Headshots: What Is A Headshot Photo & Why Do I Need One?

23rd March 2021

Headshots: What Is A Headshot Photo & Why Do I Need One?


Have you ever scrolled through someone’s profile on Bumble or Facebook and thought, this person really isn’t doing themselves any favours with that lighting or posture? Have you ever actively avoided people you didn’t know online based on an unfortunate photo of them taking sambuca shots from their mate’s bellybutton? Fair enough! Because these examples of headshots demonstrate the importance of personal branding and the real-world impact poor branding can have. 


While you may not always have access (or need) for a professional headshot for your Twitter handle. A beautifully proportioned, well defined, and natural looking headshot picture can equally be a game changer in your professional environment.

Just as some people won’t give a second thought to an applicant with a sloppy portfolio, other employers will based on your headshot (combined with a wider portfolio of experience) give you that call-back where you can shine. Don’t let a bad headshot limit your opportunities as an actor, model or corporate professional. Look at the part!

This article will explain what a headshot is, our tips and tricks for taking one yourself, how you can get a professional headshot taken and whether it’s worth it. Strike a pose and let’s go!

What Are Headshots?


A headshot is a realistic portrait photograph of a person for personal branding or casting. Professional headshot photography is how you present your face (professionally) to the world. 

Photographers who know how to take a good headshot will prioritise capturing your personality on camera over excessive photoshopping. Actor headshots are a crucial part of any performer’s portfolio. 

Composition and definition are important too, but if you’re bubbly, energetic, and extroverted, you’ll probably want your headshot to convey that. 

Of course, corporate headshots are a little different. You may seek to convey a more focused and professional look as a representative for your firm’s branding. Either way, headshots are important because (whether you use them for auditions or your LinkedIn profile) they are the first impression employers have of you.

How To Take A Headshot


If your budget can’t quite stretch to a professional headshot or you’re in some form of lockdown whilst seeking employment, don’t sweat it! Our phone cameras now are incredibly high quality. Whether it’s an iPhone or a Samsung you don’t need the latest model for some seriously good headshots. 

However, you will need a small investment in a little home setup. Let’s dive into some tips for how to take a headshot yourself.

Lighting Is Key

Buy a high-quality LED light bulb and look for a CRI above 90 (colour rendering index). It will illuminate colours more accurately meaning your clothes, hair and skin will look better and less washed out/saturated. 

It’ll likely set you back £15, maybe £20 in total with a clamp light but you’ll reap the benefits of that. 

Clip some baking parchment over your light to diffuse the shadows so they’re not so harsh. 

Download A RAW Camera App

A RAW camera app will give you more manual controls than any built-in app on your phone. 

Additionally, it gives you huge editing capacity on your photos once you’ve taken them. 

These often cost about £3 – super cheap and super effective!

Create The Right Environment

Ideally. choose a room where you can black out available light. Preferably use dark walls or fabric but if not with any materials that aren’t reflective.

Set up your light (with or without clamp) on a high table, stool or attached to a coat rack. 

Crucially, put your camera directly opposite your subject and your light at a 45degree angle above and to the side of your subject 

Ask a friend to cover your (parchment covered) light with a white t-shirt/sheet. This helps diffuse the light and reduce those harsh shadows even more.

Frame Up The Photo

Again, a friend is great for helping ensure you are fully in frame but if not, you can use any smartphone’s voice activation to set up a shortcut to fire the shutter speed on your command! Technology eh?

Edit Your Photo

Now, if you’ve captured a RAW file you might feel the photo is a little flat. Time to edit. 

Download an app such as Darkroom. This will allow you to edit these photos (your normal editing board won’t work with RAW). 

Edit away! You can heavily adjust highlights, shadows, brilliance, highlights and exposure with RAW and Darkroom so you look studio lit and professional!

How To Take A Professional Headshot

headshot of man

How much to charge for headshot photos will depend on the location, competition, and quality of the photographer you’re looking for. 

You can expect to be paying anything from £150 to £500 for professional acting or corporate headshots in the UK. This includes an hour of shooting time and post-shoot edits costing an average of £260. 

Retouching existing headshots can cost as much as the shoot itself so usually it’s worth a fresh professional shoot that comes with a basic retouch – it should be just as good.

You can get cheaper prices (~£50) from a student or part-time photographer but their technique and professionalism may not be quite there. Customer service, training and experience will (or should) be best with a professional headshot photographer who has a specialist in your desired form of headshot (actor, corporate or model headshot). If you have the budget, this will almost always produce better results. 

When it comes to clothing choices, visualise the crop and ask yourself: is this neckline distracting or cluttering the frame? Don’t pick a vest top that will be entirely cut off with the crop. Professional photographers will often ask you to bring more clothes than will be required for the shoot and to bring contrasting clothing. This means lights and darks.

 Darks (including dark colours like mauve or navy) are non-distracting, bring the focus to your face and eyes and hint at drama and maturity. Meanwhile, lights indicate a contemporary and youthful look. 

You can subtly accentuate hair colour, skin colour and face shape with the clothing colour and style. It’s a good idea to bring a top that matches your eye colour to help bring them out. You can accentuate a jawline or chiselled cheekbones with a V-neck and soften them with a round neck. Think about what colours suit your complexion and follow your instincts.

Now You Know Everything About Headshots


We’ve covered the basics to the technical aspects of home setup for a headshot. You should be feeling more confident with the type of headshot that is right for you and appreciate just how valuable they can be. 

Professional headshots for performers are real game changers and demonstrate dedication to and appreciation of personal branding.

Hopefully this article gave you food for thought and levels up your headshot game!

We hope that you found this guide helpful! Whilst you’re here, why not check out some more of our articles on our blog? We recommend The Ultimate Guide On How To Learn Lines and How To Audition For A Movie to get you started!  

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