Your headshot is your most important selling tool. As such, it needs to stand out for all the right reasons and none of the wrong ones. The purpose of a headshot is to showcase that special quality that makes you unique in a natural and straight-forward way. For a perfect headshot, follow these headshot tips:
First and foremost, the headshot must look professional. Always 8×10″. Opt for a matte finish. No fancy fonts here either. Neither the border nor the printed name should draw attention away from your face! The aim of a headshot is to have your face grab their attention.
Make sure the headshot looks like you. The more your headshot looks like you, the better the headshot. Please do not try to look like the next Miss America. “Ordinary” is very much in these days. A pretty woman trying to look glamorous has fewer chances/fewer roles than a pretty woman who presents herself as she is: pretty. Whatever you wear, try to look like you. Try as truthfully as you can to figure out what kinds of roles you are likely to get cast in. Chances are if you are not a hunk or a model, you are not going to get hunk/model roles.
Be careful with Make up. close to natural, exactly the same that you yourself could apply. There is only one exception: If you have very dark circles under your eyes, then lighten them under careful makeup. Look like your headshot and have your headshot look like you. Unless you are stunning, please do not have your face all glamored up, unless you are willing to pay a make-up artist every time you audition. Come with your hair styled the way you normally wear it for auditions and with very light makeup. Ask if there will be a hair and makeup person available during the shoot.
Do show your age. A casting director will not be pleased when a 35-year-old shows up if he’s expecting someone in their mid-twenties. And if that doesn’t convince you, imagine all the juicy roles you’re absolutely perfect for as you are. Now imagine your youthful headshot being tossed aside.
Make sure the picture is about you, not about hair or boots or glamorous makeup. What does that mean? I once saw a headshot of a young woman sitting on the floor wearing boots. The shot was angled from the bottom of her boots. Those boots, consequently, were twice the size of her head. That was a picture about boots. Your headshot must have nothing that takes the viewer away from you. No housetops, no trees, no nothing. If the photographer insists, run to another photographer. The photographer with distracting backgrounds is more interested in his own clever shots than in capturing your face.
Nothing must take away focus from your face. That is what people must see. Headshots should capture your true personality and type in a naturally compelling way.
If you smile, get your whole face, especially the eyes, into the smile. Otherwise just a “real you” look is best. If you are self-conscious about your teeth, your smile will show it. No, do not smile unless you can commit to it completely. (PS. You CAN teach yourself to smile!)
Truthfully, I would have to look at every person’s contact sheets before making a judgment on headshots. However, don’t merely rely on your family to help you select the appropriate pose. Get the opinion of someone in the profession who really doesn’t know you or else who doesn’t have a vested interest in you. An impersonal unbiased opinion. Don’t believe the photographer. He’s looking at his work, not at your face.
Avoid wearing clothes that distract from your face. Leave the loud patterns and stripes at home. Opt instead for very dark or very light clothing with clean neck lines.
Update your headshot every five years or whenever you’ve undergone significant physical change, such as weight loss or gain.
My advice: Go and do thou likewise. Capture you.
Last of all, you may staple your cover letter to the front of your headshot, in the upper left hand corner. Be sure the staple does NOT cover important contact information on your resume.