Life of

My face: Rules to a Great Headshot

The nose was long, not like a witch. It was long and crooked, like a slight bend on a straight road. Eyes were green like the sea; however, the sea isn’t very green, so I guess they were green like dying grass or seaweed. Showing every tooth, the smile was large. You could see almost every nook in the smile, including the three crooked teeth in the front bottom row. This was surrounded by a sea of lips. Big, passionate, and bold, they looked like they belonged to someone of a darker ethnicity. The ears bowed out, having an elfin quality but not pointy.  Students would comment on the super-human hearing, and maybe it was because of the bowed ears.

207595_1010670111647_1371830301_27587_269_nI was twenty the first time I saw my face. These were my headshots; pictures I needed taken in order to advertise myself like a grocery store product. I always thought I had been un-photogenic, but that’s not reality; I was seeing my face for the first time. I kept thinking, “This can’t be me,” and “I don’t look like this.” I then realized that for the first time I was looking at the true version of me. This wasn’t the reflection I had grown accustomed to. All these years, I had stared into the mirror, attempting to make this face look perfect, but it was imperfect.

No sorrow or pain; it brought a sort of relief. The relief came over me like a warm breeze in autumn. No matter what I did to look like the perfect, attainable male, I was still imperfect.  Maybe some picture photographer or program could adjust this, turning me into the desirable underwear model every performer sees themselves as at one point or another.  But then I’m not marketing me.

215386_1010667871591_1371830301_27578_2121_nIn fact, in the same shoot, I got this amazing shot.  The photographer asked me to talk about someone that I had a crush on, or longed for, and all I could think about was my mom’s homemade Rum and Raisin New York Cheesecake.  So I told her about it.  She shot me facing the sun and from laying on the ground of the New York City rooftop.  It was the most amazing picture I’d ever had taken of me.  I looked like that model that I’d always wanted to be.  I was no longer a 125lb 5’5” dancer.  I was a 195lb 6’1” underwear model.  And in one shot!  SCORE!

I couldn’t use the picture.  It isn’t me.  Could you imagine sending someone a picture of you that doesn’t really look like you and showing up?!  First, you’ll end up humiliating yourself.  Second, you’ll anger the recipients of the picture for going through all the work and anticipation of getting something they wanted, realizing that they aren’t getting that product. 

Rules to a great headshot:


2) Look like someone I want to work with, but not annoying happy.

3) WE HAVE IMAGINATIONS!  Don’t get rid of all your flaws in a photo.  We can fix it with make up and technology.

4) You should be the focus of the picture, not your outfit (see last picture.  It is a great photo, but the focus eventually goes to my shirt and pants – “is he wearing a shirt from Madeline?”), not your hands, not your hair, not your jewelry, not your makeup.  If you can put the word “your” in what you describe in the picture, put it away.  For instance:  “I love your neck in this picture.”  Nope, it’s out.  They should say, “Wow, it really looks like you.” or “This captures you well.”

5) Who you are.  Again, we’ll see if you can act in auditions.  But who are we going to work with?  Are you a bitch?  If so, your photo should proudly shout it out.  If you are a stoic thinker, a giggle-puss, or a introvert – show it in the picture.

6) Color or b/w – This is the LAST, thing you should think about.  Just get the first 5.  Color is less forgiving but pops, if you care, but if you are more traditional (like me), go black and white.

This kind of self discovery was the kind that goes down in a person’s private history book. It’s among those monumental moments like learning you enjoy sauerkraut, opera, and cigarettes (gross, but still cool), or that you really don’t like the Beatles, sand between your toes, and extroverted happy people (punch ‘em in the face!). All of these things should show in the face. Your desires, fears, likes, dislikes, tragedies, successes, ambitions, and lack of interest need to be displayed between the hairline and the chin. It is absolutely remarkable what a picture can take.

I learned a lot about those photos, and now, I proudly promote myself as I am.

And as should you.

Written by Aly Cardinalli

Director/Master Choreographer/Vocal Coach

PS – I officially quit smoking and will soon blog about that.2095983003791

“Nice shirt!  Did you take it from that orphan, Madeline?! And who ran over your pants?!”


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