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The Essentials

Photographer Jamie Drew offers his advice on how to make sure you nail your headshot shoot.

Headshots are your first selling point to getting you that audition, so it has to be the best it can be! Your headshot is an investment in your career. Make sure you do your research and pick a professional photographer to help you on your way.

Do’s for your headshot:

  • It should be a recent head and shoulders shot that reflects what you look like.
  • Keep your appearance as neutral as possible. Remember, a casting professional wants to see the ‘real’ you.
  • Wear something simple and avoid props, hats, distracting backgrounds and accessories.
  • Your eyes are your most important feature, so make sure they are as visible as possible.
  • Don’t let the photographer photoshop out wrinkles, heavily airbrush, or use dramatic studio lighting.

Your headshot should not be blurry or pixelated. Amateur photography will make you look unprofessional and will put casting directors off.

What makes a good headshot?

You’re not looking for a simple, basic headshot, but instead, you want a headshot that is going to stand out and show your personality.

Knowing what type of roles you would like to be cast for is very important, but at the same time, you do not want to narrow yourself down. ‘Who you are’ is what you need to bring to casting directors. ‘What you can be’ comes later.

How often should I get new headshots?

Your photograph should show how you look right now, which is why the usual recommendation is to have a new headshot every couple of years, or more often if you drastically change your appearance with a different haircut or colour.

How many photos should I have on my Spotlight profile?

If you have a good enough headshot, two or three good portfolio images are all you need to compliment it. A casting director is not going to sit and click through every photograph on your Spotlight profile, so make them count.

Read more about what photos to include in your spotlight profile.

Should headshots be in colour or black and white?

From a casting perspective, casting directors have a preference for colour photographs.

Should my headshot be cropped?

For the UK, casting directors, definitely stick to the closely cropped head and shoulder portrait. If you’re planning to send your Spotlight profile to an American casting director, you may want to have a US-style headshot on your profile – this is a closer crop of the image which shows more of your body.

Should I wear make-up for my headshot shoot?

The best approach to make-up styling is ‘you on a good day’ and not ‘you on a night out’ or ‘you first thing in the morning’. Make-up looks very different in front of a camera than in front of a mirror, so it’s worth asking your photographer what they like to work with to ensure you get the best results from your shoot.

What should I wear for my headshot shoot?

It’s a good idea to bring different outfits along to your session, around 4-6 if possible, but stick to neutral colours that complement you. Avoid wearing any distracting patterns or logos.

What should I consider when booking a headshot shoot?

  • Cost. Headshots are an investment in your career and a good headshot could be worth its weight in gold. Ask around and get recommendations from friends and colleagues.
  • Retouching. Ask if retouching is included in the price or if this is an additional cost. Find out how many final retouched photos you’ll receive.
  • Time. Does the photographer charge by the hour or per half day/full day? Go for the highest duration you can afford as it can sometimes take a while to relax in front of the camera fully.
  • How many photographs will you receive. How many photos are actually taken is not a selling point, but how many you will be supplied is! Ask the photographer how many you’ll get.
  • Is the shoot indoors or outdoors? Indoor shoots provide full control of light and background, whereas you have zero control over outdoor conditions. If shooting on location, do not shoot in the middle of the day when the sun is high and bright as you will not get good results. Instead, aim for the ‘golden hour’ – just before sunset is perfect.
  • Contracts. Make sure you have one and read it! Do not hire a photographer without one.

Thanks to Jamie for his headshot tips.

We have more advice about what to expect on your first headshot photoshoot and tips about what casting directors look for in a headshot.

Photo credit: Kenny Eliason / Unsplash