The Makings of an Ideal Actor Headshot: Take it from a Top Casting Director

The Makings of an Ideal Actor Headshot: Take it from a Top Casting Director

In the acting world, your headshot is your first impression. Make yours unforgettable by following these key insights from top casting house, Pearson Casting.


There are so many forces that drive me as a professional photographer. As of late, I’ve really been reflecting on what those forces are. I’m grateful to work with people from so many different industries in Barcelona and around the world. However, no matter the industry, I’m passionate about helping my clients feel great about themselves and further their own careers.

Since I work with actors so frequently, I see how vital excellent actor headshots are firsthand. I know that they’re an integral part of actors achieving their dreams, and I’m grateful I get to be a part of that journey.

This is what motivated me to interview Pearson Casting. I want to help actors get the best headshots possible, so I went directly to the source. Pearson Casting is an award-winning casting house based in the United Kingdom run by James & Rosie Pearson. They have 35 years of combined experience in the performance industry and were kind of enough to agree to an interview with me.

I’m really excited about the insights I collected from the interview, which you can check out below.

A professional headshot of actor Eivaut Rischen

A professional headshot of actor Eivaut Rischen

What really makes an actor headshot stand out

“We want it to look like you – the photos you like the best may not be the best likeness of you.”

According to Rosie Pearson, don’t overlook the basics. Make sure your headshot is super clear, high-quality and well-composed. This is one of the reasons why you should absolutely get your actor headshots done by a professional photographer with good references.

Oh, and another thing, make sure that your headshot looks like you. It can be tempting to choose your most flattering photo, but it’s a much smarter choice to go with a headshot that showcases your true likeness.

That’s what casting directors want to see.

A portrait of actor Julian Paschal

Make sure your headshot shows your true likeness.

Actor headshot mistakes that casting directors hate

“Don’t go for a glamorous photo that doesn’t look like you when you walk in the room.”

Most importantly, keep it natural and don’t alter your appearance too much. Your true skin tone should be obvious and none of your features should be overly exaggerated by makeup or lighting.

Casting directors don’t want any surprises when you walk into the room!

A professional studio headshot of actress Sarah Perriez

It’s essential that your appearance isn’t altered too much, by makeup or lighting

The importance of up-to-date actor headshots

“Remember that whatever you look like, there’s a casting out there for you. Don’t try and look like someone you’re not.”

This was one of the insights that Rosie Pearson emphasized the most in our interview… up-to-date headshots are essential.

It’s understandable. Casting directors put tons of time and effort into sifting through actor headshots. When they choose yours, they need to be sure that it’s an accurate reflection of your current look.

Even though headshots are an expense, they’re a necessary expense.

Here are some examples of situations where you might need to get new headshots according to Pearson Casting:

  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Change in hair style or colour
  • New or differently styled (permanent) facial hair 
  • Natural aging (even just a couple years)
A portrait of English actor Joe Bentley

It’s essential to update your headshot when you change your look


A headshot of actor Joe Bentley

New facial hair? Time for an updated headshot

Actor headshot variety & styling

Pearson Casting recommends using the same headshot across all acting disciplines. An important exception to this is if you dance or have other special performance abilities that you need to showcase.

Wardrobe isn’t a huge concern for casting directors, but once again, keep it simple. Stick to plain colours, avoid patterns and distracting accessories.

When in doubt, consult your headshot photographer! They’ll be able to make wardrobe recommendations for your headshot, taking into account your hair colour, eye colour and skin tone, as well as the style you have in mind.

A headshot of actress Fernanda Valencia

Keeping styling simple helps the casting director focus on you

To read our advice on what to wear for your actor headshots, click here. 

Final image selection fundamentals

After your actor’s headshot session, your photographer will typically send you a selection of the best photos from your photoshoot. It’s your job to select your top picks for retouching, which will soon become your new headshots to show the world.

When asked about this, Rosie Pearson recommended consulting a person who’s brutally honest. Now is not the time to talk to a friend or family member who will say you look great in every photo. Find someone who will help you figure out which headshot is both flattering and truly represents you.

Having said that, don’t take on the task of choosing your headshot by yourself. It can be an overwhelming process, so it’s a good idea to get an external opinion or two.

Retratos Barcelona actors Annika Sirel

Choose a headshot which is flattering, yet truly represents you

At Retratos Barcelona, we provide you with a personal Selection Gallery of your headshots after your shoot. This makes it easy to share your gallery and gather second (and third) opinions. You can also use simple tools, like creating a favourites list, to help you make your final selection.

How to go about finding the right headshot photographer

“Find a photographer you trust.”

According to Rosie Pearson, one of the best ways to find the right headshot photographer for you is word of mouth. Talk to colleagues and other people in the industry in order to find someone with good references and a style that aligns with yours.

There’s no need to spend a fortune on actor headshots, but they shouldn’t be done on the cheap either. A professional photographer will have the experience and commitment necessary to help you get the final result you want.

A headshot of Spanish actor Enrique Bofill

An experienced actor headshot will be able to guide you through the session to get your best performance.

Get that perfect actor headshot

I hope these valuable insights from Pearson Casting help make your next actor headshot your best one yet. All in all, it seems like the most important thing to keep in mind is showcasing your authentic self in your headshots. There’s something truly exciting about seeing an actor’s authentic personality and look come through just by glancing at their photo.

If you have any questions about actor headshots or are looking for a professional actor headshot photographer in Barcelona, click here and I’d be happy to chat.