1. Go pro.
Spend money—it’s worth it. Go to a professional who is trained, understands lighting, and takes corporate Baltimore headshots for a living, not some friend who happens to have a decent camera who “sorta knows a little about photography.” Save those pictures for Instagram and leave the headshots to the pros. Good headshots range from $400-$1,200 and to get them professionally duplicated will cost you another $100. Anything less is just a glorified passport photo. If the headshots look cheap, they probably are. And you look like you don’t care about your career.
2. Opt for personality over glamour.
Make sure it looks like you. Chill with the airbrushing. Casting directors expect you to look just like your headshot and will not be happy when you show up looking totally different or 10 years older. It’s not about looking pretty, it’s about representing your type, wrinkles included. It should look like you on your best day, showing your age, and who you are now. It’s not about the type you want to be, it’s the type you are.
3. Remember: It’s all about the eyes.
Just like with on-camera acting, it’s all about the eyes and what’s happening behind them. It’s your closeup, your moment. Your eyes should be perfectly in focus, alive, and energized, not dead and glazed over. There should be strong inner thoughts, implying a backstory and a life behind the eyes. A slight squint and strong piercing eyes will bring a picture to life and help it stand out in a pile of hundreds. A good headshot photographer knows how to bring this out in you.
READ: Headshots: Everything You Need to Know
4. Pay attention to framing, lighting, and background.
In general, a good headshot is a chest up with good lighting on your face, and no strong dramatic shadows, unless you are going in for “The Phantom of the Opera.” Three-quarter shots are good for print, and extreme close-ups are good for, well, nothing. Look directly into the camera, and the focus should be on the center of your eyes, not your left ear, or your shirt collar. No peace signs, weird facial hair, or the famous “hand on face” pose. Be sure the background is blurred, which means it’s shot with a good, high-quality camera with a high depth of field, which makes you stand out. We don’t need to see that you are standing on the beach in Santa Monica or on a tour boat in front of the Statue of Liberty—it’s about you, not the environment.
5. Consider natural light vs. studio.
Some photographers do both, as they offer a different look and feel. Natural light gives a very real, “film” look, which I prefer. Studio lighting tends to be a little more polished, with a more neutral backdrop. Both can be wonderful. If you are more of a sitcom actor, perhaps a well-lit studio headshot is more suited for you. If you want to look like you are on “True Detective,” go for the outdoor look.
6. Don’t go crazy with clothing and props.
Keep it simple and classy, and follow the standard format. Professionalism—not desperation—gets you noticed. A simple, Dark suit or solid shirt with a little texture that fits you well and matches your eyes should do the trick. No whites and no graphics or anything that might distract from your face. And no props. (You know that, right?) If you think you are going to play cop roles, you don’t need to wear the outfit in the headshot. It’s a bit much and very limiting.
Make sure you look good. If the photographer doesn’t have a computer or monitor to show you how you look on screen, find a mirror. Make sure your hair looks good, your tie is placed straight and your overall look is great! Other than that, have confidence, relax and enjoy the photoshoot. You’ve got all it takes!