What makes the best modeling or Acting Headshot?

by | Apr 27, 2023 | Photography, Portraits | 0 comments

Your modeling or acting headshot is the first point of contact. It is your first impression, brand, image, and signature. A good headshot is an essential investment for your career. Your audition begins the moment you walk into a room. But your headshot may first determine if you get the chance to walk into the room. A good headshot gives casting directors an accurate sense of who you are as an actor and the characters you might play.

A modeling or acting headshot should capture the person’s essence. It should suggest something about your personality. It should accurately represent you so the casting director isn’t surprised when you enter the room.

Many factors go into the photographer’s pricing for a portrait or headshot. You don’t want to spend a small fortune on a few headshots, but skimping on your primary marketing tool isn’t a good decision either. An actor’s headshots are like the business card you present t agencies and casting directors when trying to get accepted for a job. A high-quality portrait will increase your chances of getting noticed by casting directors.

In preparation for a headshot, you need to figure out what role you want to play. For example, are you looking to be cast as a doctor, a CEO of a large company, or a stay-at-home mom? Knowing this will help you to determine how to better prepare for the acting photo session.

Portrait sessions in the studio have a lot of benefits for the clients. You don’t have to worry about the weather conditions in case there is wind, rain, or snow. You can easily change outfits for different looks in your photo session with a studio portrait. You also have the ability to fix your hair or makeup quickly. And the photographer has much better control of lighting and backdrops. For example, with the help of artificial light, the photographer can add a backlight to separate your hair from the background.

Agents, casting directors, and producers sift through hundreds of headshots. Therefore, it’s paramount that your thumbnail portrait holds its own in a crowded field. Composition, lighting, editing, and coloring all contribute to making your headshot stand out.

Wardrobe for modeling or acting headshot

  • Be comfortable—nothing too rigid and conservative and nothing too loose and exposing.
  • Loose clothing might be flattering in real life, but as a general rule, tighter clothing always looks better on camera.
  • Bring a variety of necklines. For a variety of looks, use differing necklines and layers. Actors should wear simple, non-distracting clothing for their headshot session. Simplicity is key. Black and white clothing will only work in certain lighting and with a certain background. Be sure you have some medium-tone color options. Bright red, purple, and blue can work, but I prefer navy, maroon, olive green, denim, and gray are my favorite colors. Keep your skin tone in mind. Lighter skin tones can appear washed out when wearing black. And darker skin tones appear even darker when wearing white. Pick colors that bring out your eyes.
  • It is best to avoid patterns—especially stripes. Occasionally, flower prints can be nice, depending on the colors. If you have some more striking items of clothing that people compliment you, it’s worth bring it along.
  • Style your hair in the usual way you wear your hair. If you curl your hair every day and would do so with an audition, then curl your hair for the headshot. Your hair can also be up in some shots and leaving it down in others.
  • Light makeup can be helpful, but not too much. You should bring essential makeup with you. If the session is outside the studio, a small mirror for touch-ups can be helpful. The best headshot poses combine strong posture with great facial angles.
  • A head-on facing the camera is a classic for a reason. The camera gets to see all of your face. Leaning slightly forward toward the camera suggests you are in the middle of a conversation. It can suggest a “best friend” vibe when you lean toward the camera.
  • Over the shoulder is a bit more mysterious, unusual, and edgy. It looks less posed than a head-on portrait.

Choosing the right modeling or acting headshot

After the photo session, select the most engaging image. Your eyes should draw the viewer into the portrait. Your eyes should make someone feel comfortable, perhaps warm and captivated. It isn’t easy to describe this in words, but it is a quality every successful and hardworking actor has. It is often described as charisma. There should be some attention-grabbing quality jumping out at the viewer, whether that is a winsome Mona Lisa smile, a mischievous glance, or a pensive stare.

Asking other people for their advice can be helpful in selecting the best image. Drama professionals, managers, casting directors, and other actors are the most helpful. However, friends and family can also provide helpful feedback.

If you would like a second, third, or fourth shot, try to achieve some variety. It could be more commercial, with a bright smile, something darker. You should aim for solid variety. There is no point in getting two very similar shots because you simply can’t choose between them.


When building your portfolio, an acting headshot should be taken seriously. With a professional headshot, you have a better chance of getting auditions or being hired for a job.

If you are looking for a professional headshot photographer in the Indianapolis or central Indiana area, IN Dancing Light Photography is ready to serve you.

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Headshot of a male model


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