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The Ultimate Guide to Acting Headshots (Updated 2023)

Diving into the world of acting headshots can be complex. From what they should convey to their significance, many factors come into play. In this comprehensive guide, Austen Hunter, an experienced Pensacola headshot photographer, unravels these elements. With a rich portfolio, Austen offers expert advice on crafting compelling acting headshots, a vital tool in the arsenal of every aspiring actor. Brace yourself for a fascinating journey through types, strategies, and importance of acting headshots.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Acting headshots play a vital role in an actor's success and should reflect their personality, style, and unique qualities.

  • There are three major types of headshots : Commercial, Theatrical, and Character - which all cater to different casting types.

  • Choosing the right photographer and communicating your vision effectively are key in creating a compelling acting headshot.

  • Grooming and wardrobe selection should be considered to ensure a naturally polished version of yourself.

  • Practicing facial expressions and poses as well as reviewing photos during the photoshoot will ensure satisfaction in the end product.

Table of Contents

What are Acting Headshots

An acting headshot is a professional photograph of an actor's face and shoulders that is used for various purposes in the entertainment industry, such as resume submissions, casting calls, and promotional materials. It's not just any ordinary portrait; it should convey a sense of the actor's personality, style, and unique qualities while also looking polished, professional, and engaging.

Importance of Having a Great Headshot as an Actor

A compelling headshot is of great importance for an actor. It's your first introduction to casting directors and agents, often determining if you'll get a shot at a role or not. In a highly competitive acting world, a top-notch headshot is not a luxury, but a necessity. Here are some tips for a great acting headshot:

  1. Reflect your personality: An exceptional headshot should capture your unique essence, making you appear relatable and human.

  2. Highlight your abilities: Your headshot needs to show your acting range, either with a neutral or expressive shot.

  3. Capture quality: A clear, well-lit photo communicates professionalism, requiring the right equipment and skills.

  4. Stand the test of time: Choose a timeless look to avoid your headshot looking outdated in future. Avoid overly trendy styles and editing.

Creating a captivating headshot requires time and effort, but it's worth it. It's not just about looking good, but showcasing your talent and personality, making it a pivotal step towards a thriving acting career.

Types of Headshots

Acting headshots come in various styles and categories, each of which serves a different purpose. It is important to choose the right type of headshot that suits your casting type and showcases your personality, skills, and experience. There are three major types of headshots – Commercial Headshots, Theatrical Headshots, and Character Headshots.

Commercial Headshots

Commercial headshots focus on underlining an actor's affability, approachability, and fit for mainstream commercial roles such as advertising campaigns or corporate videos. These photographs are instrumental in marketing products or services, placing emphasis on a relatable, human face that resonates with viewers. The go-to style for commercial headshots involves a naturally lit, clean-cut and smiling appearance.

To create impressive commercial headshot photographs, consider these expert tips:

  1. Wear neutral-colored attire: Stick to colors that don't distract from the main subject - you! Opt for white or light blue tops, with minimal accessories.

  2. Avoid bright colors: Unless they are aligned with a brand color or theme related to your acting work, bright colors can distract from your features.

  3. Focus on key facial features: Photographers often emphasize facial features such as the jawline, eyes, and smile in commercial headshots. It’s advisable to keep these features looking their best before a photoshoot.

Theatrical Headshots

Theatrical headshot photographs are tailor-made for actors seeking to shine in theatre productions or television shows, where their skills play a key part in driving narrative and storylines. These headshots aim to capture an actor's range and versatility in portraying various characters through emotive expressions in their still images.

Dramatic makeup and serious facial expressions often characterize these headshots, a departure from the norm in commercial photography. To optimize your theatrical headshot, consider the following points:

  1. Collaborate with an experienced photographer: It's beneficial to work with a photographer skilled in varied lighting techniques, which can help encapsulate the character and role you are aiming for.

  2. Wardrobe selection: Choose outfits that align with the mood of the photo and your casting type. For instance, dressing in a trench coat and fedora hat might be fitting if you're aiming for a detective role.

  3. Emphasize emotive expressions: Theatrical headshots demand more emotional depth than commercial ones. Practice different expressions in the mirror to prepare for your session.

Remember, a theatrical headshot is a representation of your abilities as an actor for stage performances. It should convey your talent, range, and the unique characteristics you can bring to different roles. With the right strategy, your theatrical headshot can become a powerful tool in your acting career.

Character Headshots

Character headshots are tailor-made to exhibit an actor's versatility in look and personality. These are ideal for actors eyeing niche roles that demand unique appearances, such as in science fiction or period pieces. The objective of these photos is to highlight adaptability through elements like makeup, attire, hair styling, and other theatrics. For stellar character headshot photographs, here are expert tips to consider:

  1. Communicate with your photographer: Discuss the types of characters you aspire to portray. This will allow your photographer to plan the shoot, including the venue and lighting setup, effectively.

  2. Diverse outfits: Have at least one ensemble that suits various roles concerning era or subculture. For example, suspenders with pinstripe pants could suggest a 1920s gangster, while leather gloves and goggles hint at a steampunk aesthetic.

  3. Choose the right headshot type: Understand which kind of headshot best complements your casting type. Commercial headshots emphasize approachability; theatrical headshots express range, and character headshots indicate versatility. These are all essential aspects of a successful acting portfolio.

Understanding which type(s) of headshots are most appropriate for your cast type is essential when preparing your acting resume or online profile so that it stands out from others in the industry. Commercial Headshots showcase approachability; Theatrical Headshots convey range; Character Headshots show versatility - all essential ingredients for success in acting!

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Choosing the Right Photographer

One of the most important aspects of having a successful acting headshot photoshoot is choosing the right photographer. It's essential to do thorough research and find reputable photographers who specialize in taking headshots for actors. One way to begin your search is by asking for recommendations from other actors, agents, or casting directors.

You can also browse through online directories or social media platforms that showcase photographers' work. Once you've made a list of potential photographers, it's important to do more in-depth research on each one.

Check their website and social media profiles to view their portfolio and read reviews from previous clients. Look for consistency in their style and quality across different shoots, as well as positive feedback from clients.

Reviewing their Portfolio and Style

Reviewing a photographer's portfolio is critical in deciding whether they are a good fit for your needs. Look at the overall quality of their photos, including lighting, composition, clarity, and color balance.

Pay attention to how they capture facial features such as eyes, jawline, and skin texture. It's also essential to examine the style of their photography.

There are different styles of acting headshots that cater to specific castings- theatrical (drama), commercial (smiling), or character (quirky). Make sure the photographer you choose aligns with your needs concerning style preference.

Communicating Your Vision and Needs to the Photographer

Selecting the right photographer for your headshots is half the battle won. Once you've narrowed down potential candidates based on reputation, portfolio, and style, it's time to articulate your needs and vision for the session. To maximize the benefits of your headshot session, consider these tips:

  • Define your looks: Identify in advance the styles you want to capture. This clarity ensures both you and the photographer are aligned during the shoot.

  • Specify your roles: Share the types of roles you'll be auditioning for. This information helps the photographer guide the types of shots needed.

  • Share preferences: Discuss your preferred lighting, background, and angles to help shape the final images.

  • Understand your shoot goals: Clear goals, like how many looks you want and specific expressions you need to capture for different castings, streamline the process.

  • Choose a responsive photographer: A proficient photographer listens to your needs and provides guidance on achieving them during the shoot.

Choosing the right photographer and communicating your vision effectively are key steps in creating a compelling acting headshot. It not only garners attention from casting directors but also showcases your unique personality and talent. This approach ensures a fruitful photoshoot experience, resulting in beautiful headshots that capture your essence and abilities.

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Preparing for Your Photoshoot

Choosing the Right Wardrobe and Accessories

One of the most important aspects of preparing for your acting headshot session is choosing the right wardrobe and accessories. It is essential to dress in a way that reflects your personal style, but also showcases you in a professional light.

It's important to avoid busy patterns or logos that may distract from your face. Stick with solid colors and classic styles that will stand the test of time.

Think about what types of roles you are interested in playing and choose clothing items that reflect those roles. For example, if you want to go for more serious roles, wear darker colored clothing like a black turtleneck or blazer.

On the other hand, if you are looking for more comedic roles, consider brighter colors like red or yellow. Remember, accessories can also play an integral role in creating your desired look - so don't forget about shoes, jewelry and hats.

Grooming Tips for Men and Women

Heading into a headshot shoot requires preparation, not only mentally but also physically. An essential aspect of this preparation involves grooming. Here are some expert tips to help you look your best in your headshots:

  1. Facial Hair: For those sporting facial hair, meticulous grooming is one of the essential headshot tips for men. Ensure it's neatly trimmed and styled, as untidy facial hair can detract from the focus on your face, diminishing the effectiveness of your headshot. Regular maintenance is key, as it helps in maintaining a polished appearance.

  2. Hair Styles: Both men and women should opt for simple, classic hair styles that complement the headshot's aesthetic. Remember, this isn't a fashion shoot. Timeless styles such as tidy buns, ponytails, or loose waves are preferable over intricate updos.

  3. Makeup for Headshots: When it comes to headshot hair and makeup tips, the goal should always be to subtly enhance natural features without overdoing it. A light, polished makeup look tends to be the most effective, though the specifics can vary based on individual preferences. Some may decide to accentuate features such as lips or eyebrows, while others might lean towards a basic concealer and powder approach, especially if the photoshoot takes place outdoors rather than in a studio.

Ensuring a successful headshot session means attending to these grooming details. The goal is to capture a naturally polished version of yourself, allowing your authentic persona to shine through. A well-groomed appearance, combined with a professional photographer's skills, will help you achieve a headshot that truly stands out.

Practicing Facial Expressions and Poses

A pivotal aspect of preparing for an acting headshot photoshoot is mastering facial expressions and poses. This step is as important as choosing the right headshot outfit or maintaining impeccable grooming. Capturing varied emotions and attitudes on camera underscores your adaptability as an actor.

Here's some advice to ace this part of your headshot session:

  1. Experiment with Different Looks: Try out a range of moods and expressions. Your headshot should display your versatility. Play with different angles - a tilt of the head, a change in posture, can dramatically alter the feel of a shot.

  2. Practice Makes Perfect: Invest time in front of the mirror, practicing your expressions and poses. We often believe we're projecting a specific expression, but our faces might be communicating something else entirely. Observing yourself can give valuable insights into how your expressions translate visually.

  3. Snap Some Practice Shots: It's a good idea to have a friend take some test shots to experiment with different headshot poses. This approach not only helps you discover what feels most natural and authentic, but also provides an opportunity to get comfortable in front of the camera ahead of your professional shoot.

Remember, the objective is to end up with a set of photos that genuinely embody your personality, style, and talent. By practicing your expressions and poses, you ensure that your headshots will showcase your unique capabilities as an actor, making a lasting impression on casting directors.

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During the Photoshoot

Creating a Comfortable Environment with the Photographer

When it comes to photoshoots, comfort is key. As an actor, you want to feel relaxed and at ease so that your natural personality and charisma can shine through in your headshots. This is why it's important to work with a photographer who you feel comfortable around. Before the shoot, take some time to get to know your photographer. Talk about common interests or any mutual connections you may have.

This will help both of you feel more at ease and create a more relaxed environment for the shoot. On the day of the shoot, take some time to chat with your photographer before diving into taking pictures.

Ask them about their process and what they are looking for in terms of poses or expressions. Also, don't be afraid to communicate what makes you feel comfortable or uncomfortable during shoots – this could be certain poses or angles that make you feel self-conscious.

Experimenting with Different Poses, Angles, and Expressions

During the photoshoot itself, it's important to experiment with different poses, angles, and expressions in order to create variety in your headshots. Don't be afraid to try new things – after all, this is your chance to show off your range as an actor! Your photographer will likely have suggestions for different poses or directions they'd like you to try out as well.

It's important not only to experiment with different angles but also expressions – whether it's a smile or more serious headshot look. Your headshot should showcase your versatility as an actor so that casting directors can see how adaptable you are on screen.

Reviewing Photos During the Shoot To Ensure Satisfaction

As much as we'd all love a perfect shot every time we pose for pictures - sometimes things don't work out quite right; which is why it's important to review photos during the shoot to ensure satisfaction. Take a look at the images throughout the shoot and see if there are any poses, angles, or expressions that particularly stand out to you. Also, check with your photographer frequently to make sure they are getting the results that you want.

By reviewing photos during the shoot, you can make adjustments or switch things up if necessary, which can ultimately lead to higher satisfaction with your final headshots. Remember that this is a team effort – so don't be afraid to speak up and communicate what you're looking for in your headshots!

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Final Product

Acting headshots are often considered to be the first impression that an actor makes on a potential employer or casting agent. Therefore, it is imperative that the final product of a headshot shoot accurately represents the actor’s image and personality. The final product generally includes both printed and digital versions of the photos.

Printing Options

The printing options for acting headshots can vary depending on an actor's personal preference or the requirements of a particular audition. When selecting how to print your headshot, consider factors such as size, paper quality, and formatting. The standard size for an acting headshot is 8x10 inches which provides ample space for a full shot of your face and shoulders while still fitting into most portfolios or folders.

It's always best to get several versions printed at once so you have different choices available to you when submitting them to casting directors or agents. You may want one print with your name and contact information listed on it if you're physically sending prints out, while another version may be printed without any identifying information so that you can attach labels with personalized info later.

Digital Formats

Having digital copies of your acting headshots is essential for easy submission through online platforms such as social media sites like LinkedIn or industry-specific websites like Digital files should be high-quality JPEGs and formatted according to each specific platform's requirements (such as file size limitations).

It’s important to make sure that these files are optimized so they don't lose quality upon uploading or transmission. When submitting digital copies, make sure they are labeled appropriately with your full name included in the file name (e.g., John_Doe_Headshot.jpg).

It is also important to keep a backup copy of all digital copies in case of unforeseen loss or corruption of files. Overall, digital formats are a convenient way to get your headshots into the hands of casting directors and agents while also allowing you to easily update them if necessary.


Acting headshots are one of the most significant tools in an actor’s career. They are the first and sometimes only impression that casting directors and agents have of you. Therefore, having a great headshot is crucial to getting your foot in the door.

A high-quality headshot showcases your unique personality, talents, and skills as an actor, making it easier for casting directors to envision you in their productions. It is a representation of who you are as an artist and plays a vital role in creating your professional brand.

Your acting headshot can also be used as a marketing tool to promote yourself on various platforms like social media, websites, or even on billboards. Your headshot communicates more than just your physical appearance; it can convey your professionalism, confidence, character type, and personality to industry professionals.

Professional acting headshots are a valuable investment for your acting career. A skilled Pensacola photographer, like Austen Hunter, can highlight your unique image and talent through careful lighting and posing techniques. Moreover, a seasoned professional can use post-production tools to enhance your natural features subtly. With high-quality headshots, you'll showcase your personality and skills, potentially leading to more auditions and roles. Don't just take a picture, create a lasting impression that opens doors to new opportunities. Book your session with Austen Hunter today, and invest in your future success.

Q: Can I take my own Acting Headshots?

Q: What Do Actor Headshots Cost?

Q: What is a Type, and how do I find mine?

Q: How many headshots do I need?

Q: What should I wear for my headshot?

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Austen Hunter Photography is a Headshot Photographer operating out of Pensacola, Florida. With his team, he delivers high-quality headshot images to working professionals, creative entrepreneurs, and corporate clients from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Destin, Florida. Austen Hunter is an internationally published photographer and is known for creating headshots that leave a Great First Impression. Book your headshots with Austen Hunter today.



Austen Hunter Photography is a photographer based in Pensacola, Florida who specializes in family beach photography, military portrait photography and professional headshot in a bold and clean style. Austen Hunter has been locally recognized and internationally published . He uses a variety of both natural light and off-camera flash to capture images. People usually book Austen for outdoor portrait sessions or sessions conducted at his home studio.

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Chelsea, Headshot Client

"Wonderful experience! Wanted an updated headshot and Austen and Sarah were amazing. The studio was clean and incredibly nice, Sarah even provided blotting pads to help with shininess I had during photo shoot. 10/10 recommend to anyone wanting to get a photo taken! Thank you again!"


Tammy, Headshot Client

"We are so glad that we found Austen. He did a wonderful job providing us with quality headshot photographs. He made us feel comfortable and gave us good suggestions for posing. We look forward to working with him again in the future!"


Daryl, Beach Client

"Austen and his team were amazing! They were able to capture exactly what we wanted for our engagement pictures and also provided us a tent to change clothes. I would highly recommend him and I would definitely use him again."

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