I previously wrote a blog about the need for comedians to have a decent tape of their set. This particular piece got both positive and negative reactions. For the most part, comics know about the importance of having a good tape and understand it needs to emphasize a few key things before being shopped around. Others felt I was condescending or calling them out. Although no one was specifically referenced, I’m not flinching if the truth hurts someone’s feelings. These blogs are meant to be insightful and not to give anyone’s ego a false sense of hope.
Tapes are one of the basic necessities a comic needs to make their mark and the same goes for one other thing: headshots.
It amazes me to this day how many comics lack a quality headshot (new and veterans).
Why is it so important? I’ll tell you.
Headshots show your level of professionalism.
Comedy is one of those industries where there’s kind of a misconception that because it’s funny business comics can get away with being unprofessional. That’s not the case and this business is just as serious as any industry would be.
Professional headshots are an extension of your brand and part of the equation for selling yourself. For example, let’s say you’re submitting for representation; you’ve gained recognition on the scene that would constitute at least a meeting for potential representation. They ask you for a headshot and you send them an obvious selfie image you took from your smartphone or worse, you don’t have one to send. How can that be taken seriously? There’s a saying “be so undeniable that no one can say ‘no.’” Sure, talent is one thing and it can get you to a certain point, but professionalism is another thing and lacking basic necessities will be a turn off to any producer, agent, etc.
Why do so many comics lack headshots? Personally, the lack of headshots is a mystery to me. When I ask a comic for a headshot and they say they don’t have one, reasons range from not having time to do them, they can’t afford the cost, etc. These reasonings are just excuses in my opinion and not good enough. Would you tell a talent agent, booker, or casting director that? Probably not.
Even with something like cost, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get workable headshots that can be used for anything. I know a photographer that offers five professional, retouched headshots for a session in New York City at just $100. That’s an amazing bargain for what is being offered as “affordable” these days so there really is no excuse.
What should a headshot embody?
Headshots don’t have to be extravagant and for the most part, a simple, straight forward shot will do. It helps to have options though. Maybe you want one to be “comedy specific” whereas as the others can be more versatile? The main elements you should have for a headshot are looking straight into the camera and nothing is in the way of your face. If you want to use props make sure they are at body level or are far enough away from the face that it doesn’t look like it’s an obstruction. Additionally, lighting should be balanced to where you can be seen clearly and the resolution must be intact.
They SHOULD NOT be black and white (it’s not your funeral) and you probably shouldn’t do distorted facial expressions. If you plan to have a distorted expression make sure you have other options to choose from.
It’s a real indicator of how far someone will go based on lacking something as simple as a headshot. It’s not only a necessity, but a basic responsibility for comics to have useable headshots (among other things). If you don’t then don’t be surprised if you can’t take your career to the next level.
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!