A young actor looks into camera as he prepares for his headshot to be taken

It’s a fact of the industry. That every couple of years, as your face changes, you’re going to need new headshots. You find yourself in new, unexplored casting brackets. Where once you were the soppy romantic character, now you’re the wizened villain, and you’ll want your headshots to reflect this.

Headshots are the most important tool an actor needs in their arsenal of taking on the industry. These photos can be your gateway into having a conversation with an agent who wants to represent you, and can provide directors and casting directors with a clear idea of who you are, what you look like, and who you could realistically play. Yet the process of getting them done can seem extremely nerve-racking.

I have recently had my new headshots done, and looking back, realised how much time I’d spent in panic at the idea of looking at my own face! Its ok to be a little self-conscious at looking at yourself, but there are loads of things you can do before, and on the day in order to get the most out of your headshot session. These are the questions you could be asking yourself…

What’s my castability?

I’ve started off with the toughest question, that also has the most generic answer. As we’ve established, your castability is something that is always changing, and as actors, we should be ready to portray hundreds of different individuals in their own unique situations. However, I’m afraid to say that the way you look plays an even greater part. A great thing to do is to choose some of your favourite tv shows and think about what character you would have been cast as. Would you be playing the antagonist? The lead? The comedic character? Doing this means you can go to your photographer with some clear ideas on what auditions you’ll be going up for.

What do I wear?

So, you’ve got an idea of what your castability is, but how do we show this in a photo? You don’t want to be turning up in full Game of Thrones get-up, so go for subtlety. You want to wear something that doesn’t draw the eye away from you yet adds to the portrait as a whole. For each different ‘character’ or castability bracket you’re trying to cover, wear something that just makes it easier for the casting director to see you in that particular role.

Think also about what colours suit you. Your complexion, hair colour and a whole host of other things can affect what colours really work on you. Combine this with a subtle choice of clothing, and you’ll have photos that not only look good but will get you work.

What do I do with myself?

Having that camera poked in your face can make you freeze up, so it’s important to stay loose and have fun on your shoot! The photographer will usually position you to where they want you to stand and will tell you where to look. Don’t tense up, as the lack of life will show in the photo. Feel free to blink, move your head or smile a little, as it offers some slight variations in the look. The eyes are one of the most important things to show off. Having active, open eyes that are conveying the essence of the character make the photos much more pleasing to look at and, once again, add life to the photo. Dead glazed over eyes can’t be made to look alive, even with the technological wizardry of Photoshop.

Who do I go with?

Possibly the most important question, as each photographer will have a different style and a different vision of how to shoot you. Some have had decades worth of experience, and others are exciting new photographers just on the scene. The most important thing is that you think you can collaborate and get on with this person, as that will make the process so much easier. It also helps if you like the photos!

Below is a selection of some Liverpool & London based photographers who are all brilliant and unique in their own way….

L1 Photography

Danny Burns has been an actor for over 15 years and in the 4-years he’s been a headshot photographer he’s photographed some of Liverpool’s most famous faces. With his outdoor and studio shoots ranging from £140 – £200, he is great value for money; especially since it’s a 2-hour shoot.

Brian Roberts Images

Another staple of the Liverpool photography scene, Brian Roberts shoots with not only some of Liverpool’s most famous faces but also works regularly with theatres such as the Liverpool Everyman. Being quite flexible with times and locations, Brian is a great choice for up-and-coming actors.

Ori Jones Photography

Ori Jones has made a name for herself for her fresh and interesting headshots. Based in London and an actor herself, Ori works collaboratively so you both work towards a beautiful finished image. A 90-minute session allows for some distinct clothing changes, 4 retouched photos and will only set you back £270.

John Hollingsworth

John has worked as a director for 15 years and has had many of his photographs exhibited in London, Dubai and has even won the Guardian Photographic prize. Mainly based in the North West, yet with sessions available in London, John is very flexible with his shoots, with prices ranging from £75-£150 depending on the length of the shoot.

Jennie Scott Photography

With years of experience as an actor, director, producer, agent, casting director and tutor, Jennie Scott is a well-known name in the London headshot scene. Her 2-hour session costs £280 and includes 3 beautifully refinished photos. In seeing the shoot as an ‘informal rehearsal session’ she puts you at ease and does away with the stress of headshots.

Michael Wharely Photography

The Chairman of the Association of Professional Headshot Photographers, Michael knows what he is talking about. Photographer for the National Theatre and also for various blockbuster films, he works in London as a photographer and writer for his ‘Take control of your headshot’ web series. His 2-hour shoot gets you three retouched photos in a mixture of studio, outdoor, mixed shots and costs £350.

Nick James Photography

My last headshot session was with Nick, and I can’t recommend him enough. Nick’s been a photographer for over 10 years and has photographed some of the biggest names in the country, with his friendly and informal process producing some great work. Although expensive, starting at £400, you get 3 retouched photos and a 3.5-hour shoot, which is particularly useful if you’re really nervous or want to get some different looks in.

Elliott Reeves Giblin
Elliott is Liverpool/London based actor and director. A graduate of the Liverpool Everyman actors course, he has been a professional actor for a number of years, performing all around the country and even at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. When not acting he helps dozens of applicants gain places at the countries most prestigious drama schools, as a one-on-one monologue coach. His other hobbies include writing and playing the guitar.