11 Tips For Better Actor Headshots Photos & 7 Headshot Types Every Actor Need To Have

11 tips for better actor head shots photos

As a new actor, one of the most important steps you have to take to increase your possibility of getting noticed by casting directors or when attending auditions is getting headshots so as to leave them behind with Casting directors for every audition you attend.

In order to proceed with the 10 tips for a better actor headshots photo, you need to quickly understand the different types of headshots and how many headshots should you have as an actor.

Table of Contents

7 Headshot Types Every Actor Need To Have

What type of headshots do Actors need? Not all headshots are created equal, and the type of headshot you should be getting depends on the type of work you want to do.

There are different types of headshots which are:

  1. Commercial Headshot: These are simple, bright, happy, smiling shots used for booking commercials and background gigs. Just like the name, it was designed for the advertising industry whose purpose is promoting products to a certain demographic. Also, Commercial headshots must be energetic and charismatic, relatable, and engaging.
  2. Featured/ Character Headshot: This Type of headshot depends on how your look can affect the different characters you can play. For instance, say you have a tough, stoic guy look, you may want to have a headshot that says “am a badass”. This character type plays into the different looks you can have.
  3. Theatrical Headshots: This headshot is directed toward being cast in a Tv show, Play, and films. It involves a more emotional depth than Commercial headshot and also gives out confident expressions without actually smiling.
  4. Industrial Headshots: This is a Specialty and a generic business look designed for a business-minded individual in the corporate world.
  5. Modeling Headshots: These are headshots designed for those going into the Fashion and Beauty industry. They focus less on who a person is and how they make stuff looks. It is about creating a desire for the product against having the audience relate to the person in the advertisement.
  6. Full Body Headshots: This is a headshot of what you look like from to toe. Though you wouldn’t be cast of a Body headshot, it is equally vital to have this in your portfolio for Casting directors to see when flipping through the images, looking at the different looks you have. They will know what your body type looks like.
  7. Promotional Headshots: This is the headshot designed for actors with skillful or special and bookable talents. Say you are good at Martial arts or dancing or singing, it would be nice and also advantageous to have Casting Directors see this part of you in your element.
    Seeing the different types of headshots we have.

How Many Headshots Should An Actor Have?

An actor should have at least three headshots:

  1. Theatrical Headshot: A serious shot of the actor is a must-have.
  2. Commercial Headshot: A smiling shot showing your teeth, bright and happy is also a must-have.
  3. Promotional Headshot: A shot in your element showing your unique talent, or skill is equally important, and a must-have.

11 Tips For Better Headshots

When it comes to headshots, keep this in mind:

  1. Consider visiting photo studios.
  2. Seek a professional freelancer.
  3. Make sure it is a high-quality camera.
  4. It is all about the eyes, remember.
  5. Go for personality over glamour.
  6. Pay attention to Lighting, Framing, and background.
  7. Compare Natural lights vs studio.
  8. Use clothing and Props well.
  9. Reduce Makeup.
  10. Understand the composition to use.
  11. Listen to your Photographer.

Consider visiting photo studios: Visiting photo studios has numerous benefits, ranging from good equipment, personal attention, and stress-free experience. In a professional studio, almost everything is set for you, all you need to do is smile and get that perfect headshot, and you would be on your way to a great acting career.

Seek professional freelancer: Investing in high quality, professionally taken headshot is an investment in your personal brand as an actor. Your headshot is your calling card. Your single most important marketing tool. It shows you at your best, the way you want to be perceived by prospective clients. Spend money; your headshot deserves it.

NOTE: Go to a trained professional photographer freelancer who takes headshots for a living and understand how to use lighting to get the best shot. Not one of your friends who happens to own a digital camera and has taken a few shots here and there.

Make sure it is a high-quality camera: In as much as going to a professional photographer is good, make sure he takes the headshot with a high- quality commercial grade DSLR camera or a mirrorless camera. Not with a smartphone or point and shoot camera.

It is all about the eyes, remember: Your eyes should be in focus, alive and energized perfectly, not dead and glazed over. It should communicate a strong inner thought that shows life behind those eyes and a backstory to it. The picture that stands out in a pile of hundreds and is alive is the one that has a slight squint and a strong piercing eye. A good photographer knows this and can help bring it out.

NOTE: Check this video by Michael Wharley a professional photographer teaching you how to pose when taking ahead shot

Go for personality over glamour: It is not about who you want to be; it is about who you are now. So be you, refrain from trying to be what you are not. Casting directors want to see you in your headshot looks like you on your best day, showing your age, not someone totally different or ten years younger.

Pay attention to Lighting, Framing, and background: A good headshot comprises of good lighting on your face, a blurry background shot with a high-quality camera, no strong dramatic shadows unless you are going to the Opera. You looking directly into the camera with the focus being on the center of your eyes and nowhere else.

NOTE: No funny sign making with your hand with the capture extremely close-ups. It is about you and not the environment.

Compare Natural lights vs studio: Natural light gives a very real, “film-like” look while studio light tends to be more polished and having a more neutral background. Since both lights are good, some photographers do both offering a different look and feel.

Use clothing and Props well: Keep it simple. Wear clothing that compliments you and matches your eyes. Don’t go crazy trying to dress for the role you are auditioning for in your headshot, just keep it simple and classy.

Reduce Makeup: Less is more. Casting directors would want to see the same you in the headshot as the same you standing before them. So look like you would look on your best days, be real, with your hair properly done and not some version of you with too much makeup. Most actors get their headshots redone because they look fake in their photos.

Understand the composition to use: This is where you provide your photographer with the specifications to use. You should go with the 8×10 portrait mode because it has been tried and tested. Do not get too close to the camera so that your neck and face would be captured properly. Also, your photographer can help with suggestions as touching the best composition to use.

Listen to your Photographer: You want to get the best from your photo session, take direction from your photographer, follow their instructions. They have the experience you do not have and know stuff base on years of practice like how to look good in front of a camera, something you have no idea of.

NOTE: Remember, you are investing in them, if you can do it by yourself, you would not need for them.
Why Are Head shots Important For Actors?

Why Are Headshots Important For Actors?

They are part of building your actor’s brand: Your brand is as much as the face it portrays. Your brand is not a thing, but a person, and that person is you. When you hear the Brand Facebook, the next thing that comes to mind is the person of “Mark Zuckerberg” and it’s not his name you would picture, but his Face, with that smile of his right? That’s how important headshot is to build and make your brand stand out.

They are part of an actor’s Resume: Resumes are always good to have irrespective of the nature of the job you are interested in. For those interested in acting, your resume should include a professional actor headshot. This helps Casting directors, Producers, Writers, and Directors get a quick look at actors to see if they have the right physical attributes or are the best fit for a given role. You should attach your resume and contact information back-to-back on your headshot.

Lasting Impression: Though you may do a great job during an audition, it may still be difficult for Casting Directors to remember your face at the end of the day base on the many faces he has seen that day. But an actor’s headshot which is an insight into his personality conveys the right message to executives and a chance to showcase your unique characteristics helping Casting directors remember who made the most impression on them allowing them to cast each role perfectly.

Actors become more Camera-ready: If you want to succeed in this industry, you need to start getting used to being in front of a camera, and that is what scheduling an appointment with a professional headshot photographer helps you accomplish. You will be able to gain more experience working with someone who knows what he is doing and also gets more time in front of the camera.

They serve as a Canvas: Unlike acting where you become another person, professional headshots help you portray yourself and show off your looks in the most beautiful way possible. This, in turn, helps Casting directors to find the best-fit role for you and because you provided them with these pictures, they can see you.

It makes you feel really good to look your best: When you have a quality image of yourself helps to boost your confidence and can also inspire you to share more of yourself with others, especially your professional peers. It also helps you take risks and overcome work-related challenges.


Getting professional headshots is key to excelling in your acting career. A resume won’t be complete without your headshot, and with a professional one, you would be sure to stand out of the crowd. Take your time, be on your best mood, don’t be in a hurry to skip this stage. A lot of people have put their careers in jeopardy because they failed at following the due process. Consider these tips and you will be well guided.


Firas Sameer, a movie director with several video productions for cinemas, festivals, TV commercials.. etc with several international awards and recognitions for his work.

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