Movie Unit Promotional Stills Photography

Colour Vs. B&W Headshots

Below is an article I wrote up on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, I’ve also included comments offered by some people on the page, an interesting insight as to how the impact of colour can affect photographs in a perceptual and practical way.

The article was whipped up at the time in about 10 minutes and I’ve not edited it since, so I’ve kept it pretty raw. Any opinions on the subject would be fantastic to hear.

Marc.

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I’ve just received an email from Casting Call Pro. They’re asking all of the photographers on the site for their opinion on a possible shift of policy to allow actors to use colour headshots for the first time on the site.

They asked for feedback, and I found it to be a really interesting topic of discussion, so I whipped up a quick reply in 10 minutes and sent it off. I thought I’d post my response on here in hope of hearing thoughts and feeback from the varying casting / actor type people who follow me on here.

Do you support the move into colour headshots?

I support the move into colour with reservations.

I feel that subtle differences in skin tones between people is commonly lost in black and white (due to the nature of what is expected by both actors and casting directors of what is typical) I welcome colour headshots because they do more accurately represent how an actor looks in person.

However I feel that headshots are mainly used to see how an actor looks on camera, to see the shape of their face and how light works with it. With colour I feel that this depth and shape information is lost within the colour details. Unless photos are shot with a highly stringent and rigid formula, I believe that it’s possible for the wrong information to be communicated.

However if the casting directors are comfortable working with colour headshots and know what to expect and what the potential pitfalls are, I am not adverse to shooting in colour.

It could be argued that colour also brings extra scrutiny to the background of the headshot. In black and white the backdrop is rarely significant, so long as it doesn’t blend in with or distract from the actor.

Colour backgrounds provide many more choices and pitfalls. Would a casting director act different with a red or green or blue backdrop compared to a simple white one?

Colour of light also needs to be carefully considered, would light colour be restricted to a neutral white? Or would light of various colours be allowed? (whether or not it’s aesthetically good or bad for the headshot in question)

Colour in general adds alot of character to a shot whether its intentional or not, and it’s my concern that it may be character that has no place in a headshot.

This is all not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a shift of perspective and must be considered.

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Comments

Jenni – an actress

Its hard enough to get a good headshot that accurately represents you, let alone adding in the extra hassle of colour background, colour clothes ect. however a lot of people look very different in b&w and colour shots and if you’re trying to achieve a particular look for a casting more options of which shot to send is beneficial. personally i know i prefer my black and white shots.

Becky – a director

My vote: It is easier to judge on par if all photos are in black and white. They are not going to restrict to just colour therefore some people will stick with B&W and make it very hard to judge all actors on a similar footing. If you look at all casting agencies they use B&W headshots, they could use colour, but they don’t.
Allowing coloured shots (stills) is perfectly fine, but I believe allowing colour headshots will add another complication to casting that is unnecessary.

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