So you want to be an actor: Getting The Perfect Headshot

We've pulled together a handy guide for getting the best headshots so you get it right the first time.

The basics

The industry standard for photos is a black and white 10 x 8 (25 x 20cm) headshot taken by a professional photographer. The photo should look like you! in a natural pose straight to 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.

A good photographer may well cost in excess of £250 for a session, so this is not something to take lightly. It may sounds expensive but it really does need to be done properly - many photographers offer discounts for students and a few offer discounts for total talent members.

Choosing a photographer

  • Search our database of actors, if you see a headshot you like click on the users portfolio and you'll find details of which photographer took it and a summary of their contact information.
  • 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.
  • Search our directory of photographers directly. The photos at the bottom of each entry give you an idea of who many Mandy users have headshots taken by that photographer.
    • Additional examples can usually be found on the photographers website.

What is included in the fee

When negotiating a fee (it is worth an initial approach to see if there's room for negotiation as you'll find photographers will offer discounts to students, Spotlight members, Equity members and even Mandy Network members!) 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.

During the session

Make sure you get a good night's sleep before the session and arrive wearing clothes in which 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 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.

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 photographer 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 our 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.