Headshots 101


A headshot is an important marketing tool.

Whether you are an actor, model, doctor, or real estate agent, it IS your first impression. Your headshot is your calling card; it represents you; so it better look like you… More than just a flattering photograph, a great headshot is a powerful tool for making people remember you. This is because the human face is wired deeply inside every human. It is very much to your advantage to provide a headshot that people can identify with and remember you by.

I take great pride in my ability to craft headshots that highlight my subjects’ best features and present them as they look on their very best of days. A great headshot:

  • Expresses something unique about the subject
  • Should reveal one’s personality
  • Must be engaging and interesting
  • Will intrigue the viewer and make them want to meet you
  • Will hint at certain aspects of your personality and leave the viewer curious and wanting more


Types of Headshots

Traditionally, there are a few different types of headshots: Actor, Model and Professional (sometimes called Corporate). While their basic function and purpose are the same, it is important to understand that they are distinctly different and what may work well for Actors, will not work well in a modelling headshot.



A good headshot is one that gets the Actor auditions. A great headshot gets actors the right auditions: auditions where the casting directors are looking for the actor in the headshot. There is no room for vanity in a headshot. As tempting as it may be to eliminate all blemishes, wrinkles, birthmarks, and even some extra body fat via retouching cheeks, under the neck, eyelines and the like. Nothing turns a Casting Director off more than looking at a headshot, in their hand, of a person in front of them that looks entirely different! They brought you in, most likely, because of your headshot. Yet, you're basically lying to them in front of their face! They won't tell you that, but the next time they come across your photo, they can't, they won't trust it. They won't bring you in. A headshot can lose you the job or get you the audition. and when you walk through the door with your headshot, be sure you look like your headshot!

So, simplicity is important - remember, you need to be the focus of the picture. Busy backgrounds and stylized compositions can make for interesting photographs, but they can be distracting. Your headshot is your calling card; make sure it highlights you! The real you!

Remember, Casting Director's aren't looking for necessarily the prettiest or sexiest person. Their job is to cast the role according to a type. Your headshot needs to accurately convey your type. Better yet, if it can subtly suggest multiple types, then you stretch the value of that headshot and the investment you put into it. A great headshot shows you can act.



Similar to actor headshots in many ways, modelling headshots are all about lookin' goooood. Model headshots don't have to be as cut and dry. But still representing the product (the model) as truthfully and accurately is still paramount. A fashion model portfolio is a collection of a model’s best model photographs which are used to get fashion modelling assignments. Your model portfolio is an essential part of your model look and will reflect that in your model photographs. It’s important that you keep updating your portfolio regularly and you will find it one of your most important model tools in your possession.

All models' portfolios contain images that fall into three categories: Face, Figure, and Fashion.

  • The Face shot, also called beauty shot or headshot, should exclusively feature the face. The importance of expression, make-up, lighting and angle is magnified in this shot. It is often featured on the front of a composite card.
  • The Figure shot can be many things other than a swimsuit shot, but is vital in a portfolio or comp card to show a model's figure. Athletic/aerobic wear, close-fitting dresses, or undergarments are other types of wardrobe to feature the figure. Obviously, each model will have their own limit as to how much they are comfortable revealing in a figure shot. The importance of a figure shot is giving information about how a model will fill clothing, but it is also an opportunity for a model to draw more attention and possibly influence casting.
  • The Fashion shot is harder to define. Generally it is a mid- to full-length shot that demonstrates a mood, character, or style brought to life by the model. The boundaries are vast, and it is another opportunity for a model to capture more attention and place their image into the imagination of a client. There is a lot more artistic freedom with models. Stylized, eccentric, out of the box photos are a good thing.

Additionally, unlike Actors, Models typically have to show a breadth of work. Give more examples of how flexible and moldable they are as a model. As strange as it sounds, Acting headshots should portray the simple truth, if you will, of the actor, being themselves. While modeling photos are about transforming the model into something other than themselves. As a result models typically have to have a portfolio of over a dozen photos, with 4-6 looks, including:

  1. Standard Headshot
  2. Full length - fashion or formal wear
  3. Full length - casual wear
  4. Editorial (specifically shot for a magazine cover or article)
  5. Interactive with another model(s)
  6. Character
  7. Beauty/Glamour
  8. Environmental or outdoor
  9. "light-to-none" make-up
  10. Figure(Swimwear/Underwear/Lingerie)
  11. "Mood" (showing a particular emotion / mood)
  12. "Object" (presenting / handling / seen with an item or object)
  13. Other shots to "personalize" the portfolio.



Corporate headshots are similar to those used by actors. In the late twentieth century, executives were usually shown formally, wearing suits and shirts. In the last decade, many executives have selected a more casual, approachable image for their headshots, reflecting a culture that no longer dresses formally in the workplace. These images are most often produced digitally and distributed electronically, though some companies still favor displaying a printed version. Lighting for corporate headshots is simple and nondramatic, but flattering. Traditional headshots are still taken in a studio setting, though shots "on-location" or "in-the-field" continue to increase in popularity. In both cases, backgrounds continue to be simple. Subjects are often shown head-to-midchest, or from head to just above the waist.*

Corporate headshots serve a variety of purposes, including:

  • Annual reports
  • (Nonstandard) resumes
  • Corporate catalogs, brochures and advertising collateral
  • Company publications and websites, internal and external
  • Press releases and other announcements
  • Marketing materials
  • Articles and newspapers



* Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_shot