Headshot Sessions 101

I thought I’d make a post specifically tailored to actors and actresses looking to have their headshots taken, and not sure how to go about it.

Over the years, I have worked directly with many SAG represented agencies that specialize in finding roles for men and women looking to advance their acting careers. Over that time, I have developed a very simple way to approach headshots, and that is, simply LESS IS MORE. Casting directors are not looking for elaborate photos of you doing weird and interesting things, they’re looking for expressions. The key to a successful headshot is to invoke a feeling towards the viewer. This feeling can be anything from joy, to pure hatred. It call comes down to the role they’re looking for. So another important thing when it comes to headshots is DIVERSIFICATION.

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Here is an example of a photo I shot of actor Aaron Guest. The photo above, would not go well if they were casting for a villainous role. This picture invokes lightheartedness. It simply shows happiness, and would go great for the typical “nice guy” role. However, the image below is that of the same actor, but with far more confidence, attitude and general grab. With this image, his expression shows an entirely different mentality, one that could possibly be casted for a villainous role. Some of these things are important to think about when selecting your headshots. You want a broad range of emotions, which can help you gather more roles and expand your future as an actor or actress.
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Props are generally regarded as a big no no. They have a tendency to become a distraction, and will usually end up hurting the image more than helping it. Also, casting directors will see this as a sign of a distraction, which could formulate the opinion that you are not capable to express emotion on camera without the help of props. Props also have a tendency to type cast you and limit your full potential. If a casting director is looking for a funny guy role, they’re not going to select the person holding a gun in their headshot, as it diverts from the role they’re casting for.


Typically, I follow the simple rule with wardrobe, which is BRING MORE THAN YOU’LL USE. Having a strong selection allows you and the creative team involved (Hair, Makeup, Photographer, etc) to select what will be best for the images created during the session. And the most important rule of all with wardrobe is to bring clothes that you LOVE WEARING. If you’re uncomfortable in a certain piece of clothing, it will shine through in the photos. I often encourage people to bring their absolutely favorite shirts. Simplicity is often key, and some of the best head shots I’ve seen were taken in just a t-shirt. Don’t expect that you should be over dressed for your headshot. Collars can often hide you neck and make you look shorter (not always ofcourse) and strong patterns can be distracting to the eyes. Jackets and such can also be great for adding to an image to really help make it pop.

Nothing  is more important in a headshot. After all, its an image of you, and its important to show character. As New York Based Head shot Photographer Peter Hurley says — There are three things you can move on your face. Your eyes, your mouth, and your eyebrows. Those three things are what show your entire spectrum of emotion. Its important to remember that when going into a headshot session, and equally important to remember if you’re an aspiring actor or actress. The slightest shift of one of those things, can change the entire message of an image. Subtle adjustments are everything, and thats important to keep in mind when having your headshots taken.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them for me in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer them as timely as possible. Thanks

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  • Josh Petersen
    October 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm  - Reply

    dude, your headshot work is awesome, and these are some great tips on how to ensure a killer session. 🙂

  • Zach Sutton
    October 30, 2012 at 3:02 pm  - Reply

    Thanks Josh! 🙂

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