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The ABC’s of Headshots – Part 2

headshots part 2

I’ve been shooting business and theatre headshots for many years. Some people are returning clients who are seasoned at being photographed – updating their headshot every two years. For others, it’s their first experience. So, what makes a good headshot and how should prepare for one? Aside from what we covered in part 1 – a good headshot reflects you and your brand. You’re selling your wonderful face, but your personality should also shine through with a photo that pops!

What kind of headshot do you want?

Outdoors? In the studio? Three-quarter body shoot? White background? Dark background? It’s always a great idea to bring some examples with you to show the photographer. It will help them understand exactly what you want. Or, what you don’t want. If you had a previous headshot you were unhappy with bring that too. Remember a photo is worth a thousand words to explain what you do and don’t want.

The many looks of you

Think about what kind of roles you will be auditioning for and what kind of characters you want to play. What type are you? Young ingenue, older character actor, romantic lead? Discuss this with the photographer in advance so you both are moving toward the same outcome.

I suggest two different style of poses with actors: An open, inviting smile and a non-smile. Don’t confuse the non-smile with a look that is angry or serious. Think of it more as looking off in wonder…the model face – determined, capable, in control. For men this can be harder to capture, as “serious” can translate as “criminal” – and we don’t want that! Practice your many faces in front of a mirror.

I always ask actors what their best side is, and am amazed when they look at me questioningly. This is the age of selfie! We all look at ourselves in the mirror each morning. We all know, conscious or subconsciously, what angle we look best at. But don’t fret if you can’t tell, a good photographer can figure it out quickly.

What to wear

Your headshot is about you, not the clothes or jewelry you have on, so keep it simple.

  • Choose a neckline that is flattering for you. No one can go wrong with a V-neck shape.

  • Choose solid or jewel tone colors. Maybe something that brings out your eyes.

  • Whites and patterns are a no-no. White is often much to contrasty under the studio lights, and we don’t want anything to take away from your face.

  • Keep your jewelry simple – no necklaces or heavy earrings.

  • Make sure your clothing is clean, wrinkle-free and lint-free.

  • Bring a few changes, so you and the photographer can discuss them.


Don’t schedule a morning shoot – everyone is “puffier” in the AM. You’ll be at your best by noon or later. Don’t rush to your photo shoot. You don’t want to show-up disheveled and perspiring. Take your time. Know where you are going and plan accordingly.

Make-up and hair

If you feel comfortable doing your own make-up, practice it the week before. You want to go for a natural/glamorous look.

  • Stay away from ultra shimmery shadow, glitter, and sparkly makeup.

  • Dark lipstick only looks good on a few people – stick with more natural/neutral tones and a gloss to accentuate.

  • Consider seeing a professional make-up artist prior to your shoot. But, like picking a photog, vet the artist first ­– get a recommendation from the photographer and tell the artist what kind of make-up look you want.

  • For men, try a translucent powder if you tend to shine.

  • Don’t worry about pimples or if your teeth aren’t perfectly white. We can fix that in post-production with airbrushing.

Looking for more info? Backstage has a great article on finding your personal headshot style.

#headshots #portraits


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