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  • Writer's pictureMatt Jones

Everything you need to know about Actor Headshots

Updated: Mar 12

What are Actor Headshots?

Actor headshots are close-up photos of an actor's head and shoulders, used as part of an actor's CV when applying for acting jobs. Actor headshots are also used in theatre programmes, on actors' IMDb profiles and their personal websites.


Headshots are a vital part of an actor's CV. Casting directors, agents and fans alike need to know what an actor looks like before investing time or money into them. The most effective actor headshot photographers can bring out an actor's range in a headshot shoot, creating eye-catching images that stand out from the crowd, tell a story and can be used for a wide range of purposes.


Some Examples of effective Actor Headshots. Taken by Matt Jones

What should acting headshots look like?

Acting headshots are very different to corporate headshots or passport photos - Which only serve the purpose of documenting what a person looks like. Acting headshots do need to achieve that, but while also showing a bit of personality and suggesting different roles you can play. Your headshots should be a good representation of how you would look in an audition or self-tape.


Actors should have a range of headshots. Usually 3-5 images, which can be used separately to apply for different roles. The aim is to have a headshot that matches the role you or your agent are submitting your CV for.


Within this selection should be photos that show both sides of your face, use a range of different colours (both clothing and backdrops) and have a range of subtle differences between facial expressions.


A smiling photo which shows your teeth is not mandatory, but is recommended if you're being submitted for commercial work or particularly friendly roles, and having one just in case is always useful.


Actor Headshots are usually provided as both a wider aspect ratio of 3:2 for website and social media use, and a much closer 4:5 or 8:10 crop for casting sites such as Spotlight and Mandy. This is important because headshots are displayed as small thumbnails on casting sites, so the closer crop allows the actor's face to be clearly visible.


What to wear for actor headshots


There used to be extremely strict rules for this, but now things are far more relaxed. You should aim to bring a selection of clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in, show your personality and have a variety of different necklines, colours and textures.


Some examples of varied outfits in actor headshots. Photos taken by Matt Jones

The clothes you choose don't have to be extremely bright and vibrant colours if you wouldn't naturally dress like that, but make sure to not only bring black, white and grey clothing.


When it comes to additional styling choices, the key questions to ask yourself are 'Would I wear this to an audition?' and 'Will this take attention away from my face?' Jewellery is generally fine providing it isn't too distracting. Extreme patterns, printed designs and large logos should be avoided, although logos can usually be removed in Photoshop.


The same applies to hair: Any way you would style your hair for an audition should be covered in your headshots. It's very common for people to re-style their hair numerous times throughout a headshot shoot, and for people to shave their facial hair at some point during the shoot if they would like the option of playing roles with or without it.


The amount of outfit changes allowed in a shoot can vary between photographers, but I always say it's better to bring too many clothes than not enough. Bringing a massive amount of clothes can be a little counter-intuitive, but a lot of photographers don't have a limit on the number of different looks within the timeframe of the shoot, as unless the shoot is outdoors, there's no real reason to have one.


How much do actor headshots cost?

Professional actor headshots can cost anywhere from £115 to £500+. The myth that 'more expensive means better' has allowed a number of actor headshot photographers to massively inflate their prices without changing their product at all, resulting in the majority of working actors struggling to save up for new headshots. I'm working towards changing that.

Choosing to keep my prices low allows a wider range of actors to access top-quality headshots

The truth is, brilliant actor headshots can be found at almost any price if you know where to look. In fact, several extremely experienced photographers, including myself, have opted to deliberately price their headshot packages much further towards the low end, allowing more actors access to top-quality headshots. Some even have options for Flexible pricing.


How to spot a good deal

It's very easy to get confused between experienced photographers with reasonable pricing, and beginner photographers charging as much as they can. Here's a few things to look out for to spot value for money


  • Google Business Profiles: Make sure to google the photographer's name, and you should be able to find a good number of reviews attesting to the photographer's experience, ability and friendliness. If you're looking for studio photographers, make sure they shoot from professional studios with a full business address, rather than a 'home studio'

  • Blog Recommendations: Look for recommendations from well-known industry resources.

  • Industry knowledge: Most established actor headshot photographers have worked within the acting industry for many years, and a lot are also working actors themselves. Understanding the industry is key to being able to produce actor headshots that get results

  • Amount of clients: The more actors a photographer has taken headshots for, the more experienced they're likely to be.


Most established headshot photographers base themselves near major cities, simply because more actors live there. You'll always see better results travelling to a nearby city to shoot with a specialist in actor headshots than by finding rural photographers who don't normally shoot actor headshots but are happy to. Actor headshots are a sector of photography where specialist industry experience is extremely important.


Looking for actor headshots?


I'm recommended as one of the top acting headshot photographers, both in the UK and internationally. I also deliberately keep my packages at a low price point to allow more actors to access top-quality headshot photography.


View my prices or book a session here



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