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A Complete Guide to Actor Headshots

Do you have a professional headshot? Actors who fail to have one are placing themselves at a disadvantage. This little number is an important investment in your career – so, in this article, we’ll look at actor headshots, what they are, why you need them and what you should be aiming for with yours. 

What is a Headshot?

First impressions, as the saying goes, count. Your headshot is the first glimpse casting directors and agents get of you. It’s a photograph of you from the chest up, and if you don’t want yours to be just another face in the crowd, it needs to grab attention. Your best selfie just isn’t going to cut it! 

Your headshot should be a professional 8×10” colour photograph. Portrait orientation is usually the best option since you can fill the frame with what the photo is supposed to be of: you. 

Why Do You Need a Professional Headshot?

You can probably recognise an amateur actor a mile off. Casting directors and agents will likewise recognise an amateurish headshot. You might think your happy snap is a nice photo, but it makes a statement – and not a good one. What it says is “I couldn’t be bothered to pay for a professional headshot,” and that doesn’t make you look like the professional you are or want to be. Every actor should know the importance of the headshot, and if you aren’t prioritising yours, it doesn’t make you look like a go-getter.

Quite apart from that, a professional photographer will know how to present your face in a striking way. It’s their job to know this. Studio lighting and awesome camera equipment coupled with expertise and creativity produces results you can’t hope to emulate, even if you do have a good camera. 

On the bright side, you’re going to get a lot of mileage out of that headshot. And it might just be the start of great things for you. 

How to Choose a Headshot Photographer

Shop around before taking the plunge – and you aren’t shopping for the lowest price. Instead, you’re looking for a photographer who has a lot of experience working with actors’ headshots. Check out their portfolios. Are they doing their customers justice? Would you find their photographs memorable? Are there signs of character in the images?

Look around online, and ask other actors about their headshots, but remember that your photographer’s ability to put you at your ease and to identify the personality they’re to present is important too. Photography is an art, and just as actors “connect” with the characters they play on stage or screen, photographers should be able to connect with and “read” their subjects. It takes more than just technical skill. It takes empathy. 

What to Wear For Headshots

Your headshot presents you as a professional. Keep that in mind when choosing your clothing. Opt for smart or smart-casual styling and avoid busy prints that will draw attention away from your face. With the same aim in mind, choose a colour that contrasts with your complexion and avoid wearing flashy jewellery. Finally, watch out for any little details that might convey a sloppy impression: wrinkled clothing, and twisted or turned-up collars are examples. 

Looking for a basic guideline? Unlike fashion models who are there to present clothing to the public, your clothing is there to present you to the people who will matter to your career.

What’s the Best Background for a Headshot?

Your pro photographer should have the right answers for this, but it pays to know what you’re looking for. A plain background that contrasts sufficiently with both your outfit and your skin tone to make you stand out clearly as the subject of the photo is the best option. Alternatively, a blurred out background can work – ask your photographer what your options are and what they would recommend.

What to Bring To a Headshot Photoshoot

A good photographer will be happy to try several versions of your headshot in which you wear different items of clothing. Although you want to look smart, choose clothes you’ll feel comfortable in and bring items in different colours and with differently-shaped necklines. Ideally, your photoshoot should allow time for you to get photographed in something light-coloured, a dark colour, and a bright colour. 

Bring along all the things you need to appear well-groomed and fresh. And it’s not just the ladies who should include makeup. A dusting of powder can work wonders for men too. Those shiny areas of your face need a matte finish or they’re going to wreck your headshot. Headshot photographers often have some basic products on hand, but bringing your own means you’re leaving nothing to chance. 

How to Pose for a Headshot

Your photographer should be able to help you get your pose right, but coming prepared will make things easier for both of you. The basic pose is easy enough to achieve. Stand up straight, turn your body at 45 degrees to the camera, and your head towards the photographer and lean slightly in towards the camera. This gets your chin at the right angle for a great shot. 

Looking to exude confidence and power? Simply vary the pose by folding your arms in front of you. Looking for a hint of sassiness? Hands on hips! Something cute and candid? Turn side on to the camera and flash your megawatt smile over your shoulder: it’s fun, relaxed, and natural-looking. 

How Many Headshots Should You Have?

You’ll be submitting one headshot at a time, but it might help you to have up to six shots to choose from. There will be slight nuances between them, and choosing one that matches what you think a casting director is looking for could be a help. However, one of your headshots is likely to be the standout winner that you most frequently submit. Have a few copies printed so that you’re ready for opportunities. Don’t go overboard. You’ll need new headshots every two years or so. 

How to Attach a Headshot to Your Resume

Now that you have a headshot and a resume ready, submit them the professional way. When sending in hard copies, stick to this method. It’s based on what agents and casting directors do with all those resumes that land on their desks, and it makes it easy for them to consider yours. 

Here’s how it usually works. They’ll look at all the actors’ headshots first. If they like what they see, they’ll take a closer look at the resume. What you need to do is to size your resume to match the size of your headshot. Now, place the resume and headshot back to back and staple the two together. Use four staples, one at each corner. If you get noticed, the casting director or agent simply flips over the headshot to find out more about you. It’s easy! 

Waiting for the Big Break?

You need more than talent and a great headshot to succeed as an actor. You need patience, perseverance, and a willingness to learn and practise your art at every opportunity – even when it’s not the starring role you always dreamed of. Imagine being able to sharpen up your skills by stepping into character, even playing several roles in a single day, while actually getting paid for it! Guess what? You really can do that with RSVP.

We’re on the lookout for actors who can represent our customers’ brands – and here’s the fun part: we’re all actors too! Find out more about this flexible opportunity to work with people who will value your skills and respect your ambitions. It all begins when you visit our Careers Page and get in touch – no headshot required!


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