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What To Wear For Acting Headshots

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Your actor headshot could set you up for the biggest gig of your life, or cast away in the pile with other rejected profiles. It is important to have great headshots with different looks. To achieve all of these different looks, you’ll need to know what to wear for acting headshots. Here are my recommendations on what to wear for acting headshots.

Actor Headshot taken by Warped Vision Photography Photographer Dominick Ray
Actor Headshot

The Goal of Acting Headshots

Ultimately the goal of auditioning is to get chosen for the role. Casting directors are scrolling through endless pages of headshots (considering that submissions are sent online). Want to know how to get chosen among the pile?

Ask yourself, which headshot pops out the most for you? Which headshot blends in?

Your headshots need to EXPLODE off of a page packed with actor headshot thumbnails. It's the photographer job to create the lighting and scene for you. As the actor, you have to bring the wardrobe and the personality. All four elements (lighting, composition, personality, and wardrobe) influence you getting booked. So how do we figure out what to wear for the actor headshots?

Research Characters For Clothing Inspiration

Actor Headshot taken by Warped Vision Photography Photographer Dominick Ray
Actor headshot

When going to an audition, you are trying to be booked for specific roles. How the casting director perceives you is crucial if you want to get to the next step. (i.e. M. Night Shyamalan found David Batista through a very short appearance during Blade Runner. He saw the character he wanted him to play for his recent movie.) The last thing you want to do is bring a bunch of clothing and ask "what should I wear for my actor headshots". As the actor, you should come in with a gameplay and ideas of characters you want to play as.

Audition Breakdowns

If you are able to view the criteria for a role before the role, research and find out the traits of the characters you want to play as. For example, sometimes there will be suggestions for how a character looks: Clean, rough background, cocky, funny, ect.

Google Image Search

Go to Google and search for characters. For instance, if I search: “Happy Teacher Headshot” and click the “Images” tab –we have a full page of inspiration here. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel here, you can also use pinterest as well.

Don’t Bring Your Entire Closet

I mentioned this earlier before, but I want to reiterate not to do this. If I see a client bring in a suitcase full of clothes, it shows me that they are not really prepared for this and didn't make good on their investment. Be specific, find that character you want to achieve. (If you're taking a general headshot for your acting portfolio, the same truths remain).

Character Clothing Examples

Here are some generic examples of what a character would typically wear. Feel free to use the exact set up, or be a bit liberal if you are feeling creative.

  • Girl next door – A sweater or conservative top. Light and fresh looking. Primary colors.

  • Lovable Nerd – Glasses (With the lenses popped out). Colorful tee shirt with a cardigan sweater. Colorful tee shirt and a hoody – Think “Big Bang Theory.”

  • Tough Street Look – Tee shirt and leather jacket.

  • Handsome Leading Man – Tee shirt or sweater with a brown leather jacket.

  • Detective – Suit jacket with a tie for men. Blouse and jacket for women.

  • Business – Blouse and jacket for women and suit jacket and tie for men.

  • Young Mom – Sweater or colorful tee with a layered shirt.

  • Young Dad – Sweater or colorful tee with a layered shirt.

Colors to Wear for Acting Headshots

At this point, you should have an idea on what to wear for your characters. Finding the right color choices is just as important when taking actor headshots. Avoid wearing patterns as they will be very distracting. Wearing a color that is complimentary to your eye color is a great way to make you pop out. (Wearing the same color as your eye color works as well) A general rule for colors.

  • Warm Tones – approachable

  • Cool Tones – distant

Remember, you want to create a headshot that will jump off the page as a thumbnail image. Colors are crazy helpful here.

Actor Headshot taken by Warped Vision Photography Photographer Dominick Ray
Actor Headshot

Other Suggestions For What to Wear for Acting Headshots

Wear Fitted Clothing

Avoid wearing baggy clothing. Wear clothes that fit nice and snug (not too tight) but enough where wrinkles won't fall down and look droopy.

Layer Up

Layers like jackets, scarves, vests, and sweaters are great additions to an outfit because they add texture and dimension. They’re subtle pieces that can add touches of your personality and style to your headshots. They can also drastically change the appearance of your character. You can easily get two or more character headshot looks by simply adding or removing a jacket.


If you usually wear glasses, you should wear them for some of your headshots. If your glasses have transition leses, bring another pair of glasses if possible. Transition lenses do not photograph well.


Especially for guys, V-neck shirts are very flattering. It reduces some wrinkling and bunching in the shirt, and it makes you appear to have a long neck which is considered more attractive.

Hair & Beards

Most men look great after having their haircut/and or styled. Avoid going the same day as your session. Sometimes irritation will be visible (not to mention left over hair clippings somewhere). If you have a beard, trim and or shape it. It's important to have a nice shaped beard as it will effect your jawline. If you have a clean jawline, avoid shaving the day of the session. For women, getting your hair and makeup done professionally right before the shoot is recommended. I personally refer make up artist for each session. If you choose to get your hair and makeup done on your own, be sure to tell your makeup artist that you are looking for a natural beat. Avoid getting a full glam (unless you are taking a beauty headshot) You want to still look like you, just the best possible version of you. If you prefer to do your own makeup, practice the look a few days in advance. Be sure to use an eye lash curler and some mascara. It will really open up your eyes and make your lashes look longer without the need for false lashes. The most important part is to make sure your face matches your neck in terms of skin tone.

Actor Headshot taken by Warped Vision Photography Photographer Dominick Ray
Actor headshot

Actor Headshot list of do nots.

No Costumes

It's great to create a character, but under no circumstance should your face be hidden.

No Patterns, Logos, Graphics, or Illustrations

They are extremely distracting. Avoid.

No Jewelry

Unless it's very specific to the character, you want to avoid, earrings and necklaces. If you have to ask, you shouldn't wear it.

No Sheer or See-Through Clothing

If you really love that piece of clothing, have something you can wear above it, even then I would avoid if possible.

No Wrinkles

Nothing looks more unprofessional than having a wrinkles top in your headshot session. Don't let this be the reason why you don't get the gig.

Wrap Up

I hope this guide was very helpful for you and it helps land you your next gig. If you are interested, you can book me for an actor headshot session here. If you have any suggestions for other tips and tricks, comment below! I’d love to share them with my headshot clients!

Dominick Ray - Warped Vision Photography

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