What is a Headshot?

With so many people needing headshots, especially actors, I thought it would be a great idea to explain what exactly they are, and are not.

When you think of headshots, you generally think of actors. Fair enough. All actors need headshots. But they are not just for actors. They could be used for your business profile too if you are writer. Think Linkedin for example, your about page.

One of the most important tools for an actor is going to be their headshot. A headshot should be a clear representation of who you are. Tough and rugged or cute and girl-next-door: your headshot should be you. You are not playing a role in the headshot. The headshot should say. “This is me.”

Jessica, actor.

In the past, in the dark ages before digital, all headshots were shot on film, black and white and in portrait (vertical) orientation. How times have changed! Now, you are likely to see the opposite: Landscape (horizontal) orientation and in colour. And it makes sense: televisions are becoming wider, less of a ‘box’. Headshots have become more cinematic. Casting directors can see how they look on screen in a horizontal orientation. I have heard some people talk of a resistance to this trend too. Some like the ‘traditional’ look.

Jessica, actor.

So which is better? Well, that comes down to personal preference. I know, that is not the answer you were looking for. Landscape seems certainly seems be very popular. Personally, at least for now, I prefer portrait orientation.

So what is a headshot? Pretty much what the name suggests- a shot of a person’s head. Tightly cropped. Eyes front and centre. Head on! Smiling or not. Bold and in your face.

A three-quarter shot is just not going to cut it. They are more for corporate and real estate shots. But that is just my opinion. Older headshots were more three-quarter, but not so now.

Jude, actor and model.

Studio or outdoor, on location? Again a matter of taste. Sometimes a simple location can add to the shot. But it cannot dominate. It really should be out of focus, otherwise it will be distracting.

Simple white or grey backgrounds work best. At least that is what I feel. Keep it simple is a good mantra. Looking for something more advanced, flashier, creative- that’s a portrait.

If you are looking to get a headshot, and are in Sydney, I may be your person. Get in touch.

5 thoughts on “What is a Headshot?

  1. Hi Don, wondering what is the composition or the exposure used in the above-pictured shots? I assume they are aperture priority. In your view is a portrait/head shot best clicked in portrait mode (vertical)?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, I was using 1/125 @ f 4.5 for most of these. Although lately I have been more @ f 5.6 or f8 just to get more sharpness. I think I like ‘traditional’ vertical composition for portraits. Thanks for commenting! Best wishes, Don

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like both portrait and landscape orientation, but in this particular post, I like the portraits. Lovely softness and lighting. f4.5 seems to be just right to draw your eye into the subject’s eyes and face. Surely the most important in a ‘headshot’ for an actor’s folio.

    (BTW I like f4.5 for food photography too).

    Note: my new iMac desktop & Mojave software update won’t allow me to press the LIKE button on your site. I have the same prob. with a couple of other WordPress blogs. Must be something to do with the template used? I’ve read of other people having the same issue. It’s just the first time I’ve experienced it myself and I don’t know why.


  3. Thanks for the feedback Vicky. I think I like…ahh! I like both! Thanks 4.5 is sometimes just right.

    Sorry you couldn’t ‘like’ the post. How odd? Can I ask which browser you are using?

    Thanks for commenting and best wishes, Don


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