Your A to Z on Acting Headshots

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Photo Source: From left to right: Adi Bhattacharya and Eve Von Elgg. Image credit: Cam Harle

If you’re an actor just starting out, you’re going to need an acting headshot. No matter how talented you are, if you don’t have a headshot, the chances of getting into the room to audition for a job are slim. 

Here’s everything you need to know in order to nail that all-important professional acting headshot, including top tips from casting directors and headshot photographers, as well as practical advice for the shoot itself.


What is a headshot?

A headshot is a photograph of someone’s head and upper chest, focusing on the face. It should look like the real you and give a sense of your personal energy. 

Actor headshots are needed for: 

  • Your website and social media profiles
  • Online casting profiles and submissions
  • Writing to agents when seeking representation
  • Marketing materials and programmes for your stage shows

Why are headshots important for actors?

An actor’s face is essentially their brand, and your headshot is the business card for that brand. It’s how you market yourself in the industry and the first port of call for those considering you for work or representation.

How much do professional acting headshots cost?

Actors need between three and five quality headshots showcasing a range of different moods. A shoot with a professional headshot photographer, and up to five retouched images, will cost between £200–£400 in the UK, and AU$350–AU$650 in Australia.

What makes a good headshot?

Ultimately, a good acting headshot needs to be an up-to-date photograph where your face can clearly be seen, close up, with nothing too distracting in the background. Here’s more advice from some top headshot photographers and casting directors about what makes a really good headshot, plus acting headshot examples. 

Yellowbelly Photo, London and New York City 

Yellowbelly Photo

From left to right: Bilal Hasna, Anneka Gouldbourne, and Charlie Brooks. Image credit: Yellowbelly Photo

“The most important part of a headshot is the eyes. They are the window to the character of a person - who they are, what they’re like. A good headshot tells a story and is a true reflection of the person.” —Jackson Bews, co-founder of Yellowbelly Photo

Ori Jones Photography, London 

Ori Jones Photography

From left to right: Nicolás Platovsky and Rachel Clare Chan. Image credit: Ori Jones Photography

“A good headshot should be a true representation of how you look…and hopefully should also reveal something about you. It should feel relaxed and effortless. Dynamic photos with energy and inner life are the most striking.” Ori Jones 

Kate Williams Photography, Sydney 

Kate Williams Photography

Casey Campbell. Image credit: Kate Williams

“The most important thing is to [be] as quintessentially ‘you’ as possible. The schtick with headshots used to be appearing ‘neutral,’ the theory being that casting directors could then imagine putting you in any role they want. The reality is, things have changed. A headshot that deliberately says nothing, says nothing. So, be yourself. The only thing that you have, which no one else in this industry has, is you. So bring that personality to your shots. That will pique the interest of a casting director far more than you in a plain blue T-shirt.” Kate Williams

Casting director Nadine Rennie agrees. She’s not looking for a shot “where you think you look the most attractive, but one that shows the unique you. I want to see the person in the picture walk through the casting room door.”

Cam Harle, London

Cam Harle

From left to right: Adi Bhattacharya and Eve Von Elgg. Image credit: Cam Harle

“A good headshot is an image that looks like you. Really looks like you. Perhaps it captures [your] cheekiness or innocence or vulnerability, but whatever that may be, it is inherently you.” Cam Harle

How to prepare for your acting headshots

What to wear

Clothes that you feel comfortable in and that represent you well are a good place to start. Try a range of different colours – earthy tones as well as brighter colours – that complement your colouring. Many headshot photographers recommend avoiding anything with very busy patterns. Having a variety of necklines, styles, and textures will give you a greater range of looks to try. Ultimately, it’s always better to bring too much than too little to the shoot.  

Hair and makeup

Most photographers recommend going as natural as possible and avoiding too much makeup. Remember that blemishes such as eye bags can be retouched in the edit, so don’t let them affect your confidence. 

Messy hair and flyaways don’t look good, so try to have your hair neatly styled. If you have longer hair, bring ties, clips, and bands so you can experiment with different hairstyles. If you are someone who can grow facial hair, consider starting your shoot with a beard and shaving halfway through in order to showcase your range. 

How to pose (or not!)

A relaxed and dynamic shoot produces the best results. It’s not about hitting “the right pose,” it’s about having a conversation with the camera. Bews, at Yellowbelly Photo, says, “Your energy is the most photogenic thing about you.” So breathe, listen to the direction your photographer is giving you, and try to relax. 


Most headshot photographers use natural light. Jones tells us, “It’s always the most flattering and creates an effortless feel to the photos.”

Actor headshot dimensions

If you’re getting your headshots printed, in the UK the standard headshot dimensions are an 8-by-10-inch photo (usually in portrait). In Australia, the standard size for an acting headshot is generally 6 by 8 inches. Make sure to get your retouched images in both high and low resolution. Resolution refers to the number of pixels in the image. The more pixels, the greater the detail and quality of the image and the higher the resolution. The rule of thumb is: high res for print and low res for anything online.  

Colour or black and white? 

Colour! Colour is a really important part of bringing an image to life and is the go-to these days. Casting director Rennie says colour shots help to give her a much better sense of the person she is thinking of casting – their hair colour, eye colour, skin tone – it’s all an important part of the casting process. 

How often will I need to update my headshots for acting? 

Generally, you should be updating your headshots every one to two years. If your headshot is three years old but still looks like you and still gets you in the room, there’s no need to fix what’s not broken. But if anything drastically changes with your appearance – such as getting a fringe or bleaching your hair, or something shifts in your physique – then you need to get new shots done. 

Remember, above all, your headshots will be locking eyes with all sorts of industry personnel before you do, so they need to be an accurate representation.