What to wear for headshots

Actors should wear simple, non-distracting clothing for their headshot sessions. Simplicity is key. The focus in your headshot should be squarely on you, not your clothes. Solid primary colors and bright jewel tones are great, while busy patterns and large, distracting jewelry are a no-go. But you know what looks best on you—pick colors that bring out your eyes and complement your skin tone. Stay away from white (which can wash you out) and black (which can give the illusion of absorbing light from the rest of the photo).

If you play more buttoned-up characters, wear a jacket. If you play more free-spirited or characters, you can show a bit more skin. But don't over-do it; wearing clothing that is too revealing can take the focus away from your face. When selecting your headshot wardrobe, ask yourself:

  • What types of projects do I want to work on? If you want to work on noir shows or late-night crime dramas, a dark, gritty-looking headshot fits the tone. If you aspire to be SNL's newest cast member or a sitcom darling, a bright, goofy shot is a better idea.
  • Which types of roles do I want to play? If you're going out for a high-powered executive, your hair, makeup, and clothing should be polished. If you're going for a high school queen bee, make sure your wardrobe and makeup are age-appropriate.

What to bring to a headshot session

You should bring all your wardrobe changes to your headshot session. If you don't have a makeup artist on hand, you should also bring essential makeup and a small mirror for touch-ups. Even actors who don’t typically need makeup should bring translucent powder. You can get hot under studio lighting and may need to combat shine on your nose and forehead.  

If you're shooting outdoors, bring comfortable shoes. You may need to walk to multiple locations, and your feet won’t be in the shot anyway. Since outdoor shoots may not have changing facilities, you may want to bring a towel to cover you during quick changes (or stick close to public restrooms).

How to pose for a good headshot

When you pose for a headshot, you should be relaxed. These photos are all about your face, and any tension will show up there. The best headshot poses combine strong posture with great facial angles.

These classic headshot poses can get your creative juices flowing:

  • Head-on, facing the camera: This is a classic for a reason. The camera gets to see you and all of you.
  • Leaning in: Leaning slightly toward the camera lens looks you are in the middle of a conversation. It's easy to give off a “best friend” vibe when you lean in.
  • Over the shoulder: This angle is slightly more mysterious, unusual, and edgy.

You want your headshot poses to capture your strongest qualities, and your eyes need to tell a story. The irony of a headshot is that, though it's a still image, you shouldn't look still. The last thing your headshot should be is boring. There should be some attention-grabbing quality leaping out at the viewer, whether that's an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile, a mischievous glance, a pensive stare... you get the idea. Think of a headshot as a freeze-frame of you in action.

How many headshots do actors need?

You should have at least two looks for a headshot session; this will give you at least two distinct headshots to choose from when going after roles. It’s standard to have a more serious theatrical shot and a smiling commercial shot. 

If you have a niche skill or bookable talent, you’ll want a few snaps that reflect that. For example, if you are a bodybuilder, you should show off your guns. If you’re a musician, your instrument can play a supporting role. But be careful. If you take an acting headshot holding a guitar, you’d better know how to play if a casting director asks in an audition.