How to take the PERFECT headshot: Our Top Tips

How to take the perfect headshot

Headshots seem pretty simple; it’s just a picture of someone’s head with basic background, right? Wrong, there is; there’s that goes into taking a headshot, from the lighting setup to the post headshot editing, there’s a lot.

It’s why there are professional photographers who solely focus on taking headshots. It’s a skill in itself. You need it as an extra and an actor as part of your “PR” pack. It’s the first thing a casting agent sees; it’s essentially “The cover to a book”. If it’s of poor quality, the casting agent will scroll to the next. 

That’s how important having the perfect headshot is; it’s integral to selling you as an actor and an extra. 

But, occasionally, you’ll be in the position, starting as an extra or an actor and won’t have the money to get a professional headshot. 

That’s why we are here, with the top tips to help you take that perfect headshot. 

What is a headshot?

As mentioned above, a headshot is a professional portrait. It is a tightly cropped photo of the face, from the shoulders upwards. 

Originally the headshot was just used for extras and actors, but you see, day in day out, many professionals have headshots. It’s perfect for professional networks like Linkedin, where you need to have a quality shot of yourself.  

A headshot’s used to market yourself in the world of acting, so having a headshot that looks interesting, professional and of the highest quality is imperative. 

Today’s article will show you how to take the perfect headshot and what needs to be considered. 

Let’s jump into it!

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How to take the PERFECT headshot: Our Top Tips

Here are our tips on taking the perfect headshot. It’s important to follow these rules and tips to ensure you get the best possible outcome. From the angle to the lighting setup to the type of lens, all these factors create the perfect headshot.

Set up a “Hair Light”

Using a hair light is a great addition when setting up to take your headshot. Why do you need a hair light? Well, this is to add depth to the shot. 

Using a hair light that’s placed above the subject allows you to create depth to the headshot and pull the head away from the background. 

It improves the overall quality of the shot and does create an intriguing profile. 

Diffuse your light

Diffusing the light you are using is incredibly important. By diffusing the light for your headshot, you allow the diffused light to cover the skin, bringing out the definition along the facial lines without highlighting any blemishes. 

It essentially creates a softer, defined look that brings out the best in your headshot.

If you’re interested in the art of diffusing light for film, and developing lighting techniques further, feel free to read our in-depth guide on Lighting in Film.

Perfect your angles

With headshots, a slight change in angle will affect the look and feel of your shot. It’s incredibly sensitive. Make sure you pay attention to the angle at which you’re taking your headshot. 

A general rule of thumb is if you are taking a headshot and want to make the eyes appear larger, you can do this by taking the shot looking down on your subject. 

And for instance, if you’re looking to create a sense of strength, you can do this by angling the camera slightly upwards. 

Practice a few setups, and look at what you’re trying to achieve with yourself or your subject. 

Ask the questions of what type of roles are you looking to audition for? Or, what you’ll be using the headshot for? 

A comedic actor would have a different headshot to one of an extra. An actor primarily auditioning for dramas will have a different feel to someone who’s using it as a Linkedin profile shot.

Eyes on the prize 

Focus on the eyes. There’s nothing better than a headshot that focuses on the eyes; getting a crisp shot of the eyes can tell the casting director a lot about you before they even begin looking through your CV. 

The eyes are a powerful way of telling the viewer who you are and what you can offer. It helps create a strong connection with the casting director or casting assistant from the offset and will give them the confidence to look at your acting CV in more detail. 

Develop the perfect Expression

Building on the eyes, you want to help develop an expression. As we touched upon earlier, your headshot expression will determine the roles you’ll be submitted for. 

You’ll want to pull out natural expressions, which the photographer will help give you that natural but unique expression. 

If you’re a primarily comedic actor, it will be different from that of a dramatic actor. You need to play your role, and headshots are certainly included in this. 

We hope this article on “How to take the PERFECT headshot: Our Top Tips” was useful to you; let us know your thoughts in the comments. 
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Jay Neill

Jay Neill is the founder, owner, and managing editor of iFilmThings and believes everyone should have access to the film resources they need to plan their filmmaking project, which is why he’s dedicated iFilmThings to helping all filmmakers.

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