5 Headshot Tips For Actors

We call them headshots now. We used to call them portraits regardless of the purpose of the image. Portrait is accurate to me as I believe as an actor your headshot should portray your character and give the casting director an excuse to stop in his or her tracks as they scroll through thousands of potential actors to be in starred in the project.


After shooting actor headshots for many years here in Sydney I have a few tips and tricks on what works in preparation for the shoot and during that shoot that I will share here. Whether it's your first professional headshot or you're a seasoned actor and looking to update your headshots.


Here goes my top five headshot tips for actors.

1. Do your Research -

It's important to research photographers before you go ahead with the shoot. Things to look for is the style of the photographer and if it gels with you or to put it quite simply if you like the work. I recommend mind mapping how you would like to portray yourself.

Do you want to be in a natural light environment or be in studio lighting? Do you want the image to be light hearted or something more deep and so forth.

Once you have decided what you want the final result to be on paper it makes it easier to go through websites and portfolios of photographers and have an idea on whether the style of that photographer is right for what you want to achieve.

2. Communication is key -

So now you have written down exactly what you want to go for and you have found a photographer that can shoot in that style it's important to communicate what you want. For example it's essential to send through example images from the web that you have found or directly from that photographers portfolio. I create mood boards before each shoot and after being sent just a few example images of what my subject likes I can make the mood board with direction. *Bonus tip - Pinterest is a great resource for finding a variety of headshot images opposed to search engines.*

Don't overspend and don't underspend -

As I mentioned before casting directors scroll through thousands of headshots so if you are unfortunate enough to be lit poorly with an uncomfortable expression you will not be considered, resulting in you potentially wasting money and time (cold truth).

Obviously as an artist you need to keep an eye on your budget particularly at the beginning of your career so I am not recommending you spend thousands of dollars on a headshot but don't cheap out on the hopes the imagery will be effective amongst thousands of professionally lit images.

4. Make-up and Wardrobe | Keep it Simple -

A headshot is about you. Avoid wearing anything distracting. A few classics are large earrings, patterned sweaters, logos from brands etc. The eye will go straight toward familiarity so be sure to leave the Nike tick at home as we want the eyes on the star of the show... you!

I highly recommend you wear something on the plain side. Solid colours are my absolute favourite. Again communication is important. A good photographer will ask these questions as a good photographer knows the importance of preparation. In regards to make-up just simply don't over do it. You want to avoid looking like you are trying to model make-up and you want to encourage a remarkable headshot.

TLDR: Keep it simple, the headshot is about you and not the make-up or clothes you wear.

5. On Set Advice

My final tip is a bit more broad. I wanna talk about being on set whether that's in the studio or outdoors on location.

One thing I love about shooting actors is the fact they love to act.

I can give actors characters to play and the session is always fun, playing with different emotions and expressions via assigning characters for my subject to act. So as cheesy as it sounds have fun on set, it will only serve the experience as well as the final result.

So there you have it - my five tips for actor headshots! I hope you enjoyed reading these tips and you feel more prepared for you headshot.


You can see my portfolio here


If you have any questions for me about your headshot feel free to contact me via my website or directly to hello@michaelquelch.com I'd be happy to help.


Thanks for reading!


Warms Regards,

Michael.