Headshot of BIPOC woman actor on a black background.

Actor Headshots—2023 Edition

By Matthew on May 23, 2023

As an actor seeking new roles, your headshot has a hefty responsibility in speaking to a casting director’s search. In one instance, your headshot needs to demonstrate your command of emoting, stand out from the crowd as engaged, and not look awkward.

    Your headshot also has to represent you—your personality and how you currently look. Say a CD loves how you come across in your headshot, but when you walk through the door, you aren’t what they were expecting? You’ll likely get turned away, wasting your time but also giving that CD a poor experience associated with your name. Let’s say a CD doesn’t think your headshot shows what they’re looking for, but you were the most perfect person for that part in the whole universe. Well, if they aren’t compelled to call you in, you’re not getting that role, either.

    Stand Out

    So how do we achieve that perfect headshot? It is a partnership of your superb acting and my ability to get to know you ASAP during our shoot and pull those nuances into the camera. Together, we’ll make sure you stand out among the sea of other actors that are totally less perfect for the role than you are.

    I know you’re asking, “okay, but how are we going to do that?”

    The first step is proper lighting and environment. If you’re after dramatic roles, it makes no sense to create a bright headshot on white like you’re going to be selling toothpaste. Your headshot should have some drama to it without distracting from you. However, if you want to sell toothpaste in a national campaign, we will go with something brighter and more commercial. The next step is the “be a tiger” step—you have to play the part. If you’re after roles of detectives that have moved to wooded villages to escape your big-city past, only to find that things are not what they seem, that depth has to come across in your headshot. Don’t worry, I won’t actually be telling you to be a tiger.

    Keep it Current

    As we covered before, your headshot must represent you as an actor and your current physical appearance. Obviously, if your hair goes from 4 feet long to a buzzcut, you’re going to need a new headshot. Similarly, weight changes in either direction can necessitate a headshot update. However, not wanting to render your current headshot obsolete shouldn’t restrict you from making stylist or health choices that you want or need to make. That is why I offer my clients a discounted headshot update session available for a year after your main session.

    Keep it Clean

    Unless you’re only after roles of pierced, “alternative lifestyle” characters, piercings shouldn’t be present in your headshot. Likewise, accessories like earrings, hats, and glasses should be avoided. Some photographers like to have clients who wear glasses take shots with and without those glasses—regardless of whether or not you can see without them. I don’t buy into that school of thought. But, again, going back to the “your headshot represents you” principle, if you submit a headshot without glasses, but you can’t wear contacts and can’t see without the glasses, then it could lead to issues with a CD.

    Know What You’re Getting

    What each photographer includes in their sessions varies a lot depending on their experience and shooting situation. For example, a new headshot photographer may provide you with a ton of unedited photos shot in a park. At the same time, a highly seasoned professional may charge per final image and shoot only in the studio. 

    Shoot Duration and Wardrobe Looks

    Besides the overall quality of the photographer and their photographs, one of the most significant determining factors in how much bang you’ll get for your headshot buck is how long your shoot will be and how many wardrobe/style changes that time allows for. 
 I break my sessions down into two different offerings. The Standard headshot session is 30 minutes of shooting, which accommodates a single wardrobe look. The Deluxe headshot session is an hour of shooting with three different looks. Now, the mathematically-inclined will be quick to note that the Deluxe session offers less time shooting per look. Not to worry, though! The subsequent looks typically go faster because you’re already warmed up, and we’re already working in sync from shooting the first look. 

    Number of Final Images

    Another significant deciding factor in choking a headshot photographer, again besides the quality of their work, is how many final images you’ll get from your session—and what constitutes a “final image.” 
 I subtly retouch all final images before sending them off to clients. This includes cleaning up flyaway hairs, minor blemish removal, and a little bit of skin softening. Nothing too crazy, as it needs to look like you. My Standard session includes one final image to go with that one wardrobe style. If there is a second killer shot from that wardrobe style you just have to have, additional retouching can be purchased. The deluxe session includes three retouched images—you guessed it—to go along with those three wardrobe styles shot. 

    Makeup (Yes, Even for You)

    When it comes to headshots, a little bit of makeup makes a big difference—regardless of gender. If you don’t typically wear makeup, a little bit of powder can still help to reduce highlights and hotspots on your skin, lending to a film-ready appearance that puts your headshot a notch above the rest. 
 Makeup should be pretty neutral, accentuating what it needs to highlight without being stylized. While I do not employ a makeup artist, if your session is booked two or more weeks out, I can help schedule an MUA to be on site for your session. 

    Give it Time

    One of the best recommendations I can give is to treat your headshot session like an audition. Just as you wouldn’t squeeze an audition in between an 8-hour work shift and drinks with friends, you shouldn’t schedule your session on a busy day. Instead, treat your session as the most important thing that’ll happen that day—after all, the pictures that come from it will represent you for a year or two. Schedule your day so that you look and feel your best at the time of your session. 
 While I do allow Standard headshot sessions to be booked as soon as 72-hours out, you should give yourself a week or two to prepare for the best headshots. For the best results, you’ll want to go through your clothes and assemble multiple wardrobe options that fit the roles and thematic styles you tend to audition for. You’ll need to then make sure that these garments are clean, wrinkle-free, and fit well. That last one is really important—poorly fitting garments are very obvious and detract from you in your headshot. 

    Be Inspired

    Just as you wouldn’t walk into an audition unprepared, having some headshot inspiration can help you prepare for your session with a target in mind. Inspiration can come from other actors’ headshots, your own past headshots, or even still frames from a film or commercial. Don’t be afraid to bring this inspiration with you to your session, either. Again, knowing what you’re working towards will help me help you achieve it. 

    That’s a Wrap

    Okay. I know that was a lot of information. Let’s recap the high-level stuff.

    • Your headshot represents you and convinces CDs that the authentic you are the best actor for the role.
    • My role as your photographer is to make sure the images we capture meet your goals and represent the best you.
    • Keep your headshot up to date and free of distracting or stylized accessories and makeup.
    • Make sure the session you’re booking meets your needs before booking.
    • Give yourself time to get prepared—mentally and in terms of wardrobe.
    • Be inspired.
    • You’re a tiger. Just kidding.


    Send Me a Message