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What Is A Commercial Headshot?

If you’re looking into getting into acting, you’ll likely try and find an agent or manager. Inevitably, they will ask for your current headshots or for you to get some new ones. And this means considering getting commercial looks, theatrical looks, or both. So, 

What is a commercial look?

You might be wondering what a theatrical headshot is. You will likely want both types of looks and to work with a headshot photographer who can do both. There are apparent differences between the two and how they might be used.

First, How is a Theatrical Headshot Different?

In a commercial headshot, the look an actor is usually after is an overall friendly, approachable look. So, the photo’s characteristics are bright and often colorful. For a theatrical look, this is the opposite. However, neither is overdone, and actors should appear approachable in all their looks.

In theatrical looks, the actor is usually after an overall serious look while appearing approachable. As a result, the photo’s characteristics often have a darker tone. Think of the difference between trying to be cast as the girl or guy next door vs. the tough guy or girl or villain down the street.

Capturing the difference between these two distinct looks is often best done in a studio setting where professional lighting can be used and controlled. It is not impossible in a natural light setting, but hunting for the perfect lighting when the sun changes every minute can be daunting. The sun may not always be the same – sometimes, it is cloudier one day than another. A studio setting avoids these limitations and gives a photographer even greater lighting control.

So, if a theatrical look is dramatic, it will usually center around the proper use of shadows. This is not just using shadows on your face but also the background, your hair, and so on.

Meanwhile, a commercial look will center around usually eliminating shadows and having as even and bright lighting as possible.

Facial Expressions for Commercial Looks

To understand the ideal types of facial expressions for commercial looks more efficiently, it is essential to contrast them against a theatrical look. Again, the theatrical look is about seriousness. If you are talking about roles, think about a cop who just uncovered new evidence, a villain about to commit a crime, and so on. So, there are no big smiles about it with theatrical shots.

With a commercial look, it is about being the best friend, the friendly girl or guy next door, that person everyone wants to hang around. So, in contrast, we are talking about inviting and warm smiles or facial expressions.

Of course, no rules written somewhere in the acting world specifically define each of these looks. It would be best if you still were yourself or the characters you can or want to pull off. So, there can be variances. There can even be shots that blur the lines between both. The point here is to draw out the differences because, in most cases, aspiring actors want succinct differences in these shots when they have them done.

Typical Uses for Commercial and Theatrical Headshots

To try and summarize one more way, commercial headshots can be used for movies, shows, theatre, advertising commercials, and more when you want to be cast as the helpful person, the boyfriend or girlfriend, the happy background actor, or the electronics store employee, respectively.

For theatrical looks, you might want these to be used to cast in movies, shows, theatre, advertising commercials, and more as the hateful person, the suspect in a case, the villainous extra, or the mad customer at an electronics store, respectively.

Again, these looks span well beyond such roles. There are attempts to clarify what is generally meant when we refer to actor commercial versus theatrical looks.

What to Wear for Commercial Headshots?

Headshots are usually cropped rather tight for acting, right around the upper chest. What you wear always matters, but it is less critical than what not to wear, so the focus stays on your face instead of what you have on it. So, generally speaking, avoid flashy jewelry. Also, avoid busy patterns like stripes that are overdone or have a lot of contrast. Steer away from prominent logos on branded tops.

Consider solid colors with simple accents, like simple stripes or other patterns. For the commercial shots, you usually have a basic top on, a suit. For the theatrical shot, you usually layer on top of a basic top by adding a jacket or some other shirt to put over it, like a flannel shirt over a t-shirt.

The Professional Headshot Photographer

Getting these shots done in a studio will usually yield the best results. But it does require a good headshot photographer capable of understanding and pulling off multi-studio light setups.

You also want to measure the quality of their photos, such as their sharpness – not too much, just the right amount, and the depth and tone of their shots. This might also include color saturation, background options, and so on. There are a ton of choices for photographers in Los Angeles. So, see if, in their portfolio, they regularly pull off both looks. It is essential since your agent or manager will likely want you to have multiple looks in your portfolio. An actor probably wants to be able to target both types of roles, too.

Zen Studios LA offers affordable and the best headshots in the area. Book your session now!

Mich Angela Pinili

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