words Rafael Larin
Actors are always in need of a good headshot and part of achieving that goal is considering what to wear for headshots. Over the past couple of years, in collaboration with their chosen headshot photographer, actors have provided lots of tips provided by their agents or managers on what they should wear. This is a collection of some of the most common tips.
Use Bright Vivid and Simple Tops
It’s a headshot so, the top you choose will matter. The overwhelming tip actors bring in from their managers is to use bright vivid colors in a top. This tip makes sense. Many times, your headshot is one thumbnail being viewed amongst dozens of others on a computer screen. So, it needs every advantage to pop and compel a click.
A Simple Top Color and Background Color are Ideal to Help Keep the Focus on the Actor and Not What They are Wearing or What’s Around Them
So, most actors go for vivid colors in a top. But another tip is to not make it too busy of a top. Solid or mostly solid colors are best. This means usually avoiding plaids, busy stripes, large logos, and other busy patterns.
There is another consideration when going with a bright color. Do you want to create good contrast with your skin tone and hair color or with the background scene, or do you want to match your skin tone or background scene?
Most actors have opted for high contrast against the background and using a color that complements skin tone or eye color. However, there are occasions when matching the color of a top to the background can flood a photo with lots of one color. In a sea of thumbnails, this can create contrast against other thumbnails rather than within a single photo. So, contrast amongst other thumbnails is also something to consider, either as a primary or second headshot.
Match Your Outfit to Your Desired Character
Ultimately, actors also want to match the outfit they’re using to roles they want to be cast for. If you’re going for the girl or guy next door look, there’s a top for that. Same thing if you’re going for the detective look, a doctor look, and so on.
So, another common tip is to not get too specific with your top. For example, there are some rare cases where you might benefit from a headshot with a doctor’s coat and stethoscope. But usually a suit will also suffice and still make you appear open to other roles beyond a doctor.
As any actor that has had headshots done knows, bring several options from your wardrobe to the headshot session to capture all the looks you are after. Your photographer should understand using different light setups for different looks, such as between commercial and theatrical looks. It is ideal to match the lighting to the proper mood in the look.
Avoid Accessories in Acting Headshots
As mentioned, there might be some rare occasions when a casting is seeking a very specific look. But usually you’ll want headshots that are more universal, in other words with no props. So, another common tip from agents is to avoid using props and to minimize jewelry too.
Large earrings or necklaces can be a distraction in a headshot. Ultimately, remember that the purpose behind a good headshot is to center the attention on the actor and not what they’re wearing. You don’t want your jewelry to outshine you.
How Should You Wear Your Hair?
Most men have it simple about how to wear their hair and most agents have advised them to wear it as they normally do on any given day. In other words, wear it how you would to a casting. Sometimes there has been the occasional request that they get a slight haircut first. If you opt for a haircut, it’s often best to get it done at least a couple of days before your headshot session. This way, if you get a bad haircut you have time to let it grow out a bit or reschedule.
For women, agents have asked for multiple ways to wear their hair. Straight and simple is the first request and then another look with some curls added. In addition, there have been many requests for a ponytail or hair pulled back behind the ears. Often, this request is to cover a “mom” look.
Eliminate Wrinkles in Clothes
Another important tip is to be sure the outfit worn isn’t wrinkled. Excessive wrinkling in clothing is distracting. Worse, it can send a message that the person doesn’t really care about their appearance. So, when transporting clothes to a headshot session, take care that they do not get wrinkled along the way.
As with all things, there are likely scenarios that can be thought of when wrinkles might be desired but, in almost all cases, wrinkles should be eliminated. The same goes with excessive lint.
Getting good headshots is important and outside of styling your hair and makeup, outfit choices are the next important consideration for actor headshots. When an actor and their photographer can properly balance what is worn, the lighting, and background colors, a good headshot is much easier to be had.
Rafael Larin is a headshot photographer and, since 2016, operates the Headshots by The Light Committee studio in the Los Angeles area. He has provided headshots for actors now for many years. He graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in Journalism, and with honors. He also served in the California Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force.