Headshot photography has come an incredibly long way in the past decade or two.
For the longest time, a headshot for an actor or actress was a simple point & shoot photograph of their head & shoulders with a solid black or white background. As long as the subject was in focus, all was well. A bit like a school photograph but for the working or aspiring actor.
Today, the core technical fundamentals do admittedly remain the same - the subject does indeed need to be in focus, or at least their eyes certainly do unless you're going for something that's really out there, while the background mustn't distract from the main star of the image - the actor or actress in question.
However, what has changed is the artistic license you & the headshot photographer has when it comes to creating a headshot with personality & a story.
An Actor's Headshot Must Portray Individuality
It's now so important for a headshot to portray not just the physical appearance of an actor or actress but also their individuality & a strong hint of the talent they can offer.
A casting agent or acting agency are sifting through hundreds if not thousands of actors headshots every single week. Being attractive isn't enough to grip their attention. They are looking for that little something magical. Something that sets you apart as an actor & makes the viewer believe that yes, this could well be the right person for the role.
This can absolutely be achieved with a headshot & you can most certainly make the viewer feel as though they simply have to meet you to find out if their intuition was right.
All through a headshot photograph.
How can you portray acting talent through an image?
A key question & an obvious one to ask but it can be done. The same way you display emotion for a video recording, you can portray much the same for an image still.
In fact, with so many emotions & depths to your acting skills that you'll want to display, you'll likely want an entire series of headshots so that you can submit the most suitable one for each casting.
They no longer need to necessarily remain just a head & shoulders shot, either, as the boundaries can be pushed with more creativity - though this may depend on the nature of the casting you're submitting your "headshots" to.
Headshots Blend with Portraiture
A headshot is sort of like today's digital handshake.
For this reason, they have become more of a portraiture shot. The location no longer needs to remain within the walls of an artificially lit studio. You can venture into the great outdoors for your headshot, add warmth and kindness to its appeal, or a scowl if that lends itself well to the acting ability you want to portray.
A headshot can be flirty & seductive, authoritative & a little intimidating, curious & playful. There are so many elements to emotion & this means there are so many ways to tell a story with what was once a straight-forward headshot.
A headshot for an actor or actress is about discussing where your career has been & where you want it to go. Then selecting the right outfit & the right environment before finding the perfect balance of chemistry with the camera to capture those perfect modern headshots that strongly connect with the viewer.
A 2014 "Perfect Profile Photo" study (yes, we had come to the realisation of how important a headshot is to influence way back then) by Photofeeler broke down exactly what it takes to capture the perfect profile photo.
While much of this will always be up for debate & own to matter of opinion, it stands as a good starting point & plenty of points can be taken from the piece.
This infographic highlighting the results of the study makes for an interesting read to sign this article off in relation to a headshot photograph: