The Actors Headshot Cheat Sheet

Cordelia LevinsonA guide of do’s and don’ts to consider before you have your headshot taken

As a busy (and experienced) headshot photographer I have seen thousands of actors. I enjoy the job I have been doing for 30 years. I like meeting actors and knowing that I can make significant contribution in furthering their acting career makes me feel good. Your headshot is the most important marketing tool you have. There are 60,000 actors on Spotlight. With other directories there are around 200,000 actors looking for work. Less than 3% of them will earn £20,000 + from acting so presenting yourself professionally to casting directors is a must. There is little chance of casting directors listening to your voicereel or watching your showreel if you have presented a terrible headshot.

For further information about using headshots as a marketing tool click here.

Considering the importance your headshot session why do so many actors turn up unprepared for the shoot. You surely would not turn up to an important casting without knowing your lines…would you?

So lets make a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to your headshot.

  1. You cannot consider getting your headshot done if you do not know your type – your brand. It’s not just a pretty or handsome picture of you. Embrace your big nose, high forehead and square jaw line, you are going to be cast BECAUSE you have those features. Think about the role types you may have already been cast for and what visually your most suited to. The first proper job you a going to get in film and TV will be based on what you look like. Remember the first stage of the casting process is looking at headshots! You don’t have to believe me the headshot photographer, listen to one of the leading US casting directors tirade about headshots here.
  2. Practice looks and angles. Use a mirror and your phone to hone your expression. Drama schools are very good at teaching you to act but they don’t teach you what you look like. Consider your brand and work towards it. I am not looking for anything gimmicky, crass, over the top, forced, or desperate. I am looking for strong but subtle expression that will draw my interest in you. As Elizabeth Taylor once said to Richard Burton on teaching him the art of screen acting… “Just feel it darling”. (The only exception to this is if you are a comedian that uses unusual expressions in your act). Any of the top headshot photographers will help you achieve your look, that is a major part of our job, but it always helps when the actor understands their own visual stereotype/brand.
  3. Bring a wardrobe of tops with different necklines. You may be surprised what works for you. Why limit yourself to a black or white t-shirt when the session has cost £250+. Choose clothes that suit your brand, your colouring, your face and neck shape. Just avoid tops that have bold patterns on as these can be too distracting.
  4. Plan your journey and make sure you arrive about 20 mins before your session starts. This will give you time to relax after your travels and get yourself into the right headspace. Arriving late will build up frustration and anxiety in your mind and you won’t be in the right place to get your headshot done. Why waste half of your session just because you were late?
  5. Arrive with positive ENERGY. I want to photograph someone who wants to have their picture taken and to express themselves. Energy and interestingness are key ingredients in a great headshot. It gets the casting director to engage in your look and gets you noticed. You will simply get better pictures because your energy is in a great place.

headshot variety


“I have seen an exponential increase in artists auditions / casting when they have the right photographer take the right shots. Headshots are an integral investment to your career. It’s the first impression – don’t let it be the last.” –  Tom Fitz – Agent. Simon & How Associates.

Book a Session with John


For Bookings please go to John Clarks Booking’s Page


Association of Professional Headshot Photographers

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