“Should I wear jewel colors for commercial headshots?”

Neutral Colors Headshot
Neutral Colors Headshot

It is common to hear that an actor should wear jewel-colored tops for headshots when submitting to commercials. Colors such as sky blue, sapphire green, pink, or yellow, could bring a “pop” and would work well for commercial work. But how relevant is this suggestion today? Could this advice been around so long that it does not apply anymore?

The goals of a headshot.

Basic rule: you should submit an image that shows you fit right in with the job. A headshot that shows you are professional, you are committed, you match the description, and you bring the character to life. You also want to make a statement, connect with the viewer, grab their attention, and suggest ideas. And deliberate use of color can certainly help you. It might be, for instance, that a pink background or a yellow shirt gets you noticed, though maybe not for the best reasons. Either way, the use of colors in visual communication goes beyond just capturing attention.

The use of colors.

Colors are an especially important element in advertising. The significance of colors such as red, orange, blue, and their psychologic effects on the viewer, are a prime concern for marketing professionals. Colors have been used strategically for decades and will continue to be. But the way these colors are displayed have varied over time, and it has connections not only with the general aesthetics of the time, but also with the visual education of the viewers, how they see the material presented daily, how much they have been exposed to visual ads, how sophisticated their visual perception is. Bright colors can capture attention, but are people seeing bright colors for so long that they feel it lacks subtlety? Would something smoother seem more interesting now?

1990's Fast Food Commercial
1990’s Fast Food Commercial

If you look at old commercials, they seemed to use much more of those jewel-colored clothing than today’s ads. In a way, those colors seem a bit dated, and the commercials using them seem to cater to a more simple-minded viewer. The ads were more straight to the point, “look at me”, “buy my product!” The efficacy of those commercials might have degraded over time and new strategies were developed. Advertising has grown closer to a cinematic look. And while the psychology of colors is still used and still particularly important, those colors are introduced in a much less obvious way and highlighting key elements. Actors in these ads are dressed in more neutral colors, as most common people would, while still in a more polished and attractive version.

No absolute right or wrong.

As with everything else related to acting careers, there is no right or wrong, and there is plenty of conflicting advice out there. Professionals that have been working in the industry for decades may share similar opinions in one point and have totally different ideas in another area. What works for one person might not work for another. What one casting director loves, can be another one’s pet peeve. And an entire casting office might positively agree on one actor for the role, and the producers that hired them might completely disagree with their decisions.

Bottomline: see yourself in it.

Again, you just want to show you fit right in, and maybe suggest some great things you can bring to the table: you are interesting, smart, not pushy at all, and you can probably whistle while doing handstands and with your eyes closed. Whatever it is that makes you great, when submitting to a job, your best bet is to look like the part. So if you are submitting to commercials, then you should watch them, and copy them. It might be that you are submitting to commercials on a children’s channel where the actors wear bright, colorful shirts, and if that is the case, go for it.
Here is all there is to it: watch what is being produced. See yourself in it. And share that vision with everyone.

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