May 16, 2023

MRLA Media's Guide to Actor Headshots in Los Angeles

Actor headshots are a must for all aspiring and professional actors - it is your ticket to getting noticed by a casting director. No matter how talented you are or how many acting projects you were already a part of unless your headshot catches the eye of the person in charge of casting, you are unlikely to be selected for any new roles.

MRLA Media's Guide to Actor Headshots in Los Angeles

And since headshots are the key to building your acting career, you need to ensure it captures you in the best way possible. So, if you are a Los Angeles actor looking to get your headshots clicked, this guide will ensure you do it the right way. Read on to learn all about acting headshots and how you can make them stand apart.

What Is An Acting Headshot And Why Do You Need It?

Actor headshots are basically cropped photographs of individuals that are used to present their facial features accurately. Usually taken from the shoulder upwards, the focus of these photographs is on the face of the individual.

For a professional actor, it is the most important marketing tool within the industry. Every time you are interested in a role, you would first forward your resume and headshot to the casting director, who will then decide on your suitability for the role depending on the attached photograph. So, even if you have the necessary talent, unless you have a good headshot, you are unlikely to be called for the audition. And if the director doesn't find your profile suitable for a current role, having an appealing headshot often ensures that they keep you in mind for future roles.

Since your headshot is what represents you in the professional world, you would need one for submitting to agents, managers, casting, and as well as for establishing your brand. Actors often choose to use their headshots as their profile image on social media to increase their chances of being noticed by casting directors.

How To Format Your Headshot?

When it comes to acting headshots, it's important to stick to industry standards. You need to be well aware of the current industry standards in your country and ensure your headshot photograph matches with them. While being creative usually does make you stand out in many cases, this isn't one of those. If your headshot photograph is different from what the casting directors expect, they probably won't even spare a second glance at it. To avoid this, here are some formatting guidelines you can follow.

●       Size: The standard size for actor headshots is 8 x 10 inches, so make sure your prints are of the same dimensions. Never submit a smaller or bigger headshot photograph to an agent or casting director.

●       Color: Black and white headshot photography are quite outdated - most casting directors prefer colored photographs as it looks more natural. So, unless specifically mentioned, you should always attach a colored photograph with your resume.

●       Layout: When it comes to layout, you do get some flexibility. You can choose a portrait or landscape layout for your photograph, depending on your personal preference. But, as most people choose to go for the portrait layout, casting directors are also more accustomed to it.

Also, it's a good idea to have your name printed on the photograph. You can use any font you like as long as it is clear and easily readable. Apart from prints, you also need to keep some digital versions of your headshots that you can easily forward online. Make sure that the photographs have a high resolution so that there is enough detail, even when viewed as a thumbnail. You don't need to mention your name on the digital photograph.

What's The Right Way To Send Your Headshot To Casting Directors Or Agents?

In the digital world now, many casting directors now accept online digital headshots through Actors Access, Casting Networks, etc. Many agents and managers also accept headshot submissions through email for consideration. It is fine to seek the contact information of agents and managers and cold submit using your digital headshot and resume. However, some agencies and managers still prefer old school style of submission.

Old School Style Submission

Usually, professional actors attach their headshots to their resumes before forwarding them to agents or casting directors for consideration. For that, you need to print your resumes on a similar 8 x 10 inches paper and attach your headshot to it. Staple your headshot on the back of your resume - all four corners of the photograph should be pinned to it.

Alternatively, you can get your resume printed on the back side of the photograph. But this isn't the best practice, as you won't be able to update your resume without reprinting your headshots.

How Do You Take A Good Headshot?

The main motive behind providing a headshot is to give the casting director an accurate sense of your looks and your personality. Therefore, a good acting headshot is one that is closest to how you actually look in real life. This enables casting directors to determine the type of characters you will be most suitable for so that you get a chance to audition for the right roles.

So, the goal here is not to look your best but to look the most natural. Try avoiding any accessories that may take away the attention from your face. The same is true for your makeup and hairdo -  keep the look as clean and fresh as possible. You see, this isn't a photo for a modeling assignment where you need to look flawless. Minor imperfection on your face won't be an issue here; instead, it will only make you seem more real.

The headshot you finalize should match how you look in real life. This is important because if a casting director shortlists you for an audition based on your resume and headshot and later finds that you look starkly different, they may feel deceived. And this may very well mean that you will lose that acting project.

How To Find The Right Headshot Photographer?

Let's start with why you need a professional headshot photographer. You see, casting directors go through numerous headshots and actor profiles on a daily basis. So they can identify if a headshot is of low quality with just a glance. And while you may think it doesn't make much of a difference, it can actually make it seem like you are not serious enough about your profession.

And this is a major reason why most budding and experienced actors turn to a professional headshot photographer for their headshots. But how do you choose the right photographer? Well, for starters, you can ask for referrals among your friends in the acting industry. Do a bit of research on the recommended photographers to check whether you like their portfolio.

Once you have shortlisted a few, you can opt for a consultation to understand whether they fit your requirements or not. Ask relevant questions regarding their past work, rates, method of work, etc. Book a session only when you are satisfied with the photographer you have chosen.

A Few Tips To Get The Perfect Headshot

Getting the perfect headshot isn't always easy, especially if you are an aspiring actor with no clue as to how these work. Here are a few tips that would assist you in getting the perfect headshot you are looking for.

Clothing And Accessories

The first rule when it comes to taking a good headshot is to ensure the focus stays on your face. Therefore, it's best to avoid any distracting clothes or jewelry that may grab the viewer's attention. Stick to simple clothes in plain, solid colors. Avoid clothing that is too colorful or has distracting patterns that stand out too much. As for accessories, it's best if you avoid them altogether. But even if you wear one to match the role you are applying for, go for smaller and simpler ones.


While applying makeup isn't absolutely necessary when taking acting headshots, you can apply some light makeup to cover up the imperfections on your face. Just aim for a natural look without going too hard on covering up all the flaws. And even if you choose to go without makeup, applying some powder can help avoid shine on your face from the lighting.


A good headshot is one which has a simple and non-distracting background. The background should be such that it doesn't steal attention away from your face. Headshots can be taken in both indoor and outdoor settings. Lighter backgrounds are the best, as it makes you stand out easily. Professional headshot photographers usually are familiar with suitable locations for headshots, so make sure to discuss with them prior to your session.


Posing matters when it comes to actor headshots - the slightest tension on your face won't go unnoticed by a casting director. Make sure to have a strong posture with a relaxed expression on your face. The way you pose should bring out the qualities you wish to portray - a mischievous smile, a confident glance, and so on. The pose shouldn't look unnatural or forced, as this will only result in rejection.

How Much Do Professional Headshots Cost?

The cost of a professional headshot session usually varies according to the photographer you choose. Usually, the charges start around $400, and may go up depending on the duration of the session and the number of looks you want.

Professional headshot photographers usually offer packages that include a fixed session duration and number of looks. In case you want to extend the duration or want to include more looks, you will need to pay extra. Some photographers also offer additional services like retouching, editing, or printing for a fee. So, it's best to discuss the costs with the photographer in detail before you pay the advance. And as they are professionals, you can even ask them for recommendations on hair stylists or makeup artists who can help you create a natural look.

So, while you don't need to empty your pockets for your acting headshots, make sure you don't compromise on quality to save on costs. Your headshot is what represents you in the professional world, so it shouldn't look cheap.

Should You Retouch Your Headshots?

Headshots should look natural, so sticking to some light retouching is best. Professional photographers can help you get rid of minor distractions as well as highlight your best features with their retouching skills.

Avoid retouching to the extent that it renders you unrecognizable - balance is key here. The texture of skin is lost when you over-retouch a headshot - and this won't give a fair idea to the casting director of your looks. As a result, they may hesitate to call you for an audition, and you may miss out on the role.

When Do You Need To Update Your Headshots?

Let's say you get some headshots clicked by a professional photographer. How do you know when you need to replace them with new, updated ones? Usually, it's enough to get new headshots clicked after a year or two to ensure the photographs don't look too different from the real person.

But it's also essential to get new headshots clicked every time you make any drastic changes to your appearance. For example, if your headshots were taken when you had long hair and you have suddenly decided to sport a pixie cut, it's time to update your headshot too. You don't want a director to call you for an audition only to be rejected on the spot, as they want someone with long hair, after all!

Summing Up

So, if you are a professional actor, we hope that this guide will help you in taking a good headshot that can catch the eye of a casting director. While your look, expression, and posing is important for the perfect headshot, so is the expertise of the photographer. A good headshot photographer can easily bring out your best features by choosing the right angle for the shot.

If you are looking for a capable Los Angeles photographer for capturing actor headshots, MRLA Photography is among the best you can get. We are the right people for the job if you want high quality at a competitive price. Check out our portfolio here.

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Meet Johnny La, Your SEO & Digital Marketing NERD

MRLA Media SEO & Digital Marketing is an expert marketing agency in Los Angeles. Our founder, Johnny La, has been in the digital marketing industry for over 2 decades. His passion for digital marketing began in the late 90s when he designed his first website for his computer science teacher. Johnny moved to Los Angeles in 2014, where he fell in love with what the incredible city has to offer. Since then, he has worked with numerous clients in various industries, helping them grow their businesses through effective digital marketing strategies.​ Johnny is also a SAG-AFTRA actor, and has been in film & television, interviewed in the press, spoken on multiple podcasts, and is an active influencer in the city of Los Angeles.

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