How to Take a Good Headshot for Actors?

Webinar Article: How to Take a Good Headshot for Actors?

Discover Casting Calls
Find Your Next Audition, Make Your Perfect Role a Reality!
Find Auditions

Most actors think that their first headshot has to be super fancy or expensive but this isn’t so. For beginner actors, a good headshot is great of course, but it becomes increasingly more important when you start searching for an agent or are looking for higher-level paid acting work 

Ideally, a good headshot is an honest representation of who you are. It should also give people the impression that you’re aware of what you’re doing. The shot should be up close enough, if it’s too far away from the actor’s face, it may end up as a body shot.

Martin Bentsen is the CEO and founder of City Headshots, a renowned portrait studio in New York City. He is a published author and an expert in branding and marketing for actors. He is a mentor to over 25,000 actors on his email list. 

In this article, Martin shares his know-how on the subject of headshots; what to wear, how to pose, and even how to take an attractive headshot without visiting a studio.

How to Take a Good Headshot for Actors?

Professional actors should consider hiring an experienced team or going to a studio for their headshots. But for beginner actors who can’t afford that expense yet, you can also take professional-looking headshots from home but watch out for the following things:

Lighting: make sure the lighting is not coming from above. This is because overhead lighting can cast shadows on the eyes and other parts of the face. The lighting must face the actor’s face directly. You can also put one light above and one light below to create a slimming effect on your face by casting a bit of shadow on the cheeks.

Be comfortable: The actor should feel relaxed in the environment. This goes from the clothes that they wear to the relationship with the photographer. Only when they are comfortable can they exert confidence in their photos?

How Do You Pose for an Acting Headshot?

Since the headshot is up close, you are not required to do any out worldly poses. This means the actor should not be turning to the side more than 45-60 degrees. They should also not be kneeling or looking up, towards the camera. It’s best to keep it simple. When posing, a slight leaning towards the camera may help strengthen the jawline in the photo. 

Explore Exciting Casting Calls
Your Next Audition Awaits! Step into the Limelight and Land Your Perfect Role.
Find Auditions

What Type of Headshot Do Actors Use?

There are two common types of headshots; Commercial and Legitimate headshots. The commercial headshots usually involve smiling from the actor along with a bright or colorful blurred-out background. These headshots are submitted for casting calls for commercials. 

The Legit Headshot most frequently demands a serious or closed-mouth expression. These types of headshots are submitted for more serious acting roles. 

It is recommended that actors should have both types of headshots handy but if the actor has a specialization, it’s best to stick to what they’re good at. 

How Do You Take an Attractive Headshot?

Taking an attractive headshot is as basic as taking normal photos so long as the rules regarding lighting are followed. The photographer (if not a professional) can also follow general photography practices such as using portrait mode on the phone to blur out the background, having a non-distracting background, the actor dressing appropriately, the actor looking confident, and so on.

How Do You Smile for Acting Headshots?

For actors who decide to go for the Commercial type of headshots, they have the freedom to express themselves as freely as they wish—by smiling. However, this smile shouldn’t be excessive so as not to come off as fake or silly, it should be a genuine smile that involves as few teeth as possible. It’s more recommended for it to be a closed-lip smile but if the actor has a dentition that makes them look better when they open their lips to smile, then they can as well go for it.

Headshot Requirements:

  • Size: The headshot should be taken on a high-resolution camera of at least 12 megapixels, so it can look good on print. The standard size for print is 8 inches by 10 inches and a resolution of 300 pixels per inch.
  • Format: Unlike the early 2000s when horizontal headshots were the go-to, vertical headshots are now considered the most ideal format for television, film, and theatre
  • Color: In the past, black and white headshots used to be acceptable but this has changed. Everyone now only accepts colored headshots. This is because it allows the casting director to see things like the actor’s eye color, hair color, etc.
  • Number: Although, nowadays it’s rare for casting directors to request physical copies of the headshot, it’s best to have at least 25 copies for good measure. The actor should also have a high-resolution digital copy and a lower-resolution copy as well. This way, the actor can submit the digital copy when required and the low-resolution version when unable to upload or send the high-res version.
Lights, Camera, Audition!
Find Your Next Audition, Make Your Perfect Role a Reality!
Find Auditions

What to Wear for Headshot Shooting?

Beginner actors without any specializations yet, can opt for generic clothing such as a dark grey t-shirt, and avoid flat white or flat black color clothing except exclusively in black and white headshots. 

However, if the actor has some insight into the character type they want to play or will be playing, they can research what sort of clothing is peculiar to the character.

Additionally, the actor should avoid clothing that has strong patterns, subtle pattern clothes such as light gray and darker gray are okay, but if the patterns contradict extremely such as black and white, then this should be avoided. Solid colored clothing is best recommended and the clothes should not have logos or distractib text.

For accessories, the actor can wear tiny jewelry like stud earrings but avoid hoop earrings or necklaces. They can also wear glasses if this is a part of their general look—not sunglasses. Other clothing tips include:

  • Clothes should fit well—not too baggy, not too tight
  • Clothes should cover the arms and not expose the skin
  • Clothes can be V-necks, but better round necks, crew necks, and collar-open shirts 
  • Clothes should not be too high such as turtle necks
  • Clothes should not reflect too much light 
  • Clothes are better if darker colored so as not to draw attention away from the face
Discover Casting Calls
Ready for Your Big Break? Find the Latest Casting Calls and Shine on Stage!
Find Auditions

What to Bring with You to a Headshot Shooting?

There aren’t any spectacular items the actor needs to bring along with them to the studio for a headshot because most of the heavy lifting will be done by the photographer. However, the actor can decide to bring an outfit of choice that complements their style. They can also bring any matching props or accessories they’d like to include as long as they fall within the guidelines. The most important thing they need to bring, however, is confidence, and the right attitude.

6 Best Tips on How to Take Perfect Headshot for Actors?

  • The actor should only wear clothing they are comfortable in
  • The actor should only wear a little makeup. Similar to what they would wear to a casting call
  • Headshots can be taken after they gain a new look. For kids, 6-12 months. For teenagers, 1-2 years, and for adults, it can be taken after every 1-5 years.
  • In addition to the headshot, the actor can also take a half-body, three-quarter length shot because of the off-chance it’s requested.
  • If sending the headshot to agencies, first read the guidelines on the agency’s website so the messages don’t end up as spam.
  • If the actor has tattoos in visible areas such as the face, they can leave it on for the headshot if they know they aren’t going to be covering it up during the casting call

On allcasting, to aid them in finding open casting calls and acting gigs, actors can upload their headshots on their profile, along with their resume and relevant acting experience. Sign up now to get started. 

Unleash Your Talent
Turn Your Passion into a Profession! Discover the Latest Casting Calls and Auditions.
Find Auditions

Latest News