Model Headshots vs. Actor Headshots

Learn about the kind of headshot needed for a modeling portfolio and how it differs from an actor headshot from Trudi Tapscott in this Howcast video.

Hi, I’m Trudi Tapscott, and every model needs a good head shot. It’s the beginning. It’s the first thing that clients see in your book usually. It’s the first thing that clients see in your composite card. A good head shot, you want something that’s striking, that’s going to get someone’s attention.

A head shot for an actor is completely different than a head shot for a model because actors, they might be a character actor where they only do one thing. They might be the guy who just does Santa Claus, and that’s his head shot. That’s what he does. He sells that. It might be the kid who’s the freckle-faced red head who, always has a hat on or whatever it is. So characters and actors, their head shots are different.

Model head shots can be many different things for whatever type of girl you happen to be. In order to get a good one, I think that it’s not about being the prettiest. It’s not about having the best smile at the moment.

It’s really about mood, lighting, and connection. You know, a lot of times people smile in a picture but their eyes aren’t smiling. That sort of connection, it’s sort of a moment that a photographer catches where a model actually has something going on in her eyes. There’s something that is intriguing whether it’s sexy, whether it’s alluring, whether it’s intelligence. Whatever it is, there’s something going on in that picture that makes you want to look at more pictures.

You want to be able to go from that head shot that’s on a composite card to be able to say, "She looks really interesting, I’d like to see more, I want to see more." The more times people say they want to see more, the better off that is for you. Because if they see more and they like it, then chances are you’re going to get booked. You’re never going to get booked off one head shot, but you are going to get people’s interest off one head shot.

It can be smiling. It can be not smiling. It can be moody. It just has to be the best of you at that particular time and what sells you. Because it really does define the type of client that’s going to be interested in you. I think that’s really important.

Not all photographers are good at getting head shots. Not all photographers are good at getting a model to relax and getting a good head shot. It’s very specific. You’re using nothing else except your face.

I think that model head shots, fashion model head shots specifically, are usually not just tight like an actor head shot. It usually could be from waist up or from bustline up. They could have their hair pulled back. They can have their hair down. There’s a lot of variety within that. But, you really are focused on your neck, the movement of your head, which way you tilt your head, and how you look. Whether it’s a knowing smile, it has to be something special in that moment that’s captured on film.

It seems like it’s easy, but it’s really not that easy. I am a big believer that models should practice. Practice in front of the mirror. Do goofy stuff. Take selfies. Have friends take pictures of you. Do whatever it takes to get more comfortable with having your picture taken. Because it seems like it’s easy, but sometimes it’s really not so easy to have somebody completely focused, close-up, on you. You might not be saying anything verbally but you’re definitely saying something.

Sometimes it just happens like magic and you get lucky, and sometimes you have to work at it. So in order to work at it and get comfortable, you have to practice.