Getting Great Headshots: Commercial vs Theatrical

Commercial Headshot Photography Los Angeles

I’ve decided to addendum my earlier post on Getting Great Headshots to best address further details pertaining to the types of headshots you should be going for.
Here I’m going to discuss differences between commercial and theatrical headshots, and the types of roles they’re geared toward.

First, you should have a clear idea about the markets in which you want to work, and strive for headshots that cater to those markets. Are you looking for TV commercial spots or print ads?  Then you need commercial headshots.  Are you the successful office worker? The all-American suburban mom?  Bobby Blue-collar?  One or more of these types should be suggestible in a commercial headshot.  Take a look at the lead-in photo above.  The model is flashing a gorgeous smile, sparkle in her eyes, and a pink sweater for that extra “pop.”  She could probably sell most anything from toothpaste to car insurance.

Bear in mind commercial headshots should have a generally broad, national appeal.  They shouldn’t be too edgy, sexy, or in-your-face.  It has to appeal to a wide spectrum of roles and markets, to ensure your accessibility to all of them.

But how about film, TV shows, and theater roles?  Those call for a theatrical headshot.  A theatrical headshot — also sometimes referred to as a “legit” shot — defines the character and qualities that a person projects.  Are you portraying a flirty seductress love-interest?  Or the trustworthy best friend?  Do you work best as a specific type, like the edgy bad boy, or something more general, like the next-door romantic lead?  Are you a complex jazz musician?  A quirky comedic type??  Unlike the commercial shot, the theatrical headshot is mainly to convey nuances that show you’re the best fit for a more specific role.  You’re more likely to land gigs when casting directors or potential clients don’t have to stretch their imaginations that you’ll fit the part.

Theatrical Legit Actor Headshot Los Angeles

Theatrical (Legit) Headshot

Take a look at the above theatrical headshot.  The expression, location, lighting, angle, colors, and wardrobe all combine cohesively to suggest a cool, edgy, urban role.  Something you might expect from the CSI franchise, college drama series, a PSA commercial, or similar.

As a general rule, it is best to showcase both with every look, but of course certain looks can lend themselves to being one or the other.  But most importantly, make sure you find a photographer that is able to successfully get you the shots that cater to the specific markets you are after.

Feel free to take a look at my headshot gallery to see the range of commercial and theatrical headshots I can provide!


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  2. […] my blog article Getting Great Headshots: Commercial vs Theatrical?  Meet Cris, an actor just starting out here in Los Angeles.  Cris approached me in desperate […]

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