Green Shirt Studio

9 Tips for Getting a Better Acting Headshot


If you’re an actor, you know that getting a good headshot is essential. They’re the first thing that casting agents notice about you, so you want to make a good impression. Plus, getting your headshots done is expensive, so you want to make sure you do them right.

But although headshots seem simple enough – they’re just a photograph taken straight on of just your face, right? – simple can sometimes be misleading. From picking out the perfect background and outfit to choosing the right photographer, there are lots of things to think about well before the camera flash goes off.

Green Shirt Studio spoke with some of the best photographers in the Chicago area who specialize in acting headshots to offer insight on how to get the best headshots.

  1. Get Enough Sleep
    Sleep is something we all love but hardly get enough of these days. The last thing you want is dark circles under your eyes the day of your headshot photoshoot – so, sleep! “Take good care of your body the week of your photo shoot and get plenty of sleep the night before,” says John Abbott of John Abbott Photography.
  1. Be You
    This is YOUR headshot and YOUR photoshoot, so dress accordingly. A lot of photographers we spoke with recommended that actors wear clothes they feel comfortable in, fit really well, and best reflect their personality. “Do not go out and buy colors that ‘look good on camera,’ but wear garments that feel like you,” says Sandy Sager of Zoe McKenzie Photography.
  1. Style Yourself
    If a studio has a makeup/hair stylist to work with, be vocal about what you want. “Don’t assume just because they are the professionals that they know how best to style your hair and makeup,” Sager says.If a studio doesn’t offer this service, map out your own style plan. “Make sure your hair is at the right length for your shots. This will take planning a week or two before your session,” says Brian McConkey of Brian McConkey Photography.
  1. Meet the Photographer Ahead of Time
    In order to get the best headshots, you have to ensure that you have the right photographer on the job, and that you two connect. “Don’t let anyone pressure you into using one person, or dissuade you from looking around,” Abbott says. “A connection between two people is something that’s very hard to gauge until you meet someone. If meeting in person isn’t possible, talk over the phone to see if you two click,” says Chris Popio of Popio Stumpf Photography.
  1. No Busy Backgrounds
    Agents only care about you. Avoid busy backgrounds so that their focus remains on what’s in the foreground. “Outside shallow focus is the best way to go because you are sharp and everything else fades to texture. Sweeps and flat backgrounds work well, too,” Sager says.
  1. Product Identity
    Headshots are all about marketing yourself, so make sure your headshots reflect what kind of actor you are. Identity what ‘type’ you are – comedy, film, dramatic theater, etc. – and let that identity be transparent on film. “The more specific the image, the better the chances are of you getting the job you are aiming for,” Abbott says.“Bring a variety of clothes so that you get a wide-range of images to fit any and all roles,” adds Popio.
  1. Arrive Early and Full
    On the day of your photoshoot, don’t rush! “Relax. Arrive a few minutes ahead of time to hang up your clothes. Make sure you’re not hungry, so plan to have a good breakfast or lunch (or dinner if it’s a late shoot),” McConkey says.And don’t schedule something right afterwards, either. “It is also ideal to plan ahead of time so that you aren’t feeling rushed to get out of the shoot to get someplace,” adds Popio.
  1. Make A Playlist
    Feeling camera shy? Settle those pesky nerves by tuning in and zoning out to music before stepping in front of the camera. Both Abbott and McConkey suggest that actors create a playlist of songs that make, “you feel like you.”
  1. Have fun!
    All four photographers emphasized having fun as a key to a good photoshoot. If you are enjoying yourself during your shoot, that happiness translates into your facial expressions. Nothing says “you got the role” quite like a genuine headshot.