected here. You're too Jersey Shore.


This is not a headshot. It's a publicity shot.



Meet an actress with too much light.

Photoshop is worth the investment. It evens out skin tone, can make your roots lighter, and will help you get through the door. This is a bad photo of an extremely pretty woman.

Her face is cropped out! If we an't see you, we won't bring you in.

[Black and White Photo Removed by Request]
Some people might have told you that a black and white picture in a sea of colored ones will make you stand out. It does. As someone whos is 10 years older than they want us to think. Someone who can't be bothered to take a current, color headshot. This was not the only black and white photo that was submitted.

This photo was taken from the inside of an elevator of a hotel floor. No. This does not show me that you are an actress.

And ladies, just so you know, if you have ANY shirt that's a spandex/cotton blend, a camera's flash goes right through it. I'm pretty sure those swirls on her shirt are from her bra.

Now, like I said earlier, I too learned something from this casting experience. If we clicked on a photo because we wanted to see what else the actress had, we got to see the rest of her photos on AA. Actresses with more than 6 photos had headshots that were basically the same photo in different clothes. You don't need twelve photos. So when I went home, I took down two photos that shared similar aspects.

A few actresses who submitted themselves with one hair color, would have six others from the same photoshoot, and then 5-7 more of themselves with a completely different look (like, going from long brunette to short and blond pixie cut). Take off obsolete photos.

Ladies, my fellow Struggling Actresses, I hope this helps. I really do. Now that you can see what is and is not effective, I hope this will help you in deciding what you need, what you want, and what you have to have when it comes to your career.

I believe in you.


UPDATE: Now there's a Part 3!

If you like this blog post, please share it via Twitter or Facebook and help spread the word to your fellow struggling actors.  :)


  1. Excellent post! Using breakdown express to cast something makes you see headshots in an entirely new light so I'm sure this will be incredibly helpful to anyone who's not had that opportunity.... and now I must share with my friend Stacy that she was featured here in a good way! :-)

  2. Great post and wonderful advice! I'm getting new headshots this month so I'm going to be saving your "DO" list. :)

  3. Question: What do you think about posting a photo with a different hair color but same features? For example, photos that were take 6 months apart, the subject still looks the same, just a different hair color? I've always thought it showed my range of looks (and in a way, different characters), but I don't want to come off as deceptive. On that note, my main head shot is always my current color.

  4. Hey Taylor,

    Take off the photos that don't match your look right now. It IS confusing, and it makes it look like you don't know how to use the basics on Breakdowns by not taking your outdated photos down, and therefore you look green.

    A great thing about Breakdowns is that when you delete a photo, they still have it in your archives and you can bring it back if you ever need to without any additional cost.

  5. I Can't stop laughing awesome advice..what about the Guys you should show examples as well.
    The girl on the swing ..what was that all about?

  6. Hi Lira,

    As a professional headshot photographer myself, I want to point out that the cropping issues you've mentioned here aren't necessarily the photographer... the ACTOR chooses the thumbnail crop when they upload the shot... and they can also choose to zoom in or out of the image to show the appropriate amount of the face.

    I totally agree with your assessments, by the way... just hate to see photographers blamed for something they have no control over ;)

  7. Hey Nick,

    Yes, I agree that the actor chooses the thumbnail crop when they upload the shot, however, the photographer is in control of the framing of the photos - and if your photographer is doing 3/4 shots, not only is that technique outdated by a several years, but you can't get a good tight crop of your face on a 3/4 photo.
    And if the photo is framed where the actor is all the way to the side, as is the top one of the second set of photos - THAT is a photographer's framing mistake, that good cropping can't correct. Cropping can only do so much to poor framing.
    Thanks for the comment. :)

  8. As and actor, and as a retoucher, all I can say is that your advice is spot on!

  9. Lira - what a great service you are doing! Educating actors on the other side of it so that it helps us present our best for casting. I worked in casting for a few years and know exactly what you are talking about with pictures, it was invaluable training! I am heading to part 3 now, but did you suggest yet for actors to offer themselves up as readers for a day? Super helpful insight as well. And PS - thanks for liking my pic! It worked well for me for a few years. :)

  10. I came across your post through New England Actor, very helpful and thought process while reviewing headshots is interesting. I am getting new headshots -- and in color!! The photo you see of me is in Black and white but new headshots are on the way!!

    Thank you for sharing valuable information!!

  11. Wonderful information. THANK YOU! p.s. Why do you call yourself a struggling actress? Don't you think that sends a negative message to the universe & sets you up for more strife? How about "thriving actress" or at least, "Working Actress?" The latter is not only true in your case but also positive & inviting. Your expertise has helped me a lot. I'd love to see you give yourself the credit you deserve!

    1. Thank you, that's so kind, and I'm glad I could help you!

      Many actresses looking for advice Google "struggling actress" and this blog pops up first, so I'm able to better help those seeking the advice they need by using this name. <3

    2. Thanks for your reply, Lira! I thought this might be your reason & it makes a lot of sense. You're definitely right. Of course, many people also google "working actress" or "how to be a working actress/actor" etc. but maybe "struggling" is actually a more common search, I don't know. I found your blog after googling the question "Does Actors Access actually work?" Your site was the top result but when I saw it said "Struggling Actress," I almost didn't click on it because I thought, "Why would I want advice from someone who's struggling? I'm looking for expertise from people who are thriving or at least working!" But I'm so glad I did click on your blog anyway because it's not only well-written & inspiring but full of valuable info. I was very impressed. That's why I thought you deserved a more fitting title. But you are the authority here & I trust you know what works best for you. Just keep shining. And thank you so much again. I wish you every success. - Amber

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