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How to Capture the Perfect Headshot for Actors

Headshots, headshots, headshots… it's enough to make your head spin! Whether you’re a professional actor or just beginning, you’re bound to need headshots. Today we’ll dive into what a headshot is, and how to capture a great one.

What is a headshot?

A headshot is a photo used by actors (and models) to show casting directors a first impression. It's taken from the chest up, with the emphasis on what your face looks like. It's the first thing a casting director will learn about you. 


Headshots are usually given to casting directors and agents with your resume, including acting websites and playbills, and inserted into demo reels. 


When you are searching for an agent, your headshot will also be sent to them, usually in your reel and also printed out with your physical resume. If you’re signed, they will be keeping this on file to identify you and to potentially send to casting directors.

How do I take a good headshot?


Headshots should be honest about who you are, and what you look like. You should try to show your unique personality in your headshots. It's perfectly fine, and even advised, to have multiple headshots - this can show range and versatility, while keeping it authentic. If there are multiple types of characters you can play, it's wise to have a headshot showcasing each on your website/portfolio. 


However, don’t try to be something that you’re not. If you’re inauthentic in your headshots, it's going to show. The best way to be confident and honest in your headshots, is to be yourself! Casting directors see hundreds of faces every day. They aren’t looking for the same thing they always see - they’re looking for the unique personality that you have. Let that shine and showcase who you honestly are. 


Setting up for a headshot


If you’re working with a professional photographer, they’ll likely know the rules to a good headshot set up. But, you can always take headshots yourself or with a friend, if you don’t have access to a photographer/studio. Here’s some tips on how to set it up yourself.


  • You’ll want good lighting on your face, with no shadows that alter your appearance. You can use natural lighting or artificial lighting, avoiding any ring light reflections or lights in your eyes.


  • Wear something that isn’t distracting - no bold patterns. Keep it simple, you want the focus to be your face, not your clothes. Wear a color that suits you best and flatters your skin tone.


  • Showcase the side of you that you want them to see, whether that’s wearing your glasses or doing your hair and makeup a certain way. Showcasing your personality is key!


  • Keep a simple and neutral background, that isn’t too dark - you don’t want to blend in or have anything distracting behind you. You want your headshot to pop, but avoid having too much going on. (As we mentioned with the patterns and backgrounds!)


  • Make sure to have fun! If you want to seem more serious, don’t smile. If you want to be playful, flash your grin. It's up to you what you want casting directors to see in you. It's fine to send one of your headshots that more clearly reflects the character you’re auditioning for - a more solemn shot for a more serious character, or a big grin for a comedic character - as long as all of them are authentically you.


  • You don’t have to use the highest quality camera in the world, but the photo should be clear, in focus, and from the chest up. Make sure the top of your head isn’t cut off.


Size and layout of headshots

Your headshots, when printed, should be 8 x 10 in size, and in color. You’ll want to show off the color of your eyes, hair, and skin. They should be on a high quality photo paper, not regular printer paper.


Your name should also be printed on the front - its very important they know who you are and have a name for your face! 

Keep Headshots Up to Date

You don’t want to use outdated, old headshots. It's advised that you get a new headshot every 1-2 years, but even sooner if your look changes dramatically before that time period. If you get a major haircut or color, lose or gain a significant amount of weight, or any other vast change to your appearance – it's time to update the photos before your next audition. 


We’ve covered the basics of a good headshot for actors. Hopefully you can use these tips to capture that perfect essence of you - and grab the attention of those casting directors and agents! 

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