It starts... you need a new headshot, but have no idea where to begin or what you need. Whether you're new to headshots or just need a refresher, our tips will point you in the right direction. 

1. Headshots vs. portraits - know the difference

  • Headshot: a professional image of your face and sometimes torso. It represents your unique 'sell-ability' and personality as an actor.
  • Portrait: a professional image of your torso or whole body with added artistic qualities. It represents a likeness of the individual and tries to tell a story about them.
Ashley Walters' headshot

Ashley Walters' headshot

Portrait of Ashley Walters - Getty Images by Hamish Brown

Portrait of Ashley Walters - Getty Images by Hamish Brown

A headshot is often the first thing a casting director or agent looks at. It's the same for headshots as in daily life: you want to make a good first impression. A portrait simply isn't right for the occasion and a selfie just won't cut it. 

2. Choosing the right photographer
Arguably, the hardest step. Do some research: ask around and look for photographers in your price range. Once you've found one you like, make sure to check out their gallery of professional work. Your finished headshot will be similar, so make sure to choose a style you like!

3. Chat with the photographer beforehand
It's important to know that you're both on the same page. If you're unsure, ask questions and if something doesn't feel right, let the photographer know so you can both fix it. Leave the session knowing you spoke up when you were uncertain. You'll learn more about the process this way. 

4. It has to look like you
The most important aspect. Headshots that don't look like you on an average day only lead to disappointed agents and panels in meetings and auditions. Make sure your face is the first thing that pops - it shouldn't be obscured by lots of dramatic shadow or a distracting background.

5. Beard? Hair up or hair down? Jewellery? What to wear?
Come to the session prepared:

  • Beards: it's the same with beards. There's nothing wrong with taking photos of you with a beard then shaving half way through.
  • Hair: if you have long hair but often wear it up, get photos of both. If you have natural curls but often straighten your hair, dedicate half the session to one, then change.
  • Jewellery: the only acceptable jewellery is facial piercings as these will influence your 'casting type'.
  • Make up: minimal make up is better - stay away from lipstick, contouring, eyeshadow, and heavy eyeliner
  • Clothes: go for 'earthy coloured' tops with no patterns (dark greens, browns, purples, blues - nothing that will stand out against the background). The main focus is your face; anything else is too distracting.

6. To smile or not to smile?
This is one of the most common questions asked during headshot sessions. The answer is a simple one: smiling is the preferred method in North America, the standard for UK headshots is a straight face with the all-important 'smize' (smiling with the eyes so that they appear engaged).