What a Difference a Photo Makes (to a Voice Actor’s Website)

What difference will displaying your photo in your website make if you are a Voice Over Artist? I’d say, a lot!

In one particular LinkedIn Forum, a VO artist posted “Can Posting Your Photo on Your VO Website Bias Potential Clients Against Considering/Hiring You?” which solicited diverse opinions/suggestions from other VO artists that are worth reckoning and mostly leaning towards – not a good idea.

Your photo on your website will guarantee that there will be no surprises when you and your client meet face-to-face for the first time – if you ever really have to meet face-to-face. However, first impressions are so important that you wouldn’t want your prospective client to get distracted by a photo. Your website should market your technical skills and voice over experience – not your looks – unless you are an actor or an on-air personality. Some experts say that a picture is more likely to screen out, rather than screen in a client, so it is best to not include a picture on your website.

There are some pretty good reasons why the “no-photo” rule still stands for résumés and these could very well be applied to websites too, such as:

  • Discrimination – if you put your picture on your website, you reveal details about yourself like age, gender, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. For which case, the client’s hiring decision might be marred by what he sees instead of what he knows about your capabilities.
  • Professionalism – putting your photo on your website gives people the opportunity to judge you by your looks, your hairstyle, and your fashion sense, rather than your professional credentials. Whether you are drop-dead gorgeous or just the average Joe – it is better not to distract your clients from the relevant facts in your website.

On the other hand, visuals are the most desirable way of getting to know and feeling connected to a person. A picture allows others to start building relationships with you even before any actual conversations can happen. As Meg Guiseppi of Executive Career Brand says, “Your photo helps to personalize and humanize your brand-driven content.” How can you achieve that without putting a picture on your website?

The solution is quite simple: include the link to your social media account in your website.

Be sure to pick not just any old social media presence. You need to be certain that the social media profile you choose has your picture, is updated frequently, and is professionally relevant. Whatever link you choose to put in your website, ensure that your profile best represents who you are and what you do best. Your contents should be well-written and targeted to paint a flattering picture of your skills, qualifications, and enthusiasm for the job.

But what about the argument for having a profile picture. Sarah Noble, Casting Agent from The Voice Realm says that their clients find it more professional when a voice actor displays a professional headshot rather than a picture of a flower. “If you want to be taken seriously, you need to act like a professional. Yes it’s true you’re not auditioning for a visual job, but clients want to work with professionals, and having a smart photo reflects that.”

But she also concedes with what others say. “I do understand that some people think there may be bias or discrimination associated with displaying a photo, but if a professional is casting the voice I think they are wise enough to know the difference. Your voice is not going to play on the radio with your photo alongside it. The argument boils down to be professional. And actually our data reveals that talent who appear professional and act professional book the most jobs.”

Now, these are just guidelines and ultimately, it still is best to use your own judgement. If you are an actor or a model, ignore the rule since your appearance is a legitimate consideration for getting hired. But when in doubt, try to avoid the visuals. Clients will probably take a peek at your online profiles anyway and – their first impression of you will have come from your website.

What are your thoughts on using a professional headshot on a voiceover website?

CM Serra

CM Serra has a long history of working with voice talent. Starting out as an assistant and working her way up to a Casting Director, she's seen it all. Her forte may be working with 'old school' agents, but she's witnessed the voice over industry move online in recent years.

  • johnz

    But, Nancy Cartwright was eventually seen by someone and they still could’ve not given her the job, right? I agree with the “personalize and humanize” part of the article and I believe in an age where customers seek more transparency and are looking to make a human connection traversing social media, part of getting to know each other is knowing what we look like. I have no problem showing my picture and neither does Paul Strikwerda, Randy Kaye, Roger Leopardi, and quite a few others. If not on their website, I see plenty of VO people with pictures on their LinkedIn/FB/G+ profiles and would be searchable for any potential and curious clients. Of course, whatever picture one posts of themselves should be professional and be representative of who they are, but if it’s found in one place then does it really make a difference if it’s on your website anyway? I understand the rationale of not putting a picture on a paper resume, but I don’t think we can or should hide ourselves digitally. Ultimately, we as VO professionals have to maintain a continuous focus on showcasing our skills and reminding clients of why they really came to us in the first place.
    Thanks for the article, CM!

  • Paul Boucher

    First – thanks for the thoughtful post on an interesting subject from a VO actor’s standpoint.

    I’m a firm believer in no headshots for VO actors. As I get older especially, but my voice remains more or less the same age, the chance that a younger professional will make a decision (however internally nuanced) based on visual criteria is more possible. A lot of us have spent many years honing our craft at every level. The opportunity to be “screened out” as you so very well put it, based on appearance is higher than ever.

    I’d rather be judged on my audition and my session outcomes. So far that’s played in my favour with clients worldwide with long-term ongoing client relationships. Our industry is different than “professions” where a headshot can be a positive reflection and a necessary identifier. It requires a little “je ne sais quoi”. One of the ways to cultivate that slight air of mystery/enchantment/star mystique is not “giving it all away” with a headshot.

    Try to imagine what would happen to some of the most talented VO actors who work in animation. People would make snap judgements on their ability to sound one way or the other based on appearance. Most successful VO actors whose visual identity is known have established themselves before “celebrity” arrives. An easy pick in that vein is Nancy Cartwright. Many people would never have cast her as Bart Simpson if one of their first impressions was a headshot.

    Unless you have an on-camera or visual acting career, be professional in your visual “representation of yourself”, but be professionally “elusive” so they can’t judge your look and think it has *anything* to do with your sound.