What to wear for your headshots shoot.

What to wear for your headshots shoot:

Clothes should be neat, clean (free of stains, lint, hair), and free of wrinkles.

I recommend solid color clothing, with no polka dots, no wild prints, and no distracting stripes. Clothing of this type can have a tendency to distract the viewer from the most important subject in your photos, you.

Pastel colors are typically not recommended. Neither is white or black, but more importantly, you should avoid anything that clashes with your skin tone. Colors that compliment your skin tone are appropriate. If you feel you look really good in something, even if it doesn’t abide by “the rules”, bring it.

Avoid dressing in “character”. Be you.

What not to wear for your headshots shoot:

Avoid wearing distracting jewelry or anything that may distract the viewer from your face.

Avoid wearing “costumes”. Your skills as an actor should allow you to suggest a part without “wearing” a part.

How to print your headshots: In color or black & white, with borders or without?

Color headshots or black & white?

Color headshots are in, B&W headshots are out. If you shoot with a digital photographer, it’s easy to get both color and black & white if you prefer the option.

Headshots with borders or no borders (“full bleed”)?

Headshots with borders are currently most common. However headshots without borders (called “full bleed”) are acceptable, though some people consider them “tacky” looking. However, some photos may actually look better without borders.

In the end, it’s a personal preference so you should do whatever it is that you think presents your headshot in the best possible light.

If a casting director disregards your headshot, it won’t be because of your borders (or lack thereof). If you have the look that the casting director is seeking, then you’ll get called in whether your headshot has borders or not.

So if you like headshots with borders, get headshots with borders. If you like headshots without borders, get headshots without borders.

Horizontal or vertical headshots?

This refers to headshots taken in “portrait” or “landscape” orientation. Currently headshots in both orientations are acceptable. As with borders, if a casting director thinks your look is right for the part, you’ll get called in, regardless of whether your headshot is in vertical or horizontal format.

Some people believe that headshots taken in horizontal (landscape) orientation tend to look for “cinematic”.

Where to get headshot critiques and feedback?

Headshot critiques and feedback, who can you trust?

As your headshot is intended to be an accurate representation of what you look like, one should be careful about the feedback sometimes given by certain individuals. And by that I mean the people that you are most likely to get feedback from first, your family and close personal friends. This does not mean you should invalidate any feedback you receive from family or friends, it just means you should also solicit feedback from people outside of this circle.

Who can you trust? Well, with regards to providing feedback as to whether your headshot actually looks like you, almost anyone who isn’t a close friend or relative. But when it comes to judging the effectiveness of your headshots, it’s a bit more difficult.

Probably the people who can most accurately assess your headshots are casting directors. However, it is entirely unlikely you have one at your disposal. Probably the next “most qualified” people are professional photographers who have headshots experience, BUT for obvious reasons you’ll still need to take what any photographer says about your headshots with a grain of salt. Particularly if they are not positive and especially if it seems the reason they are being critical is simply to get your business. With that said, not every professional photographer has their own agenda.

How to get feedback on your headshots

A good way to get feedback concerning your headshots from complete strangers is via the internet. Acting related sites often have forums in which actors can post their headshots for review. Although this can be a good way to get feedback, it isn’t necessarily a good way to get good feedback. The problem is that many people simply aren’t qualified or informed enough about what makes a headshot good to really provide entirely accurate feedback.

In fact, in some cases it appears that the general “acting public” at large is far too forgiving of less-than-professional looking headshots. And when it comes to your headshots, it is important to be critical.

What can be effective in public forums is to provide a number of headshot options (your “top 5-15” for example) for people to choose from and and them to pick the best and to tell you why. And if they don’t like a headshot or a series of headshots for a reason, ask them to tell you why. It is always good to be aware of why people think something isn’t working. You can go to your next headshots photo shoot armed with the knowledge and hopefully come out with a better series of headshots.

Is it ok to get your headshots retouched?

Is it ok to get your headshots retouched? What You and Your Photographer Should Know.

So now you’ve had your headshots taken. And while you may think your responsibilities are over and what’s done is done, you’re not quite done yet.

What you now have to be aware of is headshot retouching. And by that I mean certain alterations made to your photo after it was taken to improve it or remove imperfections.

As I covered in part I of this series, headshots are not glamour shots. While it’s totally acceptable in a model’s glamour shot to remove that mole on your nose, a misplaced freckle, or that scar that’s been bothering you, in a headshot, that’s not the case. While your desire may be to make just a couple minor changes to your natural features because altering them somehow flatters you, as an actor you must look like your headshot.

The point I try to make to all of my [headshots] subjects is, are you simply looking for the thrill of being called in by a casting director because of your “beautiful” (or flawless) headshot, but then ultimately rejected because of it… Or would you prefer to be called in having confidence that you and your headshot reflect each other accurately and that now it’s really up to you and your acting chops to land a role? I stress that the latter will be much more effective overall.

Don’t just assume that every photographer knows what they’re doing or that they’re automatically going to make the right decision (with regard to retouching) for you. Every photographer secretly wants you to look your absolute best. The better you look, the better the photo looks. The better the photo looks, the better the photographer looks.

So oftentimes, if you leave the decision to retouch your photos entirely up to the photographer (particularly one without significant headshots experience or knowledge), they will eradicate those “flaws” without a second thought (and sometimes without even a first thought).

Be sure you at least have a conversation with your photographer about retouching so as to avoid any obvious “mistakes” or errors of judgement.

When is headshot retouching generally acceptable?

Headshots retouching is generally acceptable if the thing/s being altered are not one of your permanent features. For example, minor make-up or hair malfunctions can often be taken care of without and significant impact of the “authenticity” of your photo.

If a person has bad skin (acne or blemishes, but no “scar” damage that changes the surface of the skin), but their condition is either temporary or something that could easily be fixed with make-up, is removing or at least lessening the appearance of that condition acceptable?

First, you have to be honest with yourself and determine whether your “temporary” flare up is just that, temporary, or if it’s really a common condition. If it’s common, then headshots etiquette suggests it stays.

The good news is that if you’re skin condition is minor, then an application of natural looking make-up can help conceal such flaws. You should consider this and whether hiring a make-up artist would be appropriate based on your needs before having your headshots taken.

Skin discolorations, moles, spots…

Whatever you can achieve with natural looking make-up should be the extent to which any skin discolorations, moles, or spots should be retouched. Again, however this is handled, keep in mind that when you show up to your audition, you should look like your headshot.


Unless your scar is recent, temporary only, and not easily concealed with natural looking make-up, it should stay in your headshot.

Wrinkles & age…

Wrinkles help define the age you appear, not necessarily your biological age. You may look older or younger than you are. Your biological age doesn’t matter. It’s how you look that does. As such, wrinkles and signs of age are an important part of headshots.

What is the difference between model headshots and actor headshots?

At times, there can be little to no difference between model headshots and actor headshots — as they are both focused on highlighting a person’s face.

However, the differences between the two types of headshots can be huge.

Actor headshots are intended to be a real-life representation of a person’s face and features. It is vital that the actor’s headshot resembles the actor.

This means natural make-up (if applicable) and little to no photo retouching. Certainly nothing that alters natural & permanent features of the face, such as old scars or wrinkles.

Model headshots tend to be more artistic and generally flatter the subject with liberal use of lighting, make-up, composition, and angles.

These are the “glamour shots” or “beauty shots” used for marketing purposes in modeling portfolios (both old school comp cards and the newer digital “ipad portfolios”). Model headshots are professionally retouched to remove “flaws” and create a more aesthetically pleasing photograph.

While model headshots tend to be flattering, they should not be confused with the natural no make-up headshots of a model that are intended to show a model’s skin and complexion.

What you should bring to a photo shoot. The basics…

Note: Your experience with different photographers will vary and you will want to discuss this beforehand.

Note: We discuss what to wear to a photo shoot in a separate post.

Generally speaking, this is what a model should bring to a photo shoot:

Items to Change Your Look & Appearance

Changing the way you look during a shoot will help keep the photos from looking like they were all taken on the same day.

Items I’d suggest bringing include (some of these are obvious — some may not be):

  • make-up
  • hair ties & rubber bands (so you can wear your hair in different ways)
  • hats
  • jewelry
  • glasses/sunglasses (but do not wear sunglasses before your shoot or you may end up squinting or with watery eyes during your shoot)
  • anything you think might make a neat prop or look interesting in a photo.

Additional Items to Consider Bringing to Your Photo Shoot

Don’t forget to bring a small portable mirror of some kind so you can check your make-up, hair, look, etc. during the shoot.

Depending on the style of the shoot, you may want to consider bringing a flesh colored thong & bra. This will allow you to wear such items under your garments without drawing attention to them in the photos.

It’s also a good idea to bring something to drink, such as bottled water or gatorade. Especially if you are shooting outside. You may want to consider bringing a cooler with ice to pack drinks and anything else you wish to keep cool while shooting.

Depending on the length of your shoot, you may want to pack a light meal and/or a few snacks of some kind. Fruits are preferable to “candy” items and will help provide energy to keep shooting. Avoid eating/bringing anything that may stain your teeth. This includes chocolaty items. As with wardrobe, please bring more than you think you will need.

Contents of a Typical Model’s Bag

Here are some items typically found in the bags of models who work regularly and/or professionally. Not all items are necessary if you’re just starting out, but it’s still a good idea to check this list and consider whether these items may be useful at your shoot. Many items depend on the type of shoot you’re doing and the location:

makeup kit nylons (nude & black) panty liners
washcloth toilet tissue mascara (brown and/or black)
false eyelashes (2 different lengths) concealer foundation
lipstick (various shades) blush eyeshadow (various colors)
translucent powder makeup sponges makeup brushes
cotton swabs cotton balls makeup remover
tweezers eye drops mirror
masking tape binder clips hairpins
toothbrush toothpaste baby wipes
hairbrush hair ties/bands sunscreen
sunglasses bottled water towel
tampons dress shields lint brush
dress hood or pillow case spray bottle facial tissue
aspirin (or equivalent) penlight/flashlight scissors
small first-aid kit razors shaving cream
model portfolio model cards body lotion
facial cleansers hairstyling products insect repellent

The headshot photographer charges a premium price, but “isn’t your career worth it?”

The headshot photographer charges a premium price, but “isn’t your career worth it?”

You get what you pay for. Right?

Your career may be worth it, but you don’t always get what you pay for.

While we often equate product quality with price, a photographer who charges a premium price doesn’t necessarily provide photos that are better than a photographer who charges much less.

So be careful not to be manipulated into working with a headshot photographer simply because their rates are above the average of other headshot photographers in your area.

In the end, choose a headshot photographer based on the quality of their work and your specific needs.

What clothes should you bring to a photo shoot?

Note: Your experience with different photographers will vary and you will want to discuss this beforehand.

Your Wardrobe (Selection)

Unless specific arrangements have been made in advance, the model is responsible for bringing her own attire.

If you plan to shoot photos of a certain style (Maxim style, fashion, glamour photos, etc), then it is to your benefit to coordinate with your photographer before hand to discuss wardrobe options as well as props, backgrounds, and various ideas.

If you are shooting with the intention of doing an “all-purpose” shoot, then bringing a variety of different types of clothes is a good idea. Most photographers prefer to have a variety of options (but please refer to “styles of clothes” below).

Options are always good and you never know when you’ll feel like wearing something. And if you think you might want to bring something, but have second thoughts about it, bring it anyway.

Models I’ve worked with almost always tell me that they wished they’d brought something that they’d thought about bringing but then decided not to. It is better to always bring more than you think you will need, however it may not always be possible to shoot with everything you bring.

Styles of Clothes

I recommend solid color clothing, with no polka dots, no wild prints, and no distracting stripes. Clothing of this type can have a tendency to distract the viewer from the most important subject in your photos, you.

[If you are doing a “themed” shoot, such as a pin-up shoot, then obviously the clothes you bring should match the theme and override the suggestion above.]

Recommended clothing styles include:

  • shorts
  • various forms of full and brief tops
  • mini-dresses
  • mini-skirts
  • form fitting pants
  • sports & fitness gear

Swimwear & lingerie are also possibilities, if desired — depending on what you’ve arranged to shoot with your photographer.

They imply that not working with them could jeopardize your acting career.

The headshot photographer implies that if you don’t work with them, it could jeopardize your acting career.

This is a scare tactic intended to motivate you through fear. Of all the good reasons to work with a photographer, making the decision to do so out of fear is not one of them.

It’s just a headshot folks! It’s a photograph. Yes, you want a good one which accurately reflects who you are, but even if that’s not what you get, you’re acting career isn’t over. You have someone else take your headshot!

I know headshots can be a big investment, but as an actor, it’s something you need to grow accustomed to because every time your look evolves, you’ll need a new one. That’s why it’s such a beautiful thing if you find a great photographer who provides the type of shots you like. The chances are good that you’ll get another great shot the next time you get headshots.

And that’s also why it’s a little easier for photographers who have been working in a certain area for a prolonged period of time. Repeat business is beautiful!

Also keep in mind that not every actor who succeeds in Hollywood has an amazing headshot. But whatever it was about their headshot grabbed the attention of the casting director. And whatever it was about their audition, presentation, and acting skills sealed the deal.

Yes, the industry is incredibly competitive and having a professional looking headshot will help you, but it is no guarantee of success. And having a less-than-spectacular headshot is no guarantee that your mission to make it will result in failure. Though obviously between the two, you’ll be giving yourself a better favor by getting a great headshot that showcases the true you.

How to transport your clothes to a photo shoot?

How to Transport you Clothes to Your Photo Shoot

Many models will either pack a small suitcase or bring a bag of some type to carry all their clothes. If you plan to shoot on location, it is important that bring something that allows you to transport at least three or more outfits easily.

Please pack carefully. Clothes you intend to wear should be free of wrinkles and lint. In the event your need to remove the occasional wrinkle, we have an iron/steamer available.

Please note that if you are shooting in a studio, you should check to see how the photographer can accommodate your clothes — for example:

  • Are there racks available for hanging your clothes?
  • Is there a convenient and private place to change and apply make-up?
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