Everything you need to know about acting headshots…

Actor posing for acting headshots

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it’s human nature. Casting directors will look through countless resumes/CVs, and eye-catching headshots can help you stand out even before they start reading. But how can you get the best out of your shoot?

Actor posing for acting headshots

Be consistent with your headshots

Casting directors are looking out for those who fit the role visually, not just their acting skills. The consistency between your appearance on your cv and in person is crucial. For example, if the cv headshot portrays someone with a head full of hair and you turn up with a pixie cut, it won’t bode well for your audition. Keeping your headshot up to date allows the casting director more transparency and will build a better relationship. This could mean you get called in for additional roles in other projects. It’s best to refresh your headshot every 1 to 2 years unless you change your appearance drastically. (Child actors would need to update this more frequently, it’s good to judge this based on how similar they look to their headshot)


Keep it Simple

Casting directors are looking for a blank canvas in terms of accessories and makeup. By adding jewellery and excessive makeup to your headshot, you limit your versatility as an actor to one “character”. Makeup is a good idea for both men and women to cover minor imperfections, but not so much that you don’t appear natural. Clear mascara is a good idea for giving volume to eyelashes and tidying up eyebrows without adding unnecessary colour, then concealer or a bb cream to cover up acne or blemishes. Accessories can make a headshot too busy, so it’s a good idea to remove all piercings and jewellery. However, if you wear glasses, it would be a good idea to get a photograph with and without them. Also, clothing should be kept simple and not flamboyant.

Minimal natural makeup

Meet the requirements

Headshots differ depending on where you are auditioning. E.g. it is quite popular for actors in the UK to opt for a black and white headshot, but this is a big no-no in the USA as it is deemed outdated. Look into the standard size for acting headshots in your country. By not meeting the requirements, you can come across as amateurish. If you are going for the classic black and white, it is good to include an additional colour image.

Create a mood board

Show your photographer examples of headshots you like and explain what you like about them. This is a great way to convey yourself effectively; however, do not imitate others headshots entirely. You want to show you are an individual. Use Pinterest or a photo album within your camera roll to keep these examples organised.

Photographer discussing headshots with client

Plan Plan Plan

Are you doing your makeup or hiring a professional? Perhaps you have hired a hairdresser. Make sure each of these areas of preparation for your headshot has time allocated to them. You don’t want areas to be rushed, as anything out of place will be immortalised within that headshot until you update it.

Add variety to your headshots

Take a couple of headshots; it’s a good idea to have variety as it shows versatility. Play around with clothing necklines and whether your hair is up or down. Include black and white and colour images unless it is deemed outdated in your country. You don’t want to submit multiple headshots that are only marginally different; aim for different tones entirely.

Matte or Glossy headshots

Acting headshots should aim to be matte or semi-matte. The glossy paper picks up dirt and scratches a lot easier, which can be a problem when transporting headshots.

Casting directors looking through headshots

Be Comfortable

Taking headshots can be nerve-wracking as you want to get it right. Being collected and relaxed will translate into better photos. Wear clothes that as well as being appropriate, make you feel good and are comfortable. Try out your poses and expressions in the mirror; being more comfortable in how you pose will make for more natural photos.


Whilst it’s important your clothing isn’t overly flashy. The casting director will have gone through hundreds of actors sporting black and white T-shirts. Steer clear of patterns, but solid colours can help portray your personality and make you stand out. Think about which colours compliment you best. Jewel tones and neutrals work well.

Woman choosing clothes

Leave your best tips in the comments…

Visit Mondoolfi Studios for more information about acting headshot photography.

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