In headshots, as in life, style is everything. More often than not, your headshot precedes your in-the-flesh first impression, and will frequently remain behind after you’ve left any given audition.
That's all to say, your headshots are of the utmost importance, and they need to be as unique as you are. Establishing personal style in print—without going overboard—can be tough. Thankfully, we’ve consulted with five Backstage Experts on ways to ensure your individuality translates into your headshots. Now, take a breath, read on and then get ready to say, “Cheese!”
1. Lay off the airbrush.
“Chill with the airbrushing. Casting directors expect you to look just like your headshot, and will not be happy when you show up looking totally different, or 10 years older. It’s not about looking pretty, it’s about representing your type, age wrinkles included. It should look like you on your best day, showing your age, and who you are now. It’s not about the type you want to be, it’s the type you are.” —Matt Newton
2. Taking headshots is fun—so try to act like it!
“Get into character. Play. Express through your eyes. Act as if the camera is your best friend, your true love, or your enemy—depending on the look or expression you are going for. And most of all, have fun!” —Mae Ross
3. Put in the work ahead of time.
“If you think getting your clothes together, having your hair cut, and showing up are all you have to do, then don’t question why your shots look so generic. Actors put more work into their scene study class than they do into their single most important marketing tool. The entire headshot process should be given as much weight as an audition or acting job. Headshots need to target the roles that you can book, read your specific type and branding, look exactly like you on a good day, and show confidence and a true connection with the camera.” —Tom Burke
4. Dress for your type.
“You really want to be sure that your wardrobe choices compliment your character type. Knowing your market is key to getting a successful headshot. For example, what is your age range? Are you aiming your headshot at blue-collar or upper-class roles? Are you playing sexy roles or are you more of the girl/boy next door? I have had guys bring three-piece suits yet tell me that their marketing is more the college slacker type. I’ve also had women only bring sexy dresses with plunging necklines only to tell me that their agent wants something that could help them land salesperson-type commercial auditions. Watch the characters you would play on TV or film and take note of their wardrobe as inspiration.” —Marc Cartwright
5. Your geography should somewhat dictate style.
“Headshots photographed in NYC are often darker and more serious. An easy visual comparison is just looking at the wardrobe between the two cities. In NYC, you are much more likely to see people wearing black and dark colors with a minimalistic yet chic feel. Often portraits are lit by studio or strobe lights, and therefore the shots feel darker and tend to have more shadow. Conversely, in L.A.— the land of natural light—headshots are going to be lit as such and have a warmer tone.” —Michael Roud
For more expert insight on nailing your headshots, check out Backstage's YouTube channel!