Jonathan's Headshot Blog!news, plugs and advice for actors and regular folk alike.

Good Headshots Can Grow a Business


Brian Oxman 124Headshots aren’t just for actors and if you don’t have one (or have a really bad one) you may be hurting your business. These days everyone has an online presence, like it or not. If you manage yours correctly (or at all) you’re aware of how important images are.


Despite whether you’re a personality or a plumber your image in this digital age is an essential asset and should be represented well. When people are looking for a business to handle their needs most people do their research online. When they see a face to go along with a business they are MUCH more likely to trust and follow through. For more on the research done on this read here. Even if you think you’re the least photogenic person on the planet your image still adds the same amount of benefit.

Let’s go over a few simple tips to make sure you get a leg up on your competition.

Dress appropriately for your market. Think about how your customers expect you to look. A suit and tie is not always the best option, often something more casual works best but again this depends on your market. If you need help ask your headshot photographer for some advice, we work regularly with a wide variety of clientele from film/tv directors, authors, musicians and scientists to real estate agents, doctors, lawyers, general contractors and electricians.

Benjamin Riley 083Choose a photographer who will make you feel comfortable and at ease. You want to be yourself as much as possible. A simple confident and relaxed smile is all you need and someone who can direct you there is essential for that.

Mary Gallagher 292

Pick a photo that says “I like and trust this person.” Warm, affable and friendly are important but the body language of relaxed easy confidence is what wins people over.

Retouch that headshot! Yes, when done right retouching can work magic and still come out looking like you. This is something non-actors can generally take a bit further than actors should ever go. They need to look exactly like themselves so retouching needs to be subtle and mainly ‘corrective.’ With non-actors it’s quite common to slim and contour a bit. As always though the finished product needs to look real and still very much like you, a service that’s always worth every penny.

headshot-placeholder-213x300Post your image. Have your image added to your online business and personal profiles including blogs and forums where you might lend your advice as well as on your business cards and website. Wherever possible place it as close as you can to your “call to action” (usually a phone number.)

I hope this helps you make an impact in your online marketing!

Jonathan Vandiveer

Leverage Your Reps To Get Better Headshots

There’s no way around it, getting your headshots taken can be a daunting task. But if you have and agent and/or manager you can make that process smoother and more effective while simultaneously getting your reps invested in you as an actor.

Rule #1

While taking these suggestions please always consider rule number one: don’t waste your agent or manager’s time. They are very busy people and while your success is there’s as well it’s important to keep all communications and requests as efficient as possible.

Be Cunning

Unknown-1If you’re really clever you don’t have to ask for much of your representative’s time or energy to get them involved in your marketing. The tips below are designed to help you get your agent or manager subversively invested not just in your headshots, but your entire journey. All of these steps can be done through email but make sure to give them clear distinct choices. In each step, each choice should be one you are happy with as well. The point of all of this isn’t for them to figure things out for you but for them to feel that they have a real stake in you. When they see those headshots later you want them to say to themselves, “damn I did a good job guiding him/her on those headshots, I wish all of my clients were as proactive as he/she is!”


Getting prepared for your session is one of the most important things you can do to ensure you have a successful headshot session and something that only a very small percentage of actors bother to do fully. There are myriad of things to account for when preparing however for the sake of this article I will focus only on the things that your agent or manager can also be involved in.

  • Photo by Jonathan VandiveerConfirm with your agent/manager the looks you’re trying to achieve: Your headshots are marketing tools and it’s important for you and your agent to be on the same page about what you are specifically targeting. If you’re not sure about your casting then you need to step back from this and do your homework on that first. When you speak with them about the looks you’re going for they may have something they want to add or adjust, that’s the time where you can ask if they have additional casting ideas for you. After all, they’re in that mindset all day long, but you should always start off with your own ideas first. In a somewhat sneaky way you’re telling them what you think you should be going out for, and that you’re actively pursuing that goal in a professional manner. Remember, we’re working to get them onboard with your decisions.
  • Get your agent/manager’s feedback on your wardrobe:
    • Do not bring in each outfit to them, this is a waste of time and does not adequately show them what the outfits actually look like on you.
    • Shoot wardrobe selfies instead: Near a window or door opening, take an arms length selfie and then crop from chest to head for each wardrobe option you are considering. Taking it at least arms length will reduce distortion and cropping will replicate the headshot format, this is important because clothing looks very different when cropped in this manner – the lines of stitching, patterns, as well as how the fabric falls on you. If you wear something extra ‘drapey’ be sure to clip it back just a bit to give it a smidge of shape.
    • Narrow them down: You don’t want to overwhelm them with choices, only send the contenders. (rule #1) Once you’ve got a collection of everything put them in your favorite photo editor (osx photo, etc) so you can see all of these options side by side. This will make it very clear what works for each look and what doesn’t! Once you’ve narrowed them down email them to your reps for their opinion. Remember one of the most important reasons to do this is to get your agent and manager invested in you. J


The only thing I’m going to say here is that it is very important to find someone who lets you see your images during the shoot. How else are you going to know if you’re nailing it or not?

Post Production – Get their feedback

13thEach agent/manager has their own favorite way to give image feedback – 4x6s, online proofs, physical proofs or digital files. It’s from my experience though that unless they explicitly ask you for every image you should cut it down to only your top choices. (rule #1 again) After all, you wouldn’t want them picking one you didn’t like! A few reps decline to give image reviews, usually ones who have extremely large workloads/client lists, however if you’ve done everything else they’ll be much more likely to want to put their stamp on this step as well regardless.

I hope this helps you get the most out of your upcoming photo session!

Jonathan Vandiveer

Hair & The Headshot

Hair, yes YOUR hair….. in headshots that is.

What should I do with my hair? I get asked this question, A LOT! I decided to write this to help you find an answer yourself because while this may seem like an obviously subjective topic there are some things you should consider.

B66A36BA-55A8-429D-A946D7A0BC0C9D48-219x300Let’s start with the general concept of change. As actors we need to explore and discover new looks while developing characters and stretching as artists. This basic concept should be embraced. Be a chameleon, change is good. However you also need to approach that change with your marketing in mind. Chopping your hair short? Fine. Going platinum blonde? Fine. Make those changes, just be sure your headshots and other marketing materials reflect them. It is incredibly frustrating for a casting director to open up your profile (after clicking on your newest photo with *major look change*) and see multiple other starkly contrasting looks. What does this actor look like NOW? If the other looks belie your current look you also might have just lost the “sale.” That “warm friendly young dad” headshot is not going to help your new “tough biker bad guy” look. You need a cohesive tangible crystal clear marketing package.

That said there are some things to consider when making your changes.

Commit: Know that whatever change you make you should commit to for enough time to be seen and heard. Total random number here but I’d say no less than three to six months depending on how severe a change your talking about. Making slight facial hair changes are not so huge but growing your hair long or dyeing it blonde require a bigger time commitment. If you’re doing your change for a project, how quickly it gets seen and what kind of impact it is making may all factor in.

crazy-Moustache-beard-style-2Uniqueness vs. Marketability: There aren’t a ton of male actors out there with really long hair, so if a role comes up that fits you’re going to be going up against a smaller crowd of competition. On the same hand there aren’t a lot of roles for guys with long hair. Ba dum bum. Something to consider with any truly unique look be it pink hair, a woman with a shaved head, neck beard, mohawk – you get the picture. 😉

Flexibility: Picking a hair length that is not too short and not too long is going to give you a lot more room with casting. For one it’s a bit easier to imagine different looks with something medium in length and secondly it gives them the flexibility to cut your hair shorter for the role or add extensions if needed.

Don’t Hide: We need to see your face and eyes and hair that cover either too much are going to work against you. Medium length hair (just below the shoulder or shorter) works very well for most women on film because of the way the camera frames you in a ‘medium close up’ to ‘close up’ shot. Just take a look at the hair of some of your favorite screen actors to get an idea.

I hope this helps some of you make future look changes and effectively market them. Please let me know your thoughts on this topic on our Facebook page.

Here’s to your success!


It’s All In The Eyes – Getting Working Headshots


Saif Arroyo 4Casting Directors, Directors and Producers always talk about headshots that “pop” or “that certain sparkle” in the eyes that they’re drawn to. Ever wonder what

that is and how to achieve it in your own headshots? (Hint: it’s not the background, or what you’re wearing that they’re talking about.) Finding a photographer who fully understands this critical element, and can direct you there, is of utmost value.

When looking for a photographer, most actors start off with blind referrals or see a fancy ad and go in with their fingers crossed. Don’t waste your money counting on your luck alone – your career is worth far too much for that gamble. You need someone skilled enough to capture you in a way that will get you noticed.

The Photographer Is Your Mirror

Have you ever wanted a mirror in front of you while your picture was taken? You’d be able to make sure your hair was perfect, that you had just the ‘right’ expression, etc. The concept has good intentions but will only introvert you and make you self-aware. You need to be alive and in the moment, not focused inward. Instead, you should seek out a photographer who IS your mirror. One who sees subtle almost imperceptible tension in the face and guides you to let it go, giving key direction to aid you in creating the look you’re going for without making you self conscious. This is key to getting the most from your shoot.

Finding The Right Photographer

Photo by Jonathan VandiveerSo how do you know a headshot photographer is capable of doing this?  Look at their work. But don’t just look for pretty pictures. Put a ‘thought bubble’ over each headshot. What are they saying? Blank, vacant or questioning thoughts or looks might work fine for fashion at times, but will be totally lost in the world of acting. If, however, you see a strong statement full of confidence then the photographer is on the right track. Look at each headshot by itself and ask yourself what parts the subject might be right for and if you’d hire them.

Avoid The “Big” Look

Don’t overdo it; a headshot is essentially a close up and the more subtle expressions have huge power. If directors or producers think you’re ‘trying’ or ‘acting,’ you’ll be passed over for the majority of film and television work. Your eyes are immensely expressive. Your photographer should see this and help you pull back when it’s ‘too much’ for the camera.  If you’re completely relaxed without any tension in your face, your thoughts can be easily read through your eyes without any additional effort on your part. An experienced, trained headshot photographer will know this and guide you to your perfect ‘thought bubble.’


Kelli Casas 152While you don’t want to overdo it, not every shot has to be ‘ultra subtle’ regarding your body language or ‘attitude.’ Your personality is key to a great headshot and sometimes a playful active energy in the shot is needed, especially for commercial and comedic parts. To get there, you need to feel comfortable and you need to move to find that comfort zone. A photographer who works with movement and helps you find a rhythm to it that keeps you at ease and incorporates your body language is a valuable asset. This is a challenging technique that requires specific direction so you can move naturally, as only you can, to bring out your individual personality.

To know whether a photographer is capable of this, again, take a look at their work. Do the actors look like they’re in motion, caught in a real moment outside the world of the camera? Is there subtle body language in the shot? Does it resemble a film still or a candid shot? You don’t want to overdo this too much. The shot still needs to have the actor as the center of focus without backgrounds that upstage you or body language that doesn’t show you fully. However, it is essential to highlight your personality through movement, as subtle as it may be. This is what will set you apart and is something uniquely individual to you and you alone.

Don’t Forget The Basics 

Here are some other essentials a photographer should offer (and what you should bring to the table):

  • A relaxed comfortable environment
  • Flattering lighting
  • An aesthetic composition that doesn’t distract from the subject and that adds to the specific casting for your look(s)
  • A full understanding of your casting and how to market yourself for it (wardrobe, etc.)

For more on these basics, take a look at the rest of our website or call to schedule a free consultation.

I hope these tips help you in achieving headshots that work for you. Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions you may have.

Wishing you a successful and prosperous career!

Jonathan Vandiveer



Mahedi Rakib recurring on Graceland

Congratulations to Mahedi Rakib for booking a recurring role on Graceland!

Photo by Jonathan VandiveerStory on THR

Boston Globe Review

Congrats to client Elizabeth Little for the great review of her new book “Dear Daughter” in The Boston Globe this week!
Elizabeth Little Headshot

Watch Neeko’s New Series on NBC!

Neeko SkervinWell the cat’s finally out of the bag and we can reveal our headshot client’s name on this story. Four time repeat headshot client Neeko Skervin has had their scripted thriller Siberia picked up for a summer run on NBC which starts it’s run this Monday July, 1st at 10pm. Congrats Neeko!  You can actually watch the first episode right now on the NBC site.

Siberia is a scripted show about a reality show gone wrong. Don’t you love it? A scripted show about reality TV? I can just hear Alanis Morissette‘s voice now.

A quick story about Neeko‘s finding this part and getting cast: Neeko was was given some pretty crappy feedback/advice at a CD workshop just a few days before submitting themselves on this show. (this is paraphrasing mind you) CD: “You’ll never find any casting in this town, I’ve never seen a need for a black British guy as a lead in anything.”  He left the workshop disheartened only to find a few days later, a breakdown that described his casting perfectly (for Siberia)…  He submitted for it (using a headshot by us of course) and the rest is history.  Just goes to show you, don’t listen to the negative voices and never give up!!

Graduating Soon? Read this…

what-not-to-forget-before-graduatingHere’s a suggested article that I agree should be helpful to those of you who will be graduating from college or university soon. This would’ve helped me had I read it back when. :)

What Not to Forget Before Graduating…

IMDb Starmeter (ego) Booster

images-1Ok, so obviously you shouldn’t really care about your starmeter ranking, after all you should really be spending all that energy on your acting career, landing roles and creating art right?? So then why did this title grab your attention? Probably because IMDb puts that thing front and center on your profile right next to your headshot and it’s hard not to notice.

Well if you want a FREE way to boost that ranking of yours a bit you can go to Karmalicity and create a profile and spend a few minutes a day clicking.

Just to be clear though, I’m not actually advocating this as anything that will even remotely help you as an actor. However it might stroke your ego a bit. 😉

NBC Picks Up ——‘s Series!

Here's one of their headshots, face soon to be revealed!

Here’s one of their headshots- face soon to be revealed!

Four time repeat headshot client —– ——- has had their scripted thriller Siberia picked up for a summer run on NBC. Very exciting news! Congrats —–! Yes, I can’t say their name as they have yet to officially announce the cast of this series, very hush-hush. I will post again when the cat’s out of the bag.  Siberia is a scripted show about a reality show gone wrong. Don’t you love it? A scripted show about reality TV? I can just hear Alanis Morissette‘s voice now.

One great story I can tell you is that this unnamed actor was given some pretty crappy feedback/advice at a CD workshop just a few days before submitting themselves on this show. CD: “You’ll never find any casting in this town, I’ve never seen a need for a _____ _____ _____ as a lead in anything” (ok I’m paraphrasing a bit but the message was the same.) Just goes to show you, don’t listen to the negative voices and never give up!!