How to Get a Great Headshot

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

  • It should be a recent head and shoulders shot.
  • Blurry, pixelated or amateur photography will make you look unprofessional and will put casting directors off.
  • 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.

Audience

What you’re looking for

‘You are never looking for a simple, basic headshot, but instead something 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 the 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 hair cut 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.’

Colour or black and white photograph?

‘From a photography perspective, black and white has some great points. It strips away all colour and forces you to focus on the subject itself. From a casting perspective, the times have changed recently and more casting directors have a preference for colour photographs.’

Cropping – should I go for a U.S. or U.K. style?

‘For the U.K. casting directors, definitely stick to the closer cropped head and shoulder portrait as it is what they are used to. If you are planning to send your Spotlight profile to any American casting directors, you certainly can have a ‘U.S. style headshot’ on your profile with a looser crop showing more of your body.’

Make-up & styling

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

Wardrobe

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

Considerations when booking new headshots

Cost – This should not be the first point of contact when looking for new headshots. Ask around, get recommendations from friends and colleagues. Headshots are an investment in your career and a good headshot could be worth its weight in gold.

Retouching – Ask if it is included. Is there an additional cost? How many final retouched photos will you receive?

Time – Pay by hour/half day/full day? Go for the highest you can afford as it can sometimes take a while to fully relax in front of the camera.

How many photographs – Ask the photographer, as everybody works differently. How many photos are actually taken is not a selling point, but how many you will be supplied is!

Indoor/Outdoor – Indoor shoots provide full control on light and background, whereas you have zero control on 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.

Contract – Make sure you have one and read it! Do not hire a photographer without one.