Prepare for your Actor Headshots

I have been creating headshots for many years, and in that time, trends and processes have changed.

First and foremost: a headshot is NOT a portrait. I have taken hundreds of portraits over the years, too, and a headshot is quite different in several ways:

  • A headshot is a communication to a potential casting director or director. It communicates who you are, your professional demeanor, and your flexibility, among other things.
  • A headshot does not seek to put you in a specific location doing a specific thing. Instead, it shows you as being able to adapt to many locations doing many things.
  • Most headshots are not friendly things for walls; they are serious communications about your work ethic and ability to get things done.

One current trend in headshots is that it is now acceptable for them to be in color. In fact, if you are still using a black and white headshot, you’ll probably want to change to color right away, since that is now the standard. A few years ago this was not the case.

This photo is only about three years old, but it already needs to be changed because it is not in color and the actor’s features have changed.

Likewise, desired backgrounds have changed (though almost any darker background will work in most instances). Trends have also changed in how much of an actor’s body should be in the headshot. The current accepted style is for much of the upper body to be seen, changing from the tightly cropped faces of several years ago and the 3/4 body shots before that. Perhaps the greatest change, however, is that a wide range of photos and styles are acceptable now, so long as an actor’s abilities are communicated clearly.

The go-to photo for most auditions is a color photograph like the one above. If you, however, are auditioning for a commercial (as in television), you’ll probably want a photo with you smiling, like this one:

Commercial producers like to find actors who seem friendly, warm and flexible in style and technique. Another type of headshot is one that shows the actor as a character. These are often used in the context of a written program or in highlighting the actors to audience as they enter a theatre.


The camera catches everything on your face in a headshot, so it’s a great idea to have a makeup artist work on your face just before a headshot sitting. Yes, Photoshop exists, but many Photoshopped photos end up looking fake and plastic. If you have freckles, that is part of you and should be shown. If you have a mole on the side of your nose, that will be a perfect feature for many roles, and no director wants to be surprised upon seeing you. Likewise, your hair should be natural-looking and attractive.

When you audition, you will smile, state your name and audition pieces (or follow the directions given you for the audition) and perform them wonderfully. Your resumé will also say a lot about you by the previous roles you’ve performed. Your headshot should then lock your amazingness into the minds of the casting people! It is a vital piece of the story you tell during the audition.


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