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7 Tips for Getting the Perfect Actor Headshots

By: Christopher Todd

Award-winning Orange County photographer specializing in people with 20+ years of experience

7 Tips for Getting the Perfect Actor Headshot

By: Christopher Todd
Table Of Contents
    young male adult standing under pier at beach

    What Are Actor Headshots?

    In the competitive world of acting, actor headshots are often the first impression casting directors, agents, and producers have of you. Actor headshots are your calling card, your ticket to that coveted audition, and ultimately, your gateway to landing the perfect role.

    In this age of digital portfolios and online casting platforms, the significance of actor headshots has never been more paramount. A great actor headshot will be your best marketing tool.

    These headshots help casting directors find the right actor for the part they are trying to fill. Your acting headshot shows the casting director what you look like. This is your first step to getting in front of the casting director to land an acting job. 

    These 7 tips for getting the perfect actor headshots are basic tips I have compiled after photographing thousands of people's headshots over the last 20 years. 

    At the end of this article, you will walk away with the knowledge of how to get the best-acting headshots, how to pose, the best facial expressions, how to prepare, and more. 

    Whether you're planning on hiring an actor headshot photographer or going to DIY your headshots at home. I want to talk about 3 important questions that will help guide you to getting the perfect actor headshots.

    If you are ready to dive into the 7 tips you can skip here. 

    Are Acting Headshots Important?

    As we discussed above casting directors make split decisions based on your actor headshots. For this very reason, I believe your acting headshots are extremely important. Like any job interview, the first impression you make is the most important one. I help people get the best headshot by getting the person I am photographing to look authentic and photogenic.

    One thing to keep in mind for your headshot is over-retouching. Your actor headshot should look like you when you walk in the door for the casting call. Avoid over-retouching letting your photographer edit your photo with unnatural filters or photoshopping the image too much. 

    Young male adult wearing brown jacket in park

    How Should I Prepare For Actor Headshots?

    There are 3 basic rules when preparing for headshot photography. These rules also apply to acting headshots. I share these rules with all my clients because they help get the best achievable outcome for portraits. 

    First rule, be sure to stay well hydrated 48 hours leading up to your headshot session. This means avoiding alcohol the night before. Trust me when I say your photos will look better by just staying hydrated before your shoot. 

    The second rule, getting plenty of sleep the night before does wonders for how people look in photos. 

    The third rule, let your photographer know if you are self-conscious of any body parts in particular. This might be difficult to discuss with your photographer but trust me when I say it is better to let them know so they can help you feel confident and pose you accordingly. 

    What Should Actor Headshots Look Like? 

    Knowing what an actor's headshot should look like is important. Familiarize yourself with good actor headshots and what they look like. This will help when you look at the photographer's portfolio. A great expression, a clear photo of the person, and overall quality. 

    Whether you're a seasoned actor looking to refresh your portfolio or an aspiring talent stepping into the limelight for the first time, these 7 tips will guide you in the direction of getting great actor headshots.  

    Learn about Christopher Todd Studios' headshot photography

    Follow these 7 expert tips to ensure you have actor headshots that stand out from the crowd and land you auditions. 

    Older man holding glasses

    Tip # 1 Choose Outfits That Support Your Types

    Outfit Planning

    Decide on at least 3-4 Types you can play. Think about what that character would wear. Choose outfits that support the role you are going for. Plan on bringing 2-4 outfits for a variety of looks.

    Things to consider:

    • When it comes to accessories, less is more.
    • Avoid wearing busy patterns or logos that may distract from your face.
    • Remove any piercings or large accessories that can draw attention away from your eyes and expression.
    • Consider opting for solid colors that flatter your complexion.
    • Avoid clothing that is too trendy or attention-grabbing.
    • Dress fashionably casual. This means wearing nice outfits and having a clean look. 

    Pro tip: Expressing character through clothing. Think stereotype. A letterman jacket for a high school athlete, a suit for a CEO, a jean jacket, or a popular clothing item that can demonstrate a certain type. 

    young man with freckles

    Tip # 2 Showcase Your Real Self

    Makeup and Grooming Tips

    First and foremost, it's important to look natural and showcase your real self. Casting directors want to see the authentic you. When you walk into the audition the casting director is expecting you to look like your headshots. 

    • Avoid heavy makeup or excessive retouching.
    • Keep your appearance clean and fresh, with minimal makeup that enhances your natural features.
    • Avoid trendy haircuts.
    • Wash your hair the night before the headshot session.
    • Stay well hydrated and get plenty of rest.
    • Hair cuts and coloring should be done 5-7 days before photos are taken. 
    • Waxing face or body minimum 3-4 days before.

    Pro Tip: Use facial and hair products that you are familiar with. Trying new products could result in unwanted skin reactions such as a breakout or chemical burn. I can't tell you how many headshot photoshoots I have had to postpone or cancel because someone tried a new product or got a haircut the day before their session and they had to cancel because they didn't like the way they looked. 

    actor headshot of women with brown hair

    Tip # 3 Prepare Ahead Of Time

    This tip might seem obvious but preparing ahead of time is crucial to a successful photoshoot. This includes:

    • Researching the roles and types you want to go after
    • Outdoor vs. studio portraits 
    • Lighting and Location
    • Knowing the backdrop you want in your headshot
    • Outfits chosen and pressed 1-2 days before your session
    • Discussed the desired outcome with the photographer before photo day
    • Finding the perfect backdrop
    • Arranging hair & makeup 
    • Plan to arrive early to your session

    Pro Tip: Get in the right mindset. This means, using relaxing techniques, like breathing, and meditating, and being sure to get plenty of sleep the night before. 

    women wearing blazer with brown hair on white background

    Tip # 4 Posing Techniques Matter

    Posing techniques are important to stand out in front of casting directors. They want to see that you can act and are deciding whether you might fill the role they are looking for. Best ways to pose for an acting headshot:

    • Hire a pro that can guide you
    • Facial expression goes hand in hand with body language
    • Your pose should convey the character you want to portray
    • A good pose will show confidence and how at ease someone is.
    • The right pose can show strength, sternness, and authority. 

    Pro tip: Discuss with your photographer the types of roles you are looking for. A good photogrpaher will be able to guide you in posing and become a facial expression coach. It is also important to portray great facial expressions since these photos will be cropped from your chest to your shoulders up. 

    young man modeling with blue background

    Tip # 5 Think About Your Expression

    Practice facial expressions and emotions. Remember, the goal of a headshot is to capture your essence and range as an actor, so focus on conveying different emotional looks and expressions. Work with a professional photographer who specializes in headshots for actors to ensure they understand the specific needs and requirements of the industry.

    It’s important to choose an expression that reflects the character you are auditioning for, while still being true to your own personality. Consider practicing in front of a mirror before your shoot and practice different expressions until you find one that feels comfortable and conveys the emotion you’re looking for.

    Pro tip: Tilt your heads slightly and squinch your eyes for an intriguing look. Emotive eyes are very important. 

    Young black male actor headshot wearing scarf.

    Tip # 6 Know Your Types Including Roles You Aim For

    Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you define the types you want to get noticed for. Decide on 3-4 types that you want roles for. The more specific you get with your types the easier it will be to plan for it. Knowing your types will help you prepare for the right outfits and expressions you will use in your actor headshots. The goal:

    • Get acting headshots that represent your type
    • Attract the casting director's attention
    • Land the roles you want
    women with short hair wearing sweater and jeans

    Tip # 7 Choose the Right Photographer

    A great headshot requires a talented photographer with experience in capturing actor headshots. It’s important that you find a photographer who understands how to capture your best angles and bring out the nuances of your personality in the photograph. Do some research online, speak to other actors, and check out portfolio samples before making your decision.

    Choose a Professional Who Understands Acting Headshots

    When it comes to headshots for actors, choosing a professional headshot photographer who understands the specific requirements of the acting industry is of utmost importance. Acting headshots are not just regular portraits; they serve as a powerful marketing tool for actors to showcase their talent and attract casting directors, talent agents, and industry professionals.

    They have an understanding of the types of roles actors usually audition for, and can direct actors to portray the right emotions and expressions that resonate with their desired characters. They know how to highlight an actor's unique features and capture their range of emotions and personalities.

    Female LinkedIn profile photo example with solid backdrop.

    Bonus Tips

    What Backdrops are Best For Acting Headshots?

    The best backdrops for actor headshots are those that are simple, not distracting and ones that you will stand out from. Casting directors are looking for a clear shot of you without distractions. 

    Indoor vs outdoor backgrounds Either is suitable for headshots. Indoor is more controlled, meaning the lighting, weather, and climate are all controlled. An indoor background would typically be a white, grey, or neutral color backdrop. Also known as a paper backdrop.

    An outdoor background is also a good option but the background should be blurred so the main focus stays on you. In addition, the background should not be too busy or distracting. A sharp background looks less professional. The more blurry the better for actor headshots.


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    Frequently asked questions about headshots for actors.

    Have more questions? Get in touch with us to start planning your professional actor headshot today.

    Meet Your Acting Headshot Photographer

    Call Me Chris

    I won't bore you with too many details, but I will say that I consider myself to be the luckiest guy in the world and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to merge my passion and career.

    A couple of quick things about me personally. I was born and raised in Orange County. I currently live with my family near Huntington Beach where I love to surf or be in the ocean with my boys.

    My passions include art, traveling, and of course photography.

    Male photographer holding camera.

    Meet Your Acting Headshot Photographer

    Male photographer holding camera.

    Call Me Chris

    I won't bore you with too many details, but I will say that I consider myself to be the luckiest guy in the world and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to merge my passion and career.

    A couple of quick things about me personally. I was born and raised in Orange County. I currently live with my family near Huntington Beach where I love to surf or be in the ocean with my boys.

    My passions include art, traveling, and of course photography.

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