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Updated: Mar 14, 2023

I have been thinking a lot lately about what the difference is between a good Actors Headshot and a bad Actors Headshot. Sometimes the differences are obvious, but quite often there is a very subtle difference between good and bad.

Firstly the obvious ones…..

Lighting is what makes or breaks an image. You can really tell the difference between a good and a bad photographer by their lighting. Everyone wants to look good in their headshot, that’s why you pay good money for a makeup artist and a pro photographer. If the lighting is even slightly off, you go from a beautifully light, glowing skin and radiant eyes portrait to a dead eyed, rough skinned happy snap. With good lighting the skin will become even and luminous, removing shadows cast by large pores, bags under the eyes etc. Not only that, with good lighting you will also get a beautiful catch light in the eye which will give it life. Without a catch light, the eyes will look dead and flat, which will ruin a good headshot.

Makeup and Hair Styling by a professional is essential. The difference between everyday makeup that you do when you are going out and professional photographic makeup is immense. A good makeup artist will know how to apply makeup in a way that gives the impression of very little makeup, even though you have full coverage. Natural makeup is essential for your headshots. No casting agents want to see you with packed on makeup which takes away from your natural beauty.

Posing is a delicate one. Too often I see headshots that have been overly posed, heading towards modelling shots. Also too often they are under posed, which gives the client no variety in looks, making for a boring shoot. A good pose should look natural, but also show all the right curves of the body. This also applies to expressions. Your shoot should cover a wide range of expressions. More often than not, subtlety works better then over the top expressions.

Focus….. You would think that I wouldn’t need to mention this, but an out of focus headshot is not good enough. Sharp eyes are essential.

Clothes, too often, are considered only in passing. Your clothes say just as much about your personality as your expression does. If you want your headshots to stand out, they need to convey your individualism and personality. There are so many aspiring actors out there, you need to stand out! Unless you only wear black all the time, don’t just bring black to your shoot! Bring your favorites! Dress how you want people to see you. Be yourself!

That was the obvious stuff….. Which really only covers about 50% of what makes a good shoot. There is one thing more important that all of these combined that we will discuss now.

Your personality

As a professional photographer, I can pose and light you, find the best locations and camera angles all I want, but if you turn up to a shoot and not give everything you can to the experience, then you will end up with a well light, nicely posed image…. That is as boring as shit. The thing that makes an image pop and look spectacular is if you look at it and instantly “know” that person. When I shoot headshots, I want the final result to be individual… I want it to capture the essence of the actor. You want to see subtleties in the image, in the expression. You want to look at the image and want to know more about that person.

This can only be achieved by collaboration between the actor and the photographer. If you hold back, can’t be bothered talking to the photographer, give nothing of yourself to the shoot, shrink every time the camera is pointed at you, then you are wasting your money getting headshots done. There is only so much that a photographer can bring to a shoot. We can bring all of our experience and technical knowledge, we can make you feel welcome and relaxed and the centre of attention, but if you think that you have to do nothing but stand there, then you are sadly mistaken. This shoot is about you! Not me!

Know what your face does when asked for a small smile, or a sexy look, or an innocent look. Sit in front of a mirror and practice your expressions. Know your face. If you don’t understand the subtleties of your own expressions, then you will have very little variety in your images.

We don’t expect everyone to be an extrovert. But we do expect you to be committed to your chosen craft, which relies heavily on you headshot! No one is judging you when you are at your shoot, but we do have some expectations!

Be yourself. Go with the flow. Enjoy the experience…. And everything else will fall into line.

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