Usually an actor or actress will need one to two headshot images to distribute at a time. These two photos may be one theatrical image and another commercial image. If you are interested in only one type of acting, then having one image may be sufficient.
Now you’re probably thinking, “What is the difference between theatrical and commercial headshots?” Here is a definition for each.
A theatrical headshot is a headshot designated for tv shows, films, or plays. These types of photos generally are realistic and natural photos of the person. Such as a slight smile, no smile, or a serious face. These types of photos need to look professional, calm, and clean. Your photo should present you as a responsible person and that you will not be a liability to a company or their production. We all know that there are celebrities out there who indeed are a liability, but because they are already known, companies are willing to take that risk to get that person’s fans to attend the show or watch the movie. They would be seriously less inclined to make that risk if they did not know the person and the critics and viewers didn’t either.
A commercial headshot is used to acquire a place in an advertisement, commercial, or tv spot. For these types of headshots, you’ll want to show off your most winning smile.
For regular headshots, don’t show up in anything extreme. This isn’t the time or place to show up “in character” and wanting to do a character portrait. This photo should be able to be shown to many different companies for various roles, not just one. You may include little details here and there to hint at certain types of characters, but don’t go all out.
How often should I get a new headshot?:
Generally speaking, an actor needs to update his headshot every 5 years or sooner, depending on any major changes that occur physically to him. Hair is the biggest and most common physical change that results in the need for a new headshot. If it gets cut drastically, dyed, or whatever else drastic you might do to it, you will need a new headshot to accurately represent yourself. Understand that this doesn’t mean that if you get your hair trimmed or styled slightly different, that you have to get new photos done.
Weight change is also a reason that one would need a new “calling card.” If a person gains or loses 10 or more pounds and plans to maintain that weight for a significant amount of time, it is a visible change that change needs to be reflected in your headshot.
How often should my kids get new headshots?:
Because children are constantly growing and changing, children should update their headshots every six to eight months.
What size should my image be?:
The standard headshot is an 8×10 vertical photo of the actor from the around the shoulders up. Lately there has been a slight increase in horizontal images due to its “film-like” look to it; however, the industry standard right now is a vertical image. The actor’s name should be located on the photo somewhere. Many actors still prefer to have their information on the back of the 8×10.
Booking a photographer for headshots:
When looking for a photographer to shoot your headshots, look for someone whose style can capture your personality and talent. Don’t compromise or settle for someone based on price. Be sure the photographer has a clear understanding of the industry and changing standards.
It is not mandatory that you hire a different photographer each time you need a new headshot, but do make certain they can produce the variety you are looking to acheive.
Little details matter. The camera shows everything that you might not pick up on yourself, so make sure your hair and makeup is professional looking, even, and tidy. Men, even if you don’t want or feel like you need any makeup assistance for your session, you might want to come with some with a translucent powder that will prevent shine on your face. If you don’t know how to pick a shade that matches your skin, bring someone with you who can help or ask your photographer. At the bare minimum, bring chapstick. Dry lips will definitely be picked up by the camera. Even if you don’t have dry lips, you’ll most likely still need it. You’ll be doing a lot of smiling! Just make sure you remember to not bring chapstick with any gloss or shine.
If the camera does pick up on something you don’t want in your photos, light retouching will cover a most imperfections; although, make sure you choose a photographer that will not over retouch your skin. It will look unnatural at best.
If you do decide to have a hair and makeup artist assist you for your session, show up with your hair clean and face without makeup so you can immediately get started.
What to wear:
Refrain from wearing bold or crazy patterns because it will take the eye away from your face and your face is what needs noticing, not your multi-colored paisley shirt. Longer sleeves are preferred. Even the thinnest women’s arms will look larger than normal in front of the camera. No logos on the clothing, a polo’s tiny logo is an acceptable option, as it can be easily removed post-production. Always choose a color that will be flattering to your coloring. Be mindful of the shades of the color you pick. Check in a mirror before you commit to an outfit to see if it is throwing any colors onto the skin around your neck and face. Pick hues that are flattering to your skin tone. Seeing as how the camera picks up on everything, it is important to make sure your attire is wrinkle-free.
The most important thing is that you feel comfortable in whatever you are wearing in your session. If you are not comfortable, it will be obvious in your pictures.
Because fashion fads come and go quickly, wear something that will not date your photos and will be relevant for the period of time that you use the photo. Apparel for a headshot should be casual. A fancy dress or suit might make you look like a model, pageant participant, or the prom king or queen. You can dress classy and simple without being plain and boring.
The week leading up to your shoot:
It’s in our nature for us to want to prepare ourselves to look our best before we get our pictures taken. If you want to get your hair cut or trimmed for your pictures, you should have it done at least the week before your session. Just in case you get a bad haircut, you’ll have over a week to figure out how to style it best and most hairdressers will cut hair to look its best the week after it was cut anyways.
If you like having facials done before your session, try to get them several days beforehand. You never know how your face might react to an ingredient and sometimes your skin needs a few days or so to reach the “healthy glow” you were looking for.
The best photos are the result of aware and fully participating subjects. So heavily drinking or being under the influence of anything can affect that and the camera will most certainly be aware of it too.
The day before your shoot get lots of sleep and drink plenty of water, eat enough food and avoid salt. If you don’t get enough sleep or don’t drink or eat enough, you won’t be as alert. Avoid wearing sunglasses right before the session because it can mess up your makeup and will leave marks on your nose.
Picking out your images:
When picking out which image you want to use and send out, it is important to make sure you pick one or two that will make the viewer pause and stare at it longer than the others. It has to impress. Feel free to get other people’s opinions as to which one you should pick. Some actors choose two contrasting headshots to show different sides, emotions, or looks.