Headshots: How to Pick the Best Photos

Michael J. Fox headshots for actors


Headshots for Actors Can Be Tricky


The first thing to know about casting directors’ opinions of your actor headshots: 

They don’t trust your photo.


After years of staring at photos as a casting director, and then calling actors in to audition based on their look and enticing resume, I learned again and again that the actor who walked into the audition room was NOT the person represented in the photo. I often would feel totally duped.

So how can you pick the best headshots for your purposes of getting in the audition room and hired?


Start here: Let go of trying to look perfect in your headshots.

Don’t just pick the photo that you look so perfect in. Go beyond just picking your best “avatar” photo of your real self. Instead, pick a photo that captures the “truest” you who will actually walk into the audition room.

Yes, you want your photo to be current. Yes, you want it to match your current hair style or weight, if possible. Yes, these are factors in your selection. You want to capture the new and improved you, always.  But, those external things change frequently.

My tip is going for the next level: I like to encourage actors to dig deeper with the goal of your headshot.


Get to the heart of what you want your headshot to inspire in the viewer.

Think like the casting director, agent/manager, director. Try to understand what will speak to them for each particular project or the level of work that you want to be doing.

Headshots are meant to lure people to you—it’s the law of attraction!


Think of your photos as attracting to you the kind of work you want to be doing.

If you have a casual, unprofessional photo (yearbook photo mugshot) then that is the type of amateur work you will likely attract to you! Sorry, but that sends a signal of “non-professional,” right? If you want to be on a TV show, then your picture should ideally evoke the idea of a person who has their stuff together and gave some real care to getting amazing photos.


Look like a professional and you will be treated like one.

Have you heard the phrase, fake it til you make it? Sure. Why not. Fake you are a high-level professional…until everyone else catches up with you and realizes that too. 🙂 They will! Just help them see it. Literally. Visually. Help them see it.


Select photos that reflect exactly how you want to be cast.

Do you want to be doing indie film drama, studio film comedy, TV sitcom, TV drama, TV crime procedural, theater, musicals, commercials?  What is the genre that you are most inspired by and want to attract to you?


Be specific. And get specific results.

Again, the goal is to hone in on the area of work that you are seeking to attract to you. And the only person who really really knows this is you.


You can take the lead on how you are cast by the photos that you take and select.

Below are some simple steps to help you narrow down from the hundreds of amazing options your photographer may send your way! 


EXERCISE: How to pick the best headshots for actors


Follow these steps to reflect on your career vision. 

  1. Make a list of your types.
  2. Narrow down to your top 3-5 types. (Pick your top targets for today, e.g., Crime Show Detective, Quirky Best Friend, Sexy Dangerous Action Star, Blue Collar Worker, etc.)
  3. Review your photos and categorize your favorite photos into any one of the type categories. (You’ll think, “Okay, the photos that reflect “Crime Show Detective” are photos #14, 39, 112. The photos that reflect “Blue Collar Worker” are photos #4, 39, 134.” So on and so forth.)
  4. Identify the photos that hit several categories. (For example, photo #39 is both “Blue Collar Worker” and “Crime Show Detective.”)
  5. Review the photos that seem to hit the most categories and see if they feel good to you when they stand alone.
  6. Narrow those down to your top 3 photos.
  7. Share your top picks and ask others to tell you what types of roles that you could see people auditioning you for, based on that photo.


Important Note Regarding Your Team

Agents and managers will of course have their own ideas of how to market you. They might have specific (maybe different) opinions about headshots for actors. We love them for their wisdom and current industry knowledge, but I encourage you to do these steps in selecting according to your goals by yourself first. Then, bring to them a clear plan:

“These are the types of roles I would like to be submitted for because I can rock those auditions and make you money…and here are my favorite photos that I think will go with those types!”


Inspire them to follow your lead!


Still Stuck Narrowing Down Your Pics?


Still stuck selecting your pics after a photo shoot?

Ask for help. Be careful about who you ask. Be sure to tell them your type goals before you ask which photos they think generally “look good.” That might be a very different answer than what kind of roles you should be booking.


Still can’t decide on a photo? Then, I would challenge you and suggest that you might be unclear about your type and where you fit in within the current industry. If you are still struggling on finding your type, do a personal survey with colleagues and friends and ask them which types of roles they imagine you playing. Include your agent or manager in this survey, of course!


My first assignment for all of my classes includes this step in the process. It is so crucial to understand how you occur to others.  This will really help guide you to your type. Then, you should be able to go back again to the photos and make much more clear choices, based really specifically on what kinds of roles you want to be hired for.


I can’t wait to see your captivating photos that match the person who walks in the room and inspires everyone to cast you!


More Headshot Tips:


  1. Wilemina Olivia-Garcia says


    Loved reading this “about you,” page!!! As I read it, I could see you, the real no holds barred you!!!

    Love you Gurl!!!

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