Anatomy of a Headshot

Actor headshots are similar to traditional 8×10 portraits, but have a few specific characteristics that are necessary in order for casting directors to either a) get an idea of who is coming in the door, or b) remind them of who you are.


While there are exceptions to these rules, you can use this as a guide whether you shoot with us or someone else.

Keys to a killer headshot:


Light in the eyes

Accurate representation of yourself – light retouching and no heavy makeup.

Appropriate crop – In most cases, we want to show some of the upper torso. CD’s want to have a hint of your body type.

Appropriate colors – Commercial headshots usually require more colorful wardrobe, Theatrical more monochromatic (black, white, grey).

Little to no jewelry – Don’t let a big necklace distract the viewer from you.

Bokeh – Blurred backgrounds are important because the focus should be on you.

Separation from background – Dark hair against a black background makes your head look lost. Your photographer should use a hair/separation light, and choose the appropriate background.

Lighting – Commercial headshots are more evenly lit, bright and happy. Theatrical headshots have slightly more dramatic lighting (2/3 or “Rembrandt light”).

Expression and energy – Commercial looks should sparkle.  Theatrical looks are usually a bit more serious/intense.  Wardrobe should reflect these moods to a degree.

The most important thing is your expression!  If you are inexperienced, allow the photographer to guide you. Even experienced actors need guidance sometimes because only the photographer sees what the camera sees.