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Why Voice Actors Need Headshots in Today’s Marketplace

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Thanks to the popularity of social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, it has become commonplace for everyone to have an image that perfectly represents them online.

Do you have a professional headshot, and is your voice working in concert with your image?

Read on to gain a new appreciation for how your visual brand can complement your voice over work thanks to insight (and practical tips!) from Jessica Myhr of Inherent Style.

Inherent Style

Everyone has style. The question is, do you know yours, and, is it consistent with how you want to be known?

Jessica Myhr believes that branding has to do with your integrity and authenticity as an artist. Myhr began her career in the advertising and licensing world, where she learned how to transform art into product. She now uses the skills she’s developed to help individuals from a variety of disciplines to discover their own inherent style, including professional voice actors.

Finding Your Style

What does your voice sound like? How do people feel when they hear it?

These are just a couple of questions you’ll want to ask yourself when determining your style.

Now, what if your vocal style could be expanded to include a visual component?

One practical way to form your visual style is to explore the world of fashion, identify pieces that you like, and consider replicating those choices in your own wardrobe.

“The best part about style inspiration is that it is free,” Myhr says. “One of the things I have my clients do is create a stylebook. One of my VO clients put together a visual book about what her voice sounded like. She had a clear, sparkly voice. She loved this blue color and it was like water. We created a look in her headshot session that embodied those things.”

Creating Your Own Style Book

Pinterest and Instagram are excellent resources where you can see what other people are wearing. Here are four steps that Jessica assures will help you assemble your book and discover your personal style:

  1. Go to Pinterest or Instagram and search for clothing and accessories you like.
  2. Jot down what you are really drawn to style-wise (based on color, shape, and texture).
  3. When you notice someone’s style you admire, see if there is anything they’re doing that you can recreate out of your own wardrobe.
  4. Find your style icons: people who speak to you whose image you want to emulate.

Myhr is sure to remind us that what we wear is completely within our control. “You choose every day,” she explains. “So, what do you want to say? A great outfit tells someone about that person from the inside out.”

But I work in voice over… do I really need a headshot?

A commonly held belief is that photographs can actually become a hindrance to voice actors because their physiques (outward appearance) and vocal talents are completely separate from one another.

For example, a talent may have a large, booming, and muscular voice perfect for voice-overs related to sports, but they may not have the physical appearance to match.

Is it better to remain visually anonymous, or should there be at least something visual, whether it be a head shot or a logo created specifically to reflect the vocal talents of a professional voice actor?

Did you know that every professional using social networks needs a headshot?

While sporting a good headshot is a necessity in today’s age, many voice actors continue to question whether or not their look should matter, because people are simply hearing their voices. While that may hold true so far as audio files for auditions go, it certainly isn’t the case when you’re being sought out via search channels, or in directories of talent where headshots are par for the course.

Still not convinced?

Guidelines for a Great Headshot

A great headshot…

  1. Looks like you on your best day
  2. Captures a fully realized, alive moment
  3. Tells us something about you and how to cast you
  4. Makes us want to know more about you

Myhr asserts that being your best self and having an image that communicates that will help you book more roles. If you have multiple images, you ought to maintain some degree of consistency to unify your visual style.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to boast a professionally photographed headshot in order to give off a professional image. In this handy guide to do-it-yourself headshots, it’s explained that a professional-looking headshot can be achieved using your own smartphone—but must exclude “selfies, vacation snaps, or wedding pics.”

How Style Plays Into Voice Casting

Casting is all about selection, not rejection. While image plays a greater role in casting for on-camera actors, remember that the sound of an actor’s voice and the way they interpret a script plays a greater role in casting voice talent than anything else.

Looks matter just as much for on-camera talent as sound does for voice actors.

In the same vein that a casting director can tell if an actor is suited for a role based on their headshot, the way you sound to a trained ear will be evident in just the first few seconds of a recording’s playback.

What are people listening for to determine the ‘how’ of your sound? Your voice type and voice age will probably be obvious from the get-go, followed by the general attitude underscoring what you’re saying.

According to Myhr, as personal as your image likely is to you, casting decisions are not personal. You are being cast based on a picture and the hope that you will solve the casting director’s problem. 

Actors don’t lead with their training, but their image. If they call you in for a part and you don’t look like your picture, it’s akin to delivering a casting director a salad for lunch when they ordered a pizza.

The Age-Old Question: Logo or Headshot?

You might be on the fence with this one, so let’s take a closer look at the whole logo vs. headshot quandary. Voice actors pride themselves on being chameleons of sorts, with the ability to sound differently for any given role, whether because of the sound of their voice age, vocal range, accent, or otherwise.

Once a client forms a mental picture of you after listening to your voice, will a picture ruin that? When is it appropriate to use a logo as opposed to a headshot?

Studies conducted on LinkedIn illustrate that employers are not as interested in you if your profile doesn’t have an image.

If you haven’t been using an image, why not try it? Even if it’s only for a couple of months. Take a cue from the sort of images that work on LinkedIn.

“The photo should look like you,” Myhr shares. “You’re interviewing for a job—you want to look confident, trustworthy, approachable. What would it hurt for a couple of months if you tried to use an image? You need to be selective about the images you choose. When you do a variety of things, there still needs to be some consistency. This should still feel like you, no matter what the image is trying to convey. Give someone a sense of you when they are looking through the database. On Voices.com, you only have one image that you can feature, but if you have your own website, use as many as you see fit. On your Voices.com profile, use an image that best reflects your niche so that you can attract more of that kind of work.”

Jessica’s Headshot Tips

  • Artists often need more than one image to represent them
  • Have one leading image that you use consistently
  • If you can only use one, lead with the image that best represents your voice’s essence and the niche you book the most work in to attract more of the same
  • If you’re mostly performing animated voices, an animated profile picture might be a fun way to demonstrate this
  • Regardless of the image you choose, make sure that it is an image that can be connected with you

Do you use a headshot?

Why or why not? Also, if you have created a style book, did you find that this helped you? Let us know in the comments!

If you want to learn more, this brief video serves as a great intro to Jessica Myhr of Inherent Style.

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Comments

  • Don McCorkindale
    January 6, 2016, 11:23 am

    The other side of the coin, of course is the reaction by clients to a head shot. I’m 76 but vocally I can cope with anything from 40s upwards. I.E. I send an audition for the voice of 50 y.o. [the new 40!], mostly clients will just be aware of the voice. But newcomers to the system could say, “Hey this guy looks too old for the job”. There are folk out there who do think like that. Your thoughts.
    Don

    Reply
  • Howard Ellison
    January 6, 2016, 11:24 am

    Hmmm, you set me on a path of action. I do believe in a headshot, though like many voice colleagues, wonder if it may ‘typecast’ in some restrictive way. Looking at what I have put around for a couple of years, a casual freeze frame from a video, it looks alright I think… until I see it on a site directly alongside colleagues of similar age, professionally portrayed and ‘connecting’, as we all try to do at the mic. Mine’s too neutral now. It’s time for a pickup. Thanks for a very informative piece.

    Reply
  • Kurt Feldner
    January 6, 2016, 12:32 pm

    This is a very timely piece for me. For the past couple of months, I’ve been giving thought to hiring a photographer to do some new shots of me. The current pics were from a session in 2011. Though I’ve changed very little since then, my agent tells me I need to update my images if I want to be considered for print model work. My profile with them is for VO, on-camera & print modeling. I’ve capitalized on the first two, but not the latter. As for VO specifically, a headshot in relation to an MP3 file as you’ve said may not be quite as critical. But yes, if folks are searching on LinkedIn, Google, etc, a headshot will be very beneficial. In my day job, I’m assigned the task of creating referral lists from LinkedIn. If I see a profile without a headshot, that person may not make the referral list. And as also noted in your piece, I use one shot in particular across the board for most of my online accounts. Continuity. Branding. I will contact Jessica to see what ideas she might have for me. Thanks for the suggestion, Stephanie.

    Reply
  • BP Smyth
    January 6, 2016, 7:41 pm

    There is no way I’m going for the headshot stuff. I’m a Voice-Over Narrator not an on-camera actor. I sell my voice only. Including a headshot only complicates things. For instance your headshot may remind the voice buyer of negative thoughts regarding a relative or some other person in their life. No thank you, I don’t need anything negative added to the already highly competitive voice-over game. I say, let the voice buyer imagine what I look like!

    Reply
  • Buddy
    January 12, 2016, 2:08 pm

    I totally agree with NOT having a head shot on your website if you are a voice actor!
    BP Smyth and Don McCorkindale hit it right in the nose.
    If you’re older but have the flexibility to sound almost any age the head shot can and will influence clients in a negative way.

    Reply
  • Ralph Davis
    January 14, 2016, 12:45 am

    I also agree with Don, BP and Buddy. If potential clients are determined to choose me, or not choose me for a v/o, based on my appearance – do I really need that sort of client? It strikes me that if that’s their determining factor, they’re probably going to end up being a PITA. I’ll use a headshot only if it’s mandatory – and if so, it may not even be mine…

    Reply
  • John Smith
    January 27, 2016, 11:52 am

    It’s really too bad that voice actors need a headshot, because “you want to look confident, trustworthy, approachable”, and because, apparently, the image has to represent what the voice actor sounds like. I’m physically unattractive, which is one of the reasons that voice acting appealed so much to me. My voice is beautiful; my face is not. What’s worse, because of asymmetry, I look like I have cognitive problems. (I assure you I do not.)
    I’m not writing this for sympathy. I’m writing this to get the message out: some of us do not have headshots simply because we do not want to be at a disadvantage career-wise for the things that stand in our way socially. I would ask that you please keep this in mind if you are tempted to reject a voice actor for lack of a head shot.

    Reply
  • William L. Huntsman
    April 23, 2018, 11:13 am

    The exceptionally competitive world of VO’s is forcing me to look in other directions that suit my own style. Yes I have a couple of head shots, am about to launch my own site. Going as independent as I can. I feel like I am being stereotyped into styles that are not me. The whole idea behind audio is it stirs the imagination, and a head shot is debatable in terms of effectiveness. If anything I would think not having a head shot adds to the mystique of the character behind the voice. I don’t look anything like my voice. As far as integrity is concerned, do what you need to do. Be HONEST, EARN your client’s respect. If they want a photo, send them a real one that’s current. pretty simple.

    Reply
  • Talina
    September 3, 2019, 3:06 am

    As an older woman doing young male voices, 20s-30s female voices, this has never been true for me finding and maintaining work, lol. Headshots create biases and, by looking at me, you would never tell how dynamic my vocal range is. I’ve surprised multiple people when they’ve seen me, and it’s always fun when they’re expecting a different gender AND race. A logo works nicely, though.

    Reply
  • Susana González
    June 27, 2020, 3:10 pm

    me interesa experimentar sin miedo a lo versátil, que uno mismo puede llegar a ser.

    Reply
  • Tori Clay
    October 16, 2020, 6:19 pm

    This is a real quandary for me and for reasons that, while they are not necessarily unique, they are uncommon. I am a transgender woman. I was a moderately successful actor in all media for a long time with a long and varied resume and I came close to making it big more than once. When I came out and started living my truth 4.5 years ago, my agent dumped me and I went from a resume of about 60 films and 25 plays to 2 plays in the interim up until very recently when I have had the opportunity to perform in a few things. I don’t have a convincing female voice. Moreover, I am a hearing aid wearer and a rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and as I tell my crowds, I have no idea what I sound like playing for you. My last gig, online about a week ago, was me playing a guy with an accent. I also informed all people in casting that, as hard as it would have been for me to even think about it, not that long ago, I am now willing and able to audition and perform as male or female or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A couple of my last gigs had me doing monologues for several minutes at a time that were laden with tongue twisters and emotion. It is just something I can do. This is my first day on this site. I have already learned a ton. I am a lifelong Bostonian too so of course, I sound like it normally although, I have the ability naturally to hide it effectively and I have done gigs with accents like old time radio theatre, complete with a Foley crew in a Scottish accent, a Russian soldier in a play, a Russian hood last week in a play online, a Middle Easternish one to play Quadaffi in a spoof film, and some English accents. As for VO work, I have done some PPR and I was the voice of a lead character in a Pixar level animated feature that was never finished as an insect and I had a funny VO on a commercial decades ago. I did it the way they wanted which was a classic top40 radio dj, pounds of sound and stacks of wax voice but I told them they were wrong. The gig needed a funny voice. So they let me demo my ideas with a nasally, high pitched, comic delivery and they dug it and used it instead. It was for an office design company and only shown on cable channels for business. My music stuff is new. It started on a dare last year and went so well that I started playing all over the area. I never knew I was good enough.
    Also I wish the forms on this site could add some choices to the forms to allow more non-binary expression.

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      October 27, 2020, 10:20 am

      Hi Tori,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. This is an illuminating perspective that offers a whole new set of considerations to the headshot debate, and one that I’m sure many voice actors will find valuable.

      Reply