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.

Where to get headshot critiques and feedback?
What is the difference between model headshots and actor headshots?