There are several determining factors that can make a headshot stand out above its competition. It would be unreasonable to expect any one talent to be aware of all the factors, but you can be sure you are setting yourself up for success by placing successful partnerships (photographers, printers, managers, agents, etc.) around your business of being a talent.
One common question talent ask is whether their headshot should be color or the standard black and white? It may depend specifically on your market or demographic, so go with your agent’s suggestion first. However, in most markets it is safe to say that black and white was “then” and color is “now” in the on-camera world. Models should also rely heavily on color images and tears. It’s human nature to be attracted to color, so naturally when two equally qualified talent headshots are being debated over for a job, it’s usually the color headshot that wins out. That subconscious decision could affect your future!
Another common image quandary is the outdated style. A good headshot can transcend time – literally. Clothing choices, jewelry and accessories, hairstyles, and even backdrops can date your images, which means that they are useless when the new styles come out a few months down the road. Choose options that are classic, simple, and minimal, so that your image gets it's full life-cycle!
I am commonly asked about “period” images (you know, having a 20’s show girl image for the next recreation of Chicago, etc.). Having a period headshot is nice if you have every other possible marketing image available to your agent and casting community, but even taking an appropriate period headshot to a period production casting can be detrimental. Keep in mind what production will have after you walk away – nothing but a pigeon-holed headshot. If your image is a dead ringer for exactly what they want, it could help. But if your image varies in any way from the picture in their mind (which is constantly morphing as any vision or idea could), your efforts will more likely end up in the discard pile.
Having modern materials is all part of the entertainer's life and a strong predictor of success. Be received well by putting your best foot forward and giving the community exactly what it needs to push you into the limelight!