How to choose the best headshot to market yourself as an actor
The actor's headshot is probably the most important piece of marketing you can have. A good headshot can be the difference between being seen for a casting and being continually overlooked, not to mention a poor-quality headshot makes you look unprofessional. Quite often actors are short-listed for a casting based primarily on their headshot so its important you get it right.
Choosing the right photographer is important. You don't necessarily have to go on reputation but you should absolutely see examples of their work before considering them. If you are unsure what a good headshot looks like then take a look at the websites of some of the bigger agents and view their actor pages to see examples of some quality headshots. Now compare those with cheaper-end, "special offer" photographers work and you should be able to tell the difference pretty easily. Even googling "Actor Headshots" should give you enough examples to be able to distinguish between what looks professional and what doesn't.
Once you've chosen, think about your casting. As an actor you should be aware of your own casting bracket and how to market yourself. Your headshot should reflect this meaning, haircut and style, facial-hair for guys, and lastly clothing. However you look in your headshot is how you should look in your audition! This can not be stressed enough...casting directors hate nothing more than an actor who looks nothing like their photograph. Pick a hair style that is easily prepared for an audition and be mindful of your photos when getting any radical haircuts.
Take several options of clothing to the shoot but bring items that reflect your casting. Effectively the simpler the better as it opens you up to wider casting, and you don't want items of clothing stealing focus in your shot. A good photographer will normally talk to you about your casting and also have a good idea of how to bring that out in the shoot. Make sure make-up is not overly heavy and that you are not holding a lot of tension in the jaw. Models photographs look great with the clenched-jaw look but for actors it suggests tension and that is not a selling point, so a quick jaw massage always helps.
After you receive your shots you will have to pick a couple to be retouched. This can be subjective but it helps to get other professionals opinions including your agent if you have one. You should look like YOU but on your best possible day. You should fit your casting bracket in your appearance. You should have head and a little shoulders in shot, and there should be some life behind the eyes. Sometimes some clever lighting can bring out the character in the eyes, and this is the first huge draw of a good headshot. Make sure there's no jaw-tension and that you are in sharp-focus. If you hit all these marks you should be looking at a pretty good headshot! Good Luck!