Acting Headshots : The Ultimate Guide 2024

Acting Headshots : The Ultimate Guide 2024

Acting Headshots : The Ultimate Guide 2024

What Is an Acting Headshot?

An acting headshot is a photograph used by actors and actresses to showcase their range, personality, and casting suitability for potential roles. As an actor, your headshot is one of the most important tools in your arsenal to land auditions and roles. It serves as your first introduction to casting directors and agents, so it must capture your essence in a memorable yet versatile way.

What Is Purpose for an Acting Headshot?

The primary purpose of an acting headshot is to display your "type" or the roles you would be suitable for. It highlights your key attributes like facial features, expressions, and persona that would make you a good fit for certain characters. Your headshot should look natural and reflect who you really are as an actor. It is not meant to be overly stylized but rather reveal your authentic self.


Your acting headshot must look professional to be taken seriously. It should be a high- quality, close-up photo of your face and upper torso. You want to wear simple but polished attire in solid colours that compliment your skin tone and hair colour. It is best to avoid logos, busy patterns and accessories that can be distracting. A professional headshot will focus on your facial features, especially your eyes. It should capture a warm, engaging smile and friendly demeanour.

In short, an effective acting headshot presents you as a dedicated and skilled actor in an authentic yet professional manner. It is one of the most useful tools for advancing your acting career. With the right headshot, you will open more doors to auditions and increase your chances of landing roles that showcase your talents.

Types of Acting Headshots: Lifestyle, Commercial, Theatrical

As an actor, having quality headshots is crucial for building your portfolio and landing auditions. The three main types of acting headshots are commercial, theatrical, and lifestyle.

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Lifestyle Headshots

Lifestyle headshots place you in everyday scenarios to demonstrate versatility for various roles. They capture a natural, unposed look suitable for TV shows, films, commercials, and print work. Lifestyle headshots require an experienced photographer who can put you at ease to capture authentic moments. The results showcase your ability to take on multifaceted, relatable roles across genres.

Commercial Headshots

Commercial headshots emphasise a friendly, approachable look and smile. They showcase your versatility for print ads, infomercials, and TV commercials. Commercial casting directors want headshots that make you appear trustworthy, relatable and able to connect with a broad audience. For these, We recommend a solid-coloured, natural makeup, background, and a warm smile.

Theatrical Headshots

Theatrical headshots capture a range of dramatic facial expressions suitable for film, theatre, and television roles. They allow you to showcase different character types. We suggest multiple outfits and a range of expressions from neutral to intense. For theatrical headshots, a simple background that does not distract from your performance is ideal.

Commercial, theatrical, and lifestyle headshots serve different purposes and help demonstrate your range as an actor. By understanding the distinctions and working with a skilled photographer, you can obtain high-quality headshots tailored to your needs. Strong headshots open more doors to auditions and work opportunities. With the right portfolio, your talents and skills as an actor will shine through.

How to Prepare for Your Acting Headshot Photoshoot?

Selecting Your Wardrobe

As an actor, choosing an outfit for your headshot photoshoot that suits different casting types is crucial. I would recommend selecting three to four different tops in solid colours that compliment your features. For women, a form-fitting solid colour top, a button-down blouse, and a casual T-shirt are good options. For men, a solid colour crewneck T-shirt, casual button-down shirt, and v-neck T-shirt would work well. Make sure all outfits are well-fitted and avoid busy patterns that can be distracting.

Practise Your Poses and Facial Expressions

Practising in front of a mirror prior to your photoshoot will help you look natural and relaxed on camera. Work on different facial expressions like a warm smile, serious and contemplative look, and casual smile. For poses, tilt your head slightly to one side or the other and turn your body at an angle to the camera. Place one hand casually in your pocket or brush your hair away from your face. The key is to appear natural, so practice in front of others and get feedback.

Prepare Your Hair and Makeup

For the best headshots, your hair and makeup should look polished and natural. Get a trim one to two weeks before your shoot and colour touch-ups around the same time. For women, neutral and natural-looking makeup that highlights your best features is best. Use waterproof makeup that will not require touch-ups during the shoot. For men, make sure your hair is neatly styled and facial hair is freshly trimmed. Minimal makeup may be needed to reduce shine or even out skin tone.

Rest Up!

To look your best in your headshots, aim for eight hours of sleep the two nights leading up to your shoot. Being well-rested will make you appear refreshed, alert and confident on camera. Limit alcohol and caffeine intake as both can disrupt your sleep. Do some light exercise like yoga to release tension and energise yourself. Follow your normal skincare routine to ensure your complexion is clear and hydrated. With preparation and rest, you will nail your acting headshot photoshoot.

Acting Headshot FAQs: Answering Common Questions

What Should I Wear for My Headshots?

As an actor, choosing an outfit for your headshots is an important decision. I recommend wearing solid, jewel-toned colours that complement your skin tone. For men, a button- down shirt in a bold colour like cobalt or forest green works well. Ladies can opt for a blouse in ruby or sapphire. Avoid busy patterns, logos, or anything that will date the photo. The focus should be on your face, so keep accessories minimal.

How Many Headshots Do I Need?

Most actors need at least two looks for their headshots: a commercial shot and a theatrical shot. The commercial look should be clean-cut and polished, with a friendly smile. The theatrical shot can be more dramatic or edgy. Beyond that, additional looks that show your versatility and range are helpful. As an actor builds their career, their "look" may change, so new headshots every one to two years are recommended.

Can I use filters or retouching on headshots?

Headshots should provide an accurate representation of how you currently look. While some basic retouching to account for lighting issues or blemishes is typically done, filters that alter your appearance should be avoided. Your goal is for casting directors to recognize you when you walk in the room, so drastic changes to your appearance will only cause confusion. Minor tweaks to brightness or contrast are acceptable, but filters that smooth skin, change eye colour, or make other significant changes should not be used for professional headshots.

What's the Turnaround Time for Headshot Delivery?

The turnaround time for headshot delivery depends on several factors, including the photographer's schedule and workload as well as the number of looks or outfits included in your session. Typically, you can expect delivery within 1 to 2 weeks. Rush orders may be possible for an additional fee with some photographers. Be sure to ask about turnaround times when booking your headshot session so you can get the photos in time for any auditions or submissions.

How Often Should I Update My Headshots?

Most actors need to update their headshots every 1 to 2 years to ensure an up-to-date look. However, there are some signs it may be time for new headshots even sooner:

  • Your appearance has significantly changed (new hairstyle, loss/gain of weight, ageing)
  • Your acting "type" or common roles have shifted
  • You are not getting called in for auditions as frequently
  • Feedback that your headshots do not reflect your current look
  • Changes in industry standards or styles that make your current headshots look outdated

Staying on top of trends and updating your headshots regularly is key to keeping your acting career moving forward. New headshots are an investment in your success as an


In closing, as an actor building your portfolio, investing in professional headshots is invaluable. They communicate so much about you at a glance and serve as your calling card. With strategic planning, savvy shopping, and a skilled photographer suited to you, the process can be smooth and the results impressive. Your headshots are a critical career investment and your chance to put your best face forward. Take the time to consider your brand, research options, and budget accordingly. Great headshots convey your essence and edge. They inspire callbacks. In our image-driven field, headshots make the first impression count.