Headshot dos and don’ts

Over the years, I’ve been asked loads of questions from professional and aspiring actors alike about headshots. Here, I’ll be answering the ones which come up most and giving you some pointers for before, during and after the session.

Q1. Do I really need a headshot?
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Your headshot is the first thing a Casting Director, agent, director, etc will see and you want to make sure you’re memorable.

Q2. But can’t I just take a photo myself or have a friend do it?
(*Cue photographers all over the world grinding their teeth). Although, it is a very common question. The answer, however, is no. A professional headshot tells everyone in the industry that you are just that: professional.

Q3. How do I choose a photographer?
Start by looking at other people’s headshots. Which ones catch your eye? Which ones do you find most interesting? Once you get a sense of what style you like, the process becomes much easier. Also, ask every actor you know! Most will have recommendations about who they like.

Q4. What price can I expect?
Good headshot photographers can charge anywhere between £180-450. There will be others that offer deals around the £100 mark, but chances are you’ll get less time with the photographer, fewer clothing changes and fewer retouched images.

Yes, it’s expensive, but in my experience, headshots within this price range (mine were around £250) tend to last longer as the years go by.

Q5. Wait… I can change clothes halfway through the session?
Yes, you absolutely should! I always take a mini suitcase to headshot sessions with clothes that represent my different ‘looks’. I might wear a simple green top in the first one for my ‘standard’ shot, then change to a hoodie to represent a tougher look. Remember the following things too:

Hair: take some shots with it up, down, differently styled. 
Facial hair: go in with a full beard and shave halfway through!

Q6. Should the final version be black & white or in colour?
Colour. Black & white was the fashion a few years back. You should, however, receive both black & white and colour versions of the final prints, but always use the colour ones on CVs.

Q7. Should I smile?
For UK headshots, no. Here, it’s all about the perfected ‘smize’. Make sure your eyes are engaged. Engaged eyes = interesting photo.

Now we’ve covered some essential FAQs, time to know how to prepare before , during and after!

Before the session

Once you’ve found a photographer you like, think about what you want to get out of the session. Think about the following questions:

  1. What are my casting ‘types’? (ie. what kinds of characters could I play?)
  2. How am I going to represent these types with my expression?
  3. What clothes am I going to take to help reflect these types?

Little tip: don’t get your hair cut or dyed directly before having headshots taken. If anything goes wrong, you might need to rebook your session – which often means you’ll lose your deposit.

During the session

Discuss clothes/hair/makeup choices with the photographer beforehand so you both have a plan of action. For the first few shots I always go without makeup and with my natural hair so that the photos reflect me at my most authentic.

As you go along, there’s nothing wrong with asking the photographer to see your images; this way you’ll know what to change. Similarly, ask questions if you’re unsure about what to do.

The most important thing is to be relaxed. These photos are meant to represent you on an average day. Don’t worry about looking too glam, don’t worry if you burst out laughing halfway through, just be you.

After the session

The photographer will send you all of your shots for you to pick your favourites to order. This is often the most difficult part. I got sent over 700 photos and had to choose five. Selecting is a hard process. Take your time, ask your friends and family for help. Make sure to also send the full list to your agent to see what they think.

The most important thing…

Your headshots, no matter how many different ‘looks’ they represent, have to look like you. Having a headshot that doesn’t match your face is confusing (and often irritating!) for casting directors in auditions and meetings.  

Happy shooting and selecting!


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