How to pick your Strongest Headshot
Updated: May 17
Headshots seem to always feel so subjective. For many actors the spectrum of what 'works' vs 'what doesn't seems to shift with industry trends, your agent, or your mood on a given day.
While there totally is 10% of this that is in the art. In the edit. In the crop. Left to the imagination of the eye of the beholder. There's actually a significant amount of data that is telling us some hard and fast rules that make up a good headshot. We will get more into the 15 points later, but for now let's start with the big 3 that count.
The FIRST RULE: Your headshot, MUST look like you, right now. It must accurately represent you who you are in the casting room.
(Why? Because the biggest way to tick off a Casting Director is to be called in looking like one thing, and show up as a completely unrecognizable person-- yikes! This is the bare minimum. Your headshot must look like you.)
The SECOND RULE: Your headshot must allow us to see into the person that you are. Every aspect (the wardrobe, light, background, makeup, focus, crop) must be serving this purpose.
Why? Because if at any point we think we like what we see, but just can't quite make out a detail-- we will have already moved on. If at any point our focus is directed to anything other than YOU -- you've already lost the battle. If there is any part of an image that hides or overpowers you, the headshot has failed to do its job.
The THIRD RULE: We want this headshot to tell us how to cast you next.
Why? Because when we look at 4,000 submissions, we get tired really quickly. Our attention span shrinks down, and we just don't have the bandwith to imagine what that dark and broody guy in a leather jacket might look like with a bright t-shirt and grin. And frankly, we don't really have the time.
So how do we know our headshot is serving these 3 purposes?
Here's a quick way to evaluate. This checklist will serve to measure that quantifiable 90% and help us feel confident we've got a strong headshot that works for us, not against us. Whether you are sorting from thumbnails of raw files from you latest headshot session, or you need help choosing between your top 10 choices.
Here's a standardized rubric to use to see how effectively your headshot is serving you.
Want this printable pdf download? Go here.
Clare Lopez is an Actress and Director of Education and Outreach at Book From Tape Acting Studios in Orlando, FL. She is deeply passionate about supporting fellow actors in their craft, and loves using storytelling to educate, elevate, and empower others. Email Clare