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How to Craft The Perfect Acting Headshot

Your acting headshot should look like you. Very simple. Stop overthinking what a headshot should be, and remember that all it’s supposed to be is a photo that shows your face and who you are. 

Actors tend to get caught up in the glamour of Hollywood, whether it’s throwing out a lot of money to hire a famous photographer or even hiring an entire glam team to get what they think will be a “perfect headshot.” 

Sure, you’ll have pretty pictures of yourself, but all those things don’t necessarily guarantee you’ll get a usable acting headshot.

Casting Directors and Headshots

All casting directors need to see is a photo of you that shows exactly what you look like. They don’t care who you shot with or who did your hair and makeup, or where you got the shots. 

So STOP focusing on the wrong things. Instead, train your eye to learn what to look for in a headshot photographer. When looking at their work, do their actors stand out in their photos? What’s the first thing that catches your eye when looking at the headshot? Is it the background?- if so, no bueno. Is it the clothing?- not good? Is it the eyelashes, messy hair, or blemishes?- also, things are not good.

Suppose you look at a headshot and do not immediately start to analyze their personality or envision them acting as a particular character because you’re distracted by all of the previously stated things above. In that case, the headshot is not good. Chances are it will be ineffective and not yield good results when sending them out for auditions.

So what are things to look for when hiring a headshot photographer?

Things to Look For When Hiring A Headshot Photographer

When it’s time for you to shop around for a headshot photographer, you can use the following rubric to judge whether or not they will accomplish delivering an industry-standard headshot to you. As you read below, a critical component that makes a headshot last you a long time is this: TIMELESSNESS. Ensure you approach every piece of the headshot process from the understanding that from hair to makeup to clothes, everything should be timeless, meaning that the headshot should not look like a “2022 trend.”


  • Look for equal lighting all over the face
  • The lighting should highlight the details of their face, like the eyes, the jaw structure, and hair color
  • Whether or not it’s a studio or natural light, it should direct attention to your face


  • The clothing colors should complement the skin tone and make you pop out.
  • The clothes should be timeless, not trendy.
  • The clothes should have no weird cuts, patterns, or graphics that draw attention away from your face- examples are ruffles, lace, distressed, etc.
  • The clothing should be wrinkle-free.
  • Typically avoid colors like white and black.
  • Avoid jewelry like bracelets, earrings, and necklaces- keeps it timeless.
  • Avoid oversized clothes- the tops you wear should be fitted to your body.


  • The backdrop should not be distracting.
  • The backdrop should compliment your skin tone and make you pop.
  • Depending on the kind of look, the backdrop should enhance the personality of the character or look you’re portraying.
  • Backgrounds should either be a solid colored or textured backdrop or a bokeh-ed (blurred) background if on location.

Hair and Makeup 

  • Males and females should always have makeup.
  • Makeup should be natural and not trendy, beauty blogger-type makeup- i.e., false eyelashes, matte dark lipstick, and heavy, heavy contouring. Don’t like any of the Kardashians, in other words.
  • Hair should be brushed, styled, and polished.
  • It would be best to look exactly like your headshot when you walk into an audition, so don’t overdo the makeup.


  • The headshot crop will be from the center of your chest up to about an inch over your hair
  • Don’t try posing like a model
  • Always look into the lens
  • Poses should look natural
  • Poses should have variation
  • Always show 75% percent of your face in a headshot, so don’t move your face too far right or left from the camera
  • Usually, the best angles are when the photographer is shooting from a slanted-down angle at you
  • You want to make sure your chin isn’t too high up where we can see the back of your nostrils
  • Avoid laughing where your chin is going inward, causing a double chin


  • Your expression should always be natural and not forced.
  • Laughter should feel candid and not like a posed smile.
  • Serious theatrical expressions should be intentional and portray emotion, not just a bland look at the camera.
  • Laughter ALWAYS produces squinty eyes- which clients sometimes get insecure about, but don’t be. This is natural and honestly way better because it shows more of your energy and personality.
  • Avoid forcing a laugh where it ends up looking fake or not genuine.
  • Avoid looking so serious that you end up looking like a serial killer or creepy (unless that’s the look you’re going for)


  • Retouching should look natural and clean, not overdone
  • Retouching shouldn’t remove any unique natural marks you have, like scars, moles, freckles, or fine lines
  • It would be best if you look your age
  • Don’t ask the photographer to make you look younger

If you judge a photographer with this headshot rubric, you’ll know EXACTLY what your headshot should look like. 

Are you an actor or in the entertainment industry? Looking for a professional headshot photographer? Look no further! Zen Studios LA is the one you can always count on. Contact us today for your professional headshot!


Mich Angela Pinili

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