How to get the right headshots

..and why online feedback isn’t wise

By Charlotte Thornton, Career Mentor for Actors

Before your resume is read or your reel is watched, a casting director, or agent will look at your headshots. It is the first step to deciding whether to investigate you further. So, there is a lot of pressure riding on the headshot. Yet, everyone has a different opinion on your photos, and there are so many to choose from, how do we pick and whom should you listen to?

Well, let’s consider what the headshot should be, and what it should not.

Building Trust – 101

Unless a casting director has met you, calling you in ‘blind’ for an audition, is a risk. It’s a bit like ordering something online. If it arrives and isn’t what we thought we’d ordered we are disappointed, maybe even annoyed. If you arrive at an audition not looking like your photographs, the casting director may be made to look foolish in front of the director. Looking like your headshots is the first step to building trust, and therefore a relationship, with a casting director.

The Ego Shot

We all want that amazing acting headshot. You know the one. It’s the one that makes us feel like we are professional actors. Feeling like a pro is important. But, whilst stunning headshots might delight our ego, they may not serve us when it comes to furthering our career. Consider if you really are in that ‘stunning’ category as a brand (see below) if not, keep the cool photo for yourself and take a more distant stance when deciding what goes on your Spotlight page.


Aside from looking like you, headshots should also demonstrate the different roles you play. If you play the villain and the mum, we need headshots that show both. Used subtly, clothes can indicate character. If you get cast as doctors and lawyers then wear a suit jacket. If you play the nurse a short-sleeved would be more appropriate. But this alone will not cut it.

Thinking loudly

In stills, as in film and video, think the thought, and we will see it. Consider the inner monologue that each character has and then repeat these thoughts in your head whilst you are being photographed. This will change the eyes of the headshot and ultimately what it expresses.


To get it right, why not practise with some selfies, before booking the professional shoot? Then you can see what you look like thinking different thoughts and go to the headshot photographer with a clear plan.

Mood Board

Build a visual of what you are trying to achieve by creating a mood board. List out your 3-4 brands and then source images from magazines and online, that match each brand.

Beware the online forum

Some actors turn to Facebook groups for feedback on their headshots. But, these people do not know you. How can they know if the photos look like you? Furthermore, the online community do not know your brand. Brand includes, class, accent, energy, height, nationality and many other qualities that cannot be seen. This is one of the reasons why I never work with anyone I haven’t met in person. Meeting face to face has to be the first port of call if I am to understand the effectiveness (or lack of) their headshots.

Picking the final line up

When get your images. Scan them quickly and find the ones that stand out - that pop! As long as it looks like you, your main headshot will definitely be one of these. Then, instead of looking at the photos and picking your favourites, look at your brands and find photos that match those roles. If necessary, refer back to your ‘mood’ board. That way you have your business head on, and can select a portfolio of headshots that entice industry professionals to call you in the room.

For more advice and inspiration go to or read Charlotte’s book Talent Isn’t Enough, available on Amazon.