8 Misinformed Advices For Actor Headshots

Actor Headshots

Misinformed advice for headshots occurs when individuals receive incorrect or misleading guidance regarding the process of capturing professional headshot photographs. This misinformation can stem from various sources, such as well-meaning but unqualified individuals, outdated information, or subjective opinions presented as factual advice. It can lead to individuals following practices that are ineffective or detrimental to achieving high-quality headshots. 

This misinformed advice may involve suggestions like unnatural smiles, distracting clothing choices, neglecting professional hair and makeup styling, disregarding the importance of background and lighting, or relying excessively on post-processing software to fix major issues. Here are a few examples of misinformed advice for headshots and an explanation of why they are incorrect:

1. Wear costumes or overly dramatic outfits

This advice suggests that actors should wear elaborate costumes or outfits that reflect specific characters they have portrayed. However, for headshots, it’s generally recommended to wear simple, neutral-colored clothing that doesn’t distract from the actor’s face. The focus should be on the actor’s features and versatility rather than specific characters.

Additionally, costumes and dramatic outfits can give a false impression of the actor’s everyday appearance. Casting directors rely on headshots to assess an actor’s marketability and suitability for a wide range of roles. By presenting an exaggerated or theatrical image, actors risk misleading casting directors about their actual appearance and potentially missing out on opportunities that align with their true abilities.

2. Use excessive makeup to enhance features

Firstly, excessive makeup can appear unnatural and may distort the actor’s true features. Headshots should accurately represent the actor’s appearance, allowing casting directors to assess their suitability for various roles. When makeup is applied heavily or in an exaggerated manner, it can create a false image of the actor’s face, leading to unrealistic expectations during auditions or on set.

Moreover, heavy makeup can hinder the ability to showcase versatility. Casting directors are interested in an actor’s range and their ability to transform into different characters. By relying on excessive makeup, actors may limit themselves to specific looks or character types, overlooking opportunities to demonstrate their adaptability.

While makeup can enhance certain features, excessive or heavy makeup can appear unnatural and affect the overall look of the headshot. It’s important to aim for a natural and polished look that represents the actor’s everyday appearance, as casting directors want to see the actor’s true potential and versatility.

3. Always look directly at the camera

The advice to always look directly at the camera for headshots is a misinformed recommendation. While maintaining eye contact with the camera is important, it’s not necessary or beneficial to do so in every single shot.

Looking directly at the camera for every headshot can result in a lack of variety and can make the actor’s portfolio appear monotonous. It limits the range of expressions and emotions that can be conveyed in the photographs. Casting directors are interested in an actor’s ability to portray different characters and emotions, so having a variety of eye directions in headshots can demonstrate versatility and capture the attention of industry professionals.

 While maintaining eye contact with the camera is important, it’s not necessary to look directly at it in every shot. Varying the eye direction can add depth and interest to the headshots, allowing for different moods and character portrayals. Directing the gaze slightly off-camera can create a more engaging and dynamic composition.

4. Only show one facial expression

Actors are expected to be able to convey a wide range of emotions, from joy to sadness, anger to vulnerability, and everything in between. Casting directors rely on headshots to assess an actor’s suitability for various roles, and showcasing only one facial expression can give the impression of a limited range or lack of versatility.

Additionally, using a single facial expression in all headshots can make the actor’s portfolio appear monotonous and uninteresting. Variety is key in capturing the attention of casting directors and showcasing the actor’s potential. Different expressions can help convey the actor’s ability to adapt to different roles and capture the essence of various characters.

Actors are often advised to stick to a single facial expression in their headshots to convey a specific character or emotion. However, it’s crucial to showcase a range of expressions and emotions to demonstrate versatility and casting potential. Casting directors want to see actors who can portray a variety of characters and emotions effectively.

5. Avoid smiling in headshots

A genuine and confident smile can make a positive impression on casting directors and industry professionals who review headshots. It can create a sense of connection and draw people in, making the actor appear friendly and relatable. Smiling headshots can be particularly advantageous for roles that require a friendly or affable demeanor, such as comedic or light-hearted characters.

By avoiding smiles in headshots, actors may inadvertently project a serious or stoic image that may not accurately represent their personality or casting potential. Casting directors want to see an actor’s range, and that includes their ability to portray a wide spectrum of emotions, including happiness and joy.

This advice suggests that serious or moody expressions are more desirable for actors. While it’s true that different roles may require different emotions, a warm and approachable smile can be equally important. Smiling headshots can convey a friendly and likable personality, which can be beneficial for certain types of roles.

6. Use heavily edited or airbrushed photos

Headshots should accurately represent an actor’s appearance and serve as a reliable reference for casting directors. When photos are heavily edited or airbrushed, they can distort the actor’s features, create an unnatural look, and mislead casting directors about the actor’s true appearance. This can be problematic during auditions or on set, where the actor is expected to match their headshot.

Moreover, casting directors value authenticity and want to see the real person behind the headshot. Overediting can give the impression that an actor is trying to hide or alter their natural features, which can raise concerns about their confidence or ability to deliver consistent performances.

Excessive editing or airbrushing can make headshots appear unrealistic and disconnected from the actor’s actual appearance. It’s crucial to maintain authenticity and present headshots that accurately represent the actor. Minimal retouching to enhance natural features is acceptable, but avoiding excessive alterations is important for maintaining trust and confidence with casting directors.

7. Choose overly busy or distracting backgrounds

The advice to choose overly busy or distracting backgrounds for headshots is misinformed and can have negative effects on an actor’s portfolio. The purpose of a headshot is to draw attention to the actor’s face and showcase their features, expressions, and personality. Overly busy or distracting backgrounds can divert attention away from the actor and create a cluttered and unprofessional look.

A busy background can include elements such as intricate patterns, bright colors, or distracting objects that compete with the actor for attention. When the background is too visually overwhelming, it can detract from the main subject of the photograph and make it difficult for casting directors to focus on the actor’s face and expressions.

Headshots should have a clean and simple background to ensure that the focus remains on the actor’s face. Busy or distracting backgrounds can divert attention and make the headshots appear unprofessional. A solid, neutral-colored background or a simple outdoor setting that complements the actor’s features is generally preferred.

8. Don’t invest in professional photographers

Professional photographers with experience in capturing headshots understand the nuances of lighting, composition, and capturing the actor’s unique essence. Not investing in a professional photographer can lead to subpar quality and a lack of professionalism in the actor’s headshots, which can negatively impact their chances in the industry.

Headshots are a crucial marketing tool for actors. They are often the first point of contact between the actor and casting directors or agents. High-quality headshots that are well-composed, properly lit, and showcase the actor’s unique features can make a strong and lasting impression. Professional photographers have the expertise and equipment necessary to create headshots that stand out and accurately represent the actor’s appearance.

Hiring a professional headshot photographer with experience in capturing actor headshots is essential for achieving high-quality results. They understand the nuances of lighting, composition, and capturing the actor’s unique essence. Relying on amateur photographers or taking headshots with smartphones may result in subpar quality and a lack of professionalism, potentially harming an actor’s chances in the industry.


In conclusion, misinformed advice regarding headshots can lead actors astray and hinder their chances of success in the industry. Wearing costumes or overly dramatic outfits, using excessive makeup, always looking directly at the camera, showing only one facial expression, choosing busy or distracting backgrounds, and not investing in professional photographers are all examples of misinformed recommendations. These misguided practices can result in headshots that do not accurately represent the actor, limit their versatility, and fail to make a positive impression on casting directors.

Headshots should aim to capture the actor’s authentic self, showcase their range and versatility, and create a connection with casting professionals. Actors should avoid following misinformed advice that promotes artificial or limiting practices. Instead, they should prioritize natural appearances, subtle and well-applied makeup, a variety of facial expressions, appropriate backgrounds, and collaboration with professional photographers.

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