Stephanie Ciccarelli

Have you ever considered having a professional photograph taken to help you promote your career?
Last night I had my first session with London, ON photographer, David Raposo, and I’d like to share a bit about my experience with you.
As a voice actor, you might think that head shots aren’t a priority or good for business, however, you may change your mind after you read this.

Head Shots

Whether you like it or not, nearly everyone in the entertainment industry needs to have a quality head shot or portrait taken that will represent them as professionals.
Before now, I had never sat for a true business photo session, mainly because I felt that it could wait or that I didn’t need a head shot. Perhaps you feel like this too and are just waiting for a kick in the butt to get yours done.

My butt kicking came after I realized that when people ask me to speak somewhere, I need to have a photo that they can use online or in agendas to help sell what I’m talking about to complement a thoughtfully worded bio. If I were to publish a book, be quoted in a newspaper or even show up at an industry event, having a photo already prepared is not only convenient but mandatory.

Boy, do I wish I had done this earlier!
I was photographed by London, Ontario photographer, David Raposo. David also photographed David Ciccarelli, my husband and co-founder, a couple of months ago. Raposo has experience working with fashion models, business people, does wedding photography and enjoys taking photos of families, too. I’m already looking forward to booking my next session and also family portraits to capture more of the people I love in pictures.

5 Characteristics You’ll Find in a Good Photographer:

1. They are interested in getting to know you as a person
2. They have mastered the art of lighting
3. The photographer has been referred to you and gets a lot of business through referrals
4. Their work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, online, etc.
5. They know how to direct a session, put you at ease, and can inspire ideas

Great Photo Session = Being Comfortable

The key to a great photo session is confidence and feeling comfortable with your photographer. The first part of the session may be spent getting to know each other. If you are at ease, the images are more authentic, believable and are also less grating to look at when you review them following the session.

When I took a look at the first round we did shortly after I arrived (I had only met David in person that night but knew of him through referrals, networking, email and Facebook), I admit that I wasn’t as relaxed as I was once we really got rolling 20 minutes later. By picture 35 or so, I was in tune with what was being asked of me and I was even making suggestions at that point which was truly progress for me.

There were in the neighbourhood of 70 pictures taken during the 1 hour session. One of the great things about digital photography is that you can keep shooting and you don’t have to worry about running out of film.

5 Tips on How To Prepare for a Head Shot Session

1. If you’re a woman, wear your hair down, perhaps flat iron it if you like
2. Choose neutral, safe colours to wear that won’t look dated years later
3. Solid colours are best – patterns or lines are too distracting
4. Have pro makeup done. Men: basic foundation/powder is a must… yes, you heard me!
5. Envision your goals and think of some poses you’d like to try

Word of caution: If you are considering cutting your hair or doing anything drastic to your appearance, hold off until you have had your photos taken. I wanted to cut my hair shorter but am glad that I chose not to do so before these pictures were taken. Thank you to the many people who urged otherwise and helped to persuade me!

Miscellaneous Photography Session Tips

๏ Come prepared with a few outfits or shirts that you can change into
๏ Bring a hair brush with you as well as any items you might wish to keep on hand
๏ Invite a friend to come with you to the session to make you more comfortable
๏ Get adequate sleep the night before
๏ Drink lots of water and even bring some to the session
๏ Treat yourself to a relatively stress-free day if you can manage it
๏ Try to schedule your hair (first) and makeup (second) appointments close together
๏ Let your makeup artist know that you need professional makeup applied for photos
๏ Book your session at a time of day when you are at your best, hopefully following shortly after your hair and makeup appointments

๏ Reapply lipstick if necessary – men, bring a moisturizer or lip balm to avoid chapped lips
๏ Don’t wear ridiculous footwear or tight fitting clothes – resist torturing yourself! It’s just a from the chest up sort of photo, not your whole body
๏ Be willing to try different poses or facial expressions, even suggest some of your own
๏ Bring clippings from magazines of images you like / would like to recreate in your shoot
So, that’s what is really going on with head shots.

They are a great boon to you as a professional, but make sure that you’re also in it for the journey and appreciate the warmer, more personal side.
I hope my experience has helped you in some way to prepare for an enjoyable photo shoot!

Any Comments?

Looking forward to hearing from you,


  1. Co-incidentally, I noticed a recent technology article mentioning in the Globe & Mail, Report on Business. Was the photo taken of David that appeared in the article also done by this photographer? Great exposure for Voices talent, by the way!

  2. Hi Terry,
    Thank you for your comment and question. Also, thanks for noticing the Globe and Mail article featuring David. Yes, the photos of David Ciccarelli used by the Globe and Mail were also taken by David Raposo.
    We’re thrilled!
    Take care,

  3. Good tips Stephanie.
    This couldn’t have come at a better time, as I have an appointment this afternoon for both haircut/new style and photo shoot!
    BUT. I have to say that I disagree on the haircut thing. It’s OK to wait and get the hair cut after photos if they’re for your own use. But if you’re an on camera actor, using the headshot professionally, it really needs to reflect what you look like now, with the new haircut. In that instance, you need to take the photo after the haircut.
    It’s a major frutstration of agents that their talent get headshots that don’t reflect what they look like!
    Thanks for all you do!
    PS YOUR photo is awesome! Please send me a copy of it for the VoiceOver Insider!

  4. This is an interesting article, because as a voice actor I’ve always believed your best tool was … your voice. And that using a headshot could actually Hinder your chances at a job. If I have a miraculous voice and a not-so-miraculous mug, I may be left out of the running off the bat.
    Do you think agencies and producers are looking for their voice talent to be celebrities? It’s one thing if you’re doing speaking engagements or writing books, but if I’m just the voice of a health insurance commercial, do they really need to be reassured that their voice talent is this wicked-hot guy.
    Don’t get me wrong… I AM Wicked-hot. Not SMOKIN-Wicked-Hot like Stephanie…. but still turn a head here or there 🙂 My wife tells me they’re not looking at what I think they’re at.
    ANYHOW… it’s still up for debate with me.

  5. Great post, Stephanie! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard: “People don’t hire me for my looks but for my voice”. At the end of the day that might be true. That is, if you get the job. However, the way we present ourselves to the world is part of our professional image. Many times, voice-seekers will see our picture before they listen to our demo. What message does that overexposed ten year old Polaroid actually convey? And is that truly how we want the world to see us?
    Whether we like it or not, people make a snap judgment based on first impressions. It happens in the court room, it happens on and it happens on this website. This has nothing to do with logic. In an ideal world it shouldn’t even matter, and yet it does.
    Many of us unconsciously subscribe to the motto: “What you see is what you get.” To put it bluntly: amateur picture equals amateur talent.
    Ultimately, your head shot should be in line with your image. I’ve seen pictures of people staring at the camera with the look of a frightened dear in the headlights. Next to the photo was a description of their voice: “authoritative, confident, credible”. Another photo showed a mugshot of a scruffy guy in a sleeveless T-shirt. His voice qualities: “sophisticated and refined”. Need I say more? I think you get the picture!
    You don’t need to be a supermodel to look like a pro. The ideal head shot should show the best side of the Real You. It should capture your essence. The worst thing people could tell you is: “It’s a nice picture but it doesn’t really look like you”. So, if you never wear tons of make-up, don’t start face-painting before your photo shoot. If you normally wear glasses, keep them on. Minimize distractions like big ear rings and other jewelry. Pick a neutral background. It’s all about the face! That also means: do not use body shots. They’re called HEAD shots for a reason.
    Whatever you do, please don’t be tempted to use that great picture taken when you were hanging with your best friend in a bar. A head shot is taken in a professional context. We’re not picking pictures for your gallery on Facebook.
    And finally, leave it to a pro to take and select the best shot, NEVER to friends or family. They can’t see you the way strangers see you. Speaking of pro’s… if the cost of a photo shoot is keeping you from getting a head shot, this might be the ideal opportunity for a barter. Photographer’s care about their image too. Many of them could use a professional voice on their answering machine…

  6. Hi Stephanie,
    Great photo! Another suggestion for professional photos is to shoot it in Black and White, much classier, easier to use for newspapers, mags, etc…also remind the makeup person that the pics will be B&W as make up application is different than for color pics.
    As I’m fond of changing my hair, I have mine pulled back while wearing a black turtleneck sweater so that just my face is highlighted…just another idea to use! Thanks!

  7. Should VO actors have a photo or should we not and be judged purely on our voice? What does the industry expect?

  8. Hi Julie,
    Thanks for commenting and I’m glad this was a timely article for you 🙂 The advice to not cut my hair was very good for me personally because after I saw what my hair looked like in the photos, I decided not to cut my hair after all. It’s still the same length as you see in the image.
    Making decisions, as rudimentary as it may seem, about whether or not to cut your hair can become important issues if you are a performer and people are accustomed to a certain image.
    I agree that head shots should reflect what you look like currently which is why it may be good to schedule more sessions throughout the year if you change your look often.

  9. Hi Stephen,
    There is certainly debate over this topic, and strong arguments reside on both ends of the spectrum.
    Ultimately, it is up to you, however, consider the pros and cons of having head shots or conversely, not having head shots. As a business person, good head shots strengthen your brand. Seeing a picture of someone also builds trust.
    The primary issue people who are against voice actor head shots cite is that you should be judged based upon your voice and not your physical appearance.
    Perhaps think of it like this: would you rather do business with someone you feel you know and trust somewhat via their head shot or do business with someone who has not presented themselves fully who you don’t feel as connected to?

  10. In the UK it’s a bit different. It’s recommended that if your sending out a VO CD that you package it more like an album, ie with a cover and a title. That way you stand out from the crowd a bit more. On the back of the CD case you would have a photo that shows you in the moment of doing a VO recording. The front would be a more of a album type cover headshot than the one on the back.
    They would have to be a very shallow person to judge someone just on looks. Plus there are lots of people out there that think they are not very photogenic but others might disagree with them.

  11. Stuart has shared a number of good points! I’m not surprised though because he knows this business very well. My advice to those of you who feel uncomfortable with head shots and intend to never have them done is to at least have a likeness or graphical rendition available to complement your demo.
    I also agree that people who judge solely based upon looks are very shallow. Many people have voices that sound different from how they look.
    If there’s anything we learned from the Britain’s Got Talent episode featuring Susan Boyle, which is now the most viewed video ever on YouTube with 42,530,165 views and counting, it’s that it doesn’t matter what you look like but who you are, how you present yourself and how you perform that matters.

  12. I’ll jump in… as a 22 year veteran of the ad industry and voice industry my thoughts are this. You as a voice talent are a brand. And you should brand yourself accordingly. Although many of my veteran colleagues would agree that putting your picture out there on your demo or other marketing materials is often times a no-no, simply because it skews how people THINK you sound as opposed to how you REALLY sound. It’s a good idea to have your head shot done as well – you never know when you will be asked for it and in the voice business it happens all the time, especially the more successful you become. Besides, you never know when you’ll be asked to read for an on camera role (trust me it happens) Hope that helps…

  13. I agree the public doesn’t care who Susan Boyle is but VO actors aren’t selling to the public but rather to creative directors who think they know what the pubic wants and 1 week since singing SB has had a hair and clothes makeover. Just saying…but I like your idea of a cartoon rendering. Thanks.

  14. Creative directors shouldn’t be shallow, either 🙂 They above all should know that if they are looking for certain vocal qualities and a good read, a person’s head shot shouldn’t deter them from hiring the perfect voice for their job.

  15. Ed, thank you for getting in on this. I had no idea it would trigger a debate! I’m glad it did though. I know exactly where you are coming from. If there is one thing I know about you, Ed Victor, it’s that you are up on the trends and are moving forward in your career as quickly as the industry evolves… and that’s one fast ride!

  16. Stephanie,
    Great timing!
    I am off to Seattle to have Bridgett Ezzard do my headshots. Seattle area voiceover actors can see her work at:
    In addition to magazine clippings, I collected head shots from voice over websites and emailed the examples to the photographer before the session.
    Thank you for the great tips and suggestions! It is going to be fun.
    Jane Ingalls

  17. Ciao Stephanie,
    These are great tips. It looks like you have all the bases covered.
    I am glad that you enjoyed your session. It is nerve-wracking at first, and it is normal for it to take a while to warm up and feel comfortable in front of the camera.
    Once you are at ease, it becomes fun and you become more expressive. This produces great results.

  18. I think this was brought up…but was it beneficial to cut your hair after the shoot? I hear how important it is that your headshots are up to date. With long hair in your photo and short hair in person wouldn’t your shots look older than they are?

  19. Hi Emily,
    Thank you for your comment and question.
    I decided not to cut my hair after all 🙂 If I had done so before the shoot, I wouldn’t have been able to see just how much I liked (and am accustomed) to my hair as its current length. Looking at the photos, I know I made the right decision at present.
    If I get the urge to cut my hair sometime, I’ll definitely do so before getting my next set of photos done.

  20. Yes getting your hair cut a day or so before a shoot is fatal. Always ends in tears. I have had actresses turn up with a dodgy fringe that was not straight, extensions that were not fixed in correctly (that shoot had to be cancelled after 5 mins), Hair that had been over dried with a hair dryer 2 hours before. That went all fizzy and we could not get it under control and one that went to a hairdressers 2 hours before the shoot and discovered half way through they did not have the right mouse in. All this after I put on my website and tell people not to do it! lol.

  21. Great post Stephanie! I’ve often wondered if a head shot helps or hinders what I’m trying to accomplish. (For instance, if my picture looks too young, I worry my clients won’t take me seriously as a “mature” voice.) But I think after reading the post and all the comments, more often than not, a headshot is the way to go. My headshot is “me” and it reflects my personality but it also leaves a lot to the imagination. –Hopefully people will see what they want to see!

  22. HI all,
    A good friend of mine, a successful Hollywood photographer had his studio next to the landmark Capitol Records bldg for over 20 years and shot everybody in town. Most of what I know re: head shots I learned from Buddy and can pass some of it off to you.
    He offered the services of a pro makeup artist, but was never pushy about it. It is after all “your” shoot and your budget. That said, there must be a reason that every TV/film/print/etc shoot I’ve worked on used a professional makeup artist. If you use one you will pay for it and so you should check their “book” to ensure you like their makeup style. Don’t be pushed into accepting someone you don’t feel comfortable with.
    And men do best to avoid heavy makeup, but an application of “dulling” powder is always a good idea to keep the shine under control.
    Check out photographers web sites and you’ll quickly see that there is no one right way to capture your essence or image. Go with someone whose work you like. Buddy always said, and I think so too, that the main point was to capture the energy/personality/truth in the eyes. He always used an off-camera bounce flash, outside, even on the sunniest days in LA.
    The moment of the shoot is your time to shine. If you’re new to this you may well be anxious or nervous. Your photographer should anticipate this and be abel to get you to relax during the shoot. Your “best” shots my well show up midway through the session. Keep your hands away from your face, chin, ears. Minimal jewelry. Also, very small movements of your head will produce quite different results for you, as will slight body adjustments like placing your foot on the step of a short ladder. It really does change your center of balance and produces a different result. Try sitting on a high stool instead of a chair.
    Look like your photo. This may not seem important to a VO artist, as it’s true we’re generally hired for our vocal capabilities. Never-the-less, if you go for an audition or face-to-face biz meeting, the person you’re meeting expects your “photo” to walk in the door. Don’t disappoint them. If you decide to use a headshot, keep it current, you’ll know when it’s time.
    Buddy retired to Nelson, B.C. and still shoots pics. If you’re ever in or near the area(and BC is stunning) look up Buddy Rosenberg…excellent work.
    A comment on Stephanie’s photo: I like the “sloppy” border but I don’t recommend the photographers watermark.
    Have fun and enjoy the experience.

  23. Few people are uninfluenced by the first impression a photograph allows, causing a strong bias. That’s the reason radio personalities were rarely seen in publicity photos until sometime in the mid-80’s when stations begin using them. In fact, many stations started to demand a photo with a personalities demo real when hiring at that time. As an old radio guy and a long time V/O, I’d prefer being faceless. My V/O work fell off dramatically when agents began requiring head shots from their talent. The consolation was that my O/C work increased dramatically, but not enough to offset my losses in V/O. In my case, head shots caused cognitive dissonance with my demo. As I prepare to re-enter the V/O market I am contemplating my approach to the issue this time around; I doubt that I will use head shots, but it is obvious that the market demands some sort of branding impression so I’ll have to come up with something to satisfy that need.

  24. Hi Tom,
    Thank you for sharing your story!
    The image I used was one that my photographer touched up as a favour. The other shots do not have a border or watermark on them. I agree though, your headshot does not need to have your photographer’s logo or name on it.

  25. Steph:
    Since David doesn’t read these posts (!), let me categorically state in a most platonic way that you look hot in the new headshot.
    When we did our family Christmas card shot in December, I brought along the timeless blue sport coat and asked the photog (who we’ve worked with before on family shots and who I think is terrific) to grab some of me. The reason being I has some publicity stuff coming up and, like you, I knew I’d need one.
    I truly hate having to do portraits because it feels vain to me even if/when there’s good reason to have the shot. I feel way too self-conscious. So I just want the darn process over with.
    So my big thing with photogs is find someone you are comfortable with and whose work you trust. The rest of it will work itself out.
    Oh and for me they have to be EXPERT at photoshop!
    Best always,
    – Peter

  26. Hi Stephanie. All good tips. One more….the camera loves blue. Sweaters, polos, shirts, blouses, etc. Regards, Dennis

  27. Stephanie,
    I have found this entire topic very interesting on many different levels. When I first got on the Internet and put up my website presence in 1996, I was sure my branding required a photo to be complete. However, since the turn of the millennium, (sounds like a long time ago, huh?) I have since taken all pictures of myself off any new websites. I’m sure there are still some floating out there though.
    My reasoning is simple too – I am hired for the sound my voice brings to a product, a game or toy, a commercial. Due to my versatility, I am usually perceived as younger than I actually am. And almost all of my clients have never asked me what I look like or care. They are buying my voice and have their own visual concept of what I look like in their own mind.
    Why would that be important to me to get my smiling face out there? When I speak at a college or high school in either an advisory capacity or teaching, I would find it helpful to give a promotional picture if requested. However, most of the contacts I work with know me and don’t require that. Again, it’s the sound of my voice that is of interest. Not what I look like.
    If you look on my business website or on, you’ll notice my logo is what sells my imaging. Just simple and clean. My reputation and experience speaks for me and I find no reason to post my mug to alter anyone’s concept in their own mind.
    If it works for you – great. Use it for branding. But if you like to keep just a little “wonderment” about where that voice comes from – let them use their mind. It’s the most incredible and complex instrument that paints the picture for you.

  28. Hey Stephanie!
    Your timing with this Daily is pretty brilliant for me. Perfect timing to receive a swift kick in the pants! haha Now I’m only a year old in VO, but I’ve been in the entertainment business for most of my life. I moved to LA to be in Film and TV originally but fell in love with VO.
    On the whole headshot debate, I honestly think it has a lot to do with location. My observations: out here in LA, it’s hard to do anything without a headshot, and sadly you will most likely put it in the hands of many shallow casting directors. If I was back in the Midwest, I could probably pull it off either way because the casting directors there are not going to put the same value on look. While I was in Hong Kong, they didn’t even want to know what I looked like. It was all voice voice voice.
    Ultimately it is always about your voice, but the package you present has got to be slick… just like any other business product. Of course I can preach it better than I can do it lol
    Have an awesome day Stephanie and thanks again!

  29. Hi Stephanie,
    Great article!
    Thanks to all for your input.
    As for me, I have a photo shoot booked that will include proofs, negs, cd, the actual shoot and professional retouching of the chosen image – along with a jpg file for reproduction and / or web use.
    I think a headshot will add to my VO business that will illustrate and professionalism – not take it away.
    Blair Wilson
    P.S. Sorry I missed you at Podcamp London Saturday, David was professional and informative as always.

  30. Stephanie,
    Although this winds up being a “6 of one half” and “half a dozen of the other” sort of thing, I personally agree with the notion I got from Marice Tobias years ago that a photo is not part of the branding package that exclusively VO people need to present. More on the “exclusively” thing in a minute.
    As a VO actor/performer, in my opinion, a headshot’s potential downside is still greater than its upside except in very specific circumstances.
    Let’s face it, many people are shallow and unimaginative (most people who go into show homes still can’t imagine how those designers thought of replacing beige…). If you have a picture (no matter how good), it will play to people’s preconceived notions of what “a person who looks like that will sound like”. That’s dead simple truth.
    However having said that , I’ve seen VO people use photography VERY imaginatively on their sites and in their marketing without ever actually SHOWING themselves. They’ve used light and shadow to tremendous effect either to heighten mystery, create drama, humor, atmosphere etc. Among many others check out this site:
    There is a very good point made by Ed Victor above though that as your career expands, a headshot may become useful as people seek you out for on camera gigs.
    Ultimately, I recommend a professional photo shoot like yours, but to basically hold it back until it’s requested.

  31. Stephanie makes great arguments for ways that having a professional photo can be useful, such as when preparing to address a conference, and Paul’s tip about ways to have a photo without having a photo was appreciated.
    I was surprised no one raised a different aspect of being pre-judged or pre-rejected — race/ethnicity. Here, I’m NOT talking about someone being racist or prejudiced in the sense of stereotypes about work ethic or personality. What I have in mind is more this: One of my specialties is Spanish-language work. People who see my name are unlikely to think twice about whether I’m up to it, but people who see my face never expect me to speak Spanish half as well as I do — it makes for great fun in my day job as a teacher in a majority-Latino school! — and I have to wonder if that photo wouldn’t prompt them to shuffle on past me for someone who “looks the part” in that sense.
    In the end, I suppose I would back Paul’s closing line: have it in reserve for when *you* choose to use it.


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