Headshot Guides : 10 Mistakes to Avoid

Denny Hodge
Headshot and portfolio shoot.

When you are looking for an actor headshot photographer it is essential that the one you choose is familiar with what Spotlight, Agents and Casting Directors demand or you might waste all your money!

  1. Separate you from the background. Dark clothes, dark background and a lack of separation lights will merge you perfectly into a sea of black.
  2. A headshot is a portrait. That is, the photo should be in a vertical orientation and ideally 8″ x 5″ or 7″ x 5 “.
  3. Avoid wearing distracting jewelery and other accessories. The casting director is interested in you, not your fashion sense. Worse still, the accessories may suggest the wrong acting type.
  4. Big cheesey grinning photos are great for your grandma, but not good at all for an actor headshot. When your buddy tells you you look so serious, tell them you are supposed to!
    Of course, having a range of photos to support various role showing different expressions is fantastic, but your leading photo is the most important.
  5. Get some sleep! If you turn up for your photos feeling sleepy you’ll find it hard to focus and you expressions just won’t pop. You need to grab attention, you have seconds to get noticed.
  6. Get to your headshot with plenty of time to spare. Arriving stressed, rushed and out of breath is a bad start to your actor headshot session. Buy an alarm clock!
  7. Avoid clothes that are too dark or too bright, that have distracting patterns and perhaps worst of all, writing and logos.
  8. Check out the photographs on the photographers portfolio. Eyes always get the first attention and if they are blurry it’s not a good impression. You’re a professional, you need a professional, experienced photographer!
  9. You need to be well lit. Whether this is with natural or studio lights it takes years for a photographer to produce high end actor headshots. Ladies, you need gentle lighting to show of your good looks. Gents, a bit of contrast can really make your character stand out.
  10. Backgrounds should be plain, beautifully blurred or a gradient colour. Overly bright backgrounds, writing, gardens, walls, etc, etc. Avoid! You’re an actor, not a 70’s rock artist!

Coming up with ten points here was not difficult at all, but you would be surprised how many actors land up with shots like these. Don’t be the next one!

Thank you for reading my article, I hope you find it helpful.

Please note: All actors booking with JGW Photography get plenty of advice to avoid the these mistakes well before the shoot, so when you arrive you can be full of confidence.