Voiceover Artists - we can be quite anonymous creatures..
We work hard in our studios to record the perfect take for our clients to use on TV, radio, online, at events, on phone systems and more. We perform our hearts out to make it just so. But you rarely see us..
We spend time training and learning how to create that perfect sound.. to perform it, to act it.. to dig deep into ourselves to be able to deliver an authentic performance, to create characters that are familiar or new.
Voice over is acting, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the job. We are professional performers and communicators that inhabit the little zone between marketing and acting. I'm picturing a Venn diagram here.
So given that it's our voices and our ability and talents that we are booked for - not our faces (as lovely as they may be!!) - do voiceover artists need actor headshot photos?
This is a question I am asked by people outside of the profession, from time to time.
It's a little counterintuitive perhaps but YES. We do need need good actor headshots. Here's why..
1. We inhabit the acting and performance world
Like it or not, we are performers and it is expected that we have headshots even though we are hired for our voices.
Our world is one of databases and agents and their websites are based around the model of acting agencies, it's necessary for the online casting and agent sites.
2. Look professional
Ok, so given that we need photos, this is a great opportunity to look professional. Anyone can take a half decent selfie but given that you are your brand.. like it or not.. having a good headshot photo that is of high quality tells anyone who sees you online or on an agent's website that you are serious about what you do and you are professional in all aspects of your work.
3. Your brand
Some VO artists find the fact that we are each of us "brands", a bit uncomfortable and a bit much. But it's a fact. So, go with it and enjoy building your brand. As well as your name, your logo, your website, your headshot photo is a great opportunity to express who you are and even give a clue as to what you might sound like and what people can expect from your voice.
4. It's a content based world
If you are doing any kind of marketing (and Voiceover demands this of you), you need content and assets for social media. Headshots and photos are a huge part of this. So why not make sure you have great photos that work in this context too?
So, what makes a good headshot photo for a Voiceover Artist?
I'm going to come back to brand again here!
Traditional actor headshots are there to show an element of versatility in the look of an actor.. almost a blank canvas. They give a hint at the kind of characters that lie within.
Comedians might well go for something with a bit more personality and quirk or smiles.. I rather like comedian headshot photos, they are usually full of brand awareness!
From what I've noticed, voiceover artists tend to go for the actor style shots. I suppose many are actors anyway and that makes sense.
When I started in VO, I was keen to go in this direction myself.. maybe to "fit in" with the conventions and expectations.
So, here I am 11 years into my career as a full time Voiceover Artist. Last month I had a photoshoot for new headshots.
I am part way through a re-brand so this was all part of this project. I am actually HUGELY excited about my re-brand but we will come to that in a later post I suspect!
Having started talking with my brand agency, Salt, we wanted the photos to feel like me - to reflect my sound and personality and to stand out from the crowd rather than to conform to the conventions. OK, we need to conform to conventions enough so that the shots are useable in all the places that headshots need to go, but not TOO much!
Part of my decision making process was choosing a photographer to work with. I have worked with photographers in the past who are great at taking actor headshots - it's part of their day to day. They totally succeed in getting that actor headshot thing spot on. 11 years into my journey though, I know myself better as a person and a performer now - I know who I am as a person and as a brand and wanted to work with a photographer who would be able to capture that. I chose to work with Igor Emmerich as I've admired his work online for a while and he's also local to me.
Igor's style is quite editorial, "magaziney" and he has a way of capturing moments and personality that I knew he'd be the right choice. You can see Igor's work here.
We spent most of the day in his studio working on the shots.. I brought a suitcase FULL of clothes and 2 saxophones with me. The superb Toby did my hair and makeup (which was great as they took the time to make me feel like me, it was rather nice pampering and a jolly good sit down!).
We all know good lighting is very helpful - even in a quick selfie for the Insta! (mine is here in case you would like to have a follow) but Igor took so much trouble over it, REALLY, the time and thought he spent on the lighting was so fascinating to me. Also, I probably really needed it 😉
We got a combination of shots that my Branding agency, Salt and I had discussed and I went away very happy and exhausted. It's surprisingly tiring posing!! As a bonus, Salt have found the shots really helpful in my branding design - it's given them further insight into brand me..
So, yes, voiceover artists DO need actor headshots - it's the world we inhabit.. but that's no reason not to use your headshots as part of your toolkit for your brand and as part of expressing who you are and how you sound
Have fun with it!
Clare Reeves has been a professional voiceover artist for the last 11 years - if you'd like more information on how to become a voiceover artist, you can read her blog here