Getting the perfect Actor Headshot

The basics

The industry standard for photos is a 10 x 8 (25 x 20cm) headshot taken by a professional photographer. The photo should look like you in a natural pose, straight to the camera, clearly displaying your entire face. The headshot will usually take in the top of your shoulders but shouldn't include the rest of your body.

Choosing a photographer

Word-of-mouth recommendation counts for a lot - assuming there's no commission involved, actors will only refer photographers whose work they're happy with. Ask other actors where they've had their headshots done, see which names crop up again and again and look out for those who offer a professional, friendly service at competitive rates. You can find additional examples of a photographer's work on their website.

What is included in the fee?

When negotiating a fee remember to factor in the number of shots the photographer will take, the number of prints included and the cost of getting copies made. Make sure to have this clearly laid out so that you're not disappointed to receive 5 prints when you'd been expecting 10. It is also worth an initial approach to see if there's room for negotiation as you'll find photographers sometimes will offer discounts to students, Equity members and even Mandy members.

During the session

Make sure you get a good night's sleep before the session and arrive wearing clothes which make you feel comfortable, confident and relaxed. Ensure the clothes don't distract from your face (no loud shirts or patterned blouses) and help bring the focus to your face. You may consider taking a collection of tops to ensure you capture the right you. Don't wear too much makeup and don't get your hair cut the day before - give a new cut time to settle in. Also avoid props, backgrounds and accessories or anything which distracts from your face. Most good photographers will be able to advise you on such things, so do consider their advice, as the good ones will have been doing this for many years.

Choosing a shot

When choosing a shot select one which looks most like you and which you think best reflects your look and talents. Ask the opinion of people you trust - and while family and friends can be helpful and supportive, they may not be the best judges, better to ask fellow actors, your agent or the photographer.

One way of doing this is to submit your photo to our headshot review system and get anonymous feedback on which character type, emotion, and age range our actors associate with your headshot.

Legal rights

The photographer will own the rights to any of the photos they take of you, even though you pay for the initial session. If you want to reproduce the picture in any form (online, spotlight, publicity for a show) you will need to get permission from your photographer. The should also be credited whenever you display or print the picture.

Things to avoid

  • Your headshot should be a true and accurate representation of how you look, don't edit out any birthmarks, wrinkles or moles, these are part of your character and should be embraced.
  • Make sure it's professional, don't try to cut costs by getting your photo done by your mum and never even think about using a mobile phone. Amateur photographs usually mean amateur actor.
  • This is not a place to be funny, crazy hair, foolish grins and plastic moustaches and cigars should all be left at home. Keep it plain and keep it simple.