What makes a professional headshot??

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of work with local talent agencies and actors who are in need of either their first headshots or new headshots for their new look.  This made me want to write a post about what actually makes a professional actor headshot.  It’s almost impossible for me to completely break this down in one blog post but I’ll touch on a few of the most important points.

Make sure it actually looks like you.  A casting director wants to look at a headshot and see an accurate representation of you.  They don’t want to see gobs of makeup hiding the details that make you YOU.  If you normally wear your hair in a particular way, go ahead and get your hair done prior to the shoot but make sure its done so that it’s the best representation of the way you already wear it.  When it comes to hair and makeup, simplicity tends to work best.  The star of the picture should be YOU, not your makeup.


Go with portrait orientation, not landscape.  This one may vary due to your market.  The market here dictates that most, if not all, casting directors here want headshots in portrait orientation.  I’ve seen both portrait and landscape orientations work for the market in New York.  For this particular market, stick with portrait orientation.


Everything in color.  Black and White reigned supreme all the way until the late nineties or early 2000’s.  In today’s market, color is king.  The migration to digital photography has made the access to color prints a LOT easier.  It now costs the same as black and white to produce a color print so no reason to not go that route.  I’ve seen a small handful of black and white headshots still working in the theater industry but even that handful is getting smaller and smaller.


Keep hands out of the picture.  Hands take attention away from your face, so hands in actor headshots are bad!  It’s that simple!


Your eyes are the key element.  The eyes are the gateway to the soul.  Casting directors want eyes that give an impression that there’s a story to tell.  It’s the photographer’s job to create that connection between the subject and the camera but you, as the subject, can help by remembering that nobody wants the “deer in the headlights” look.

A professional headshot is about you, and NOT the photography.  There is quite a bit that goes into putting a professional headshot together but when all is said and done, the photography shouldn’t ever really be noticeable.  If someone points out how the lighting of your headshot is “cool and dramatic”, that is a BAD thing because that takes the focus away from the subject.  A casting director doesn’t look at headshots to see the photography, they look at them to see YOU!

This all boils down to one thing:  Authenticity.  Actors give authentic interpretations of imaginary circumstances.  A headshot that gives the impression of authenticity is a great start to landing the gig you really want!

I really hope this information helps.  As always, thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes with me.  It’s always appreciated!  I’ll see you next week!



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