14 Secrets to a Great Headshot
Because of my other life in theatre and acting, I know a thing or 2 about actor headshots. A headshot is the most important tool an actor uses, so don’t cheap out.
Hair. It should be natural and down, ladies. No ponytails, no up-dos, no barrettes, no headbands, etc. Have your roots done unless it’s part of your everyday look.
Waxing. If you need to wax eyebrows or anything else on your face, do it several days before your shoot. You don’t want red blotches.
Makeup. You should look like you on your best day. The viewer should not look at the photo and see makeup. No makeup for kids under 13.
Clothing. Females—tank tops or t-shirts. Guys: collared shirt or t-shirt. SOLID. No pattern. No bright colors. No trim. No white. No turtlenecks. Yes, I know it’s boring. The only thing people should be looking at in a headshot is you. Never your shirt. No necklaces. No earrings. What you are wearing should not even be noticed.
Lighting. While many portraits look cool with ½ your face in the dark, headshots need to be more evenly lit. One side should not be significantly darker than the other. Natural light is the most flattering, however, don’t be afraid of studio lighting. It can look great if done properly.
Backgrounds. No busy backgrounds. Nothing should compete with you. Blurred out backgrounds are OK, but a clean background is better. You should pop out from the background. In other words, if you have dark hair, don’t be photographed on a dark background.
Angles. Your face should be almost straight on to the camera. 20 degrees one way or the other is enough. No looking over the shoulder shots. A tiny tip to the side (ear to shoulder) is ok, but keep that tip to a minimum. You don’t want the viewer to feel like they need to tilt their head to see you. Your photographer should not only be shooting down on you (unless you need to look thinner) or up on you (unless you are a model). The camera should be just above or just below your eyeline.
Look into the lens. Not sure what else to say about that.
Personality. You certainly have one. Make sure the photo reflects it. It needs to be the real you.
Smiling and Serious. Be sure your photographer takes shots of both. The casting director or client may want to know what your teeth look like. Do be mindful of smiling really hard. Squinting eyes and too much gum around teeth is not good.
Hands. Your hands on your face are lovely for beauty shots, but not for headshots. The exception is if you are only a character actor.
Shoulders. Your shoulders should not be square to the camera. It will make your head look small. A 30-60 degree angle should work.
Cropping. Most headshots today are cropped just below the shoulders. The top is cropped just a bit into the hairline. Do ask your photographer for a few shots that include your torso in case the casting director or client wants to see how you are built.
Color. Definitely have your headshots printed in color.
I know there are a lot of rules and you don’t have many choices in how you are presented, but trust me. This is what you need to do to compete in the acting world. Contact me to set up your session. 630-234-9506 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Break a leg!!
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