8 Wardrobe "Must-Haves" For Your Headshot Photo Shoot: Costume VS. Character
Updated: Jun 13
Your wardrobe selections for professional actor headshots should not resemble a costume.
What do I mean by costume?
When you’re making wardrobe selections for your shoot, you must keep in mind that your selections for each look have to suggest the character you may be cast to play. You are not playing a character in a movie. You are YOU, and the way I will direct and light you during your photo shoot, along with the wardrobe choices I will guide you to make, will SUGGEST the type of character you will be cast to play. That is the only way to approach each look when prepping for your shoot.
What you wear for your shoot must NOT look like a “character costume!”
Initially, during your free pre-shoot consultation we are going to explore your career goals and your specific type, so I can best tailor the lighting and locations specifically to you and the roles you will be cast to play. Each look that will SUGGEST the type of roles you could play.
If you have an imposing quality and could be cast as “the tough guy” or “heavy”, you definitely want to keep it simple and go with a simple T-shirt or a t-shirt under a leather jacket or a t-shirt and a hoodie under a leather jacket. Crewneck t-shirts are best. A leather jacket is an iconic piece of clothing that already tells a story without having to add anything extra. You DO NOT need to add a gold chain or a silk shirt or a pinky ring or leather gloves.
There is a big difference between the type of tough guys an actor will play. If you have natural gravitas and can be cast as the “crime boss”, a black or dark blue blazer with a similarly dark button-down shirt underneath will perfectly convey that type of character. With women, you have to think outside the box and tailor the “look” to the individual personality. Do you think you can pull off a gold sequined dress? I’ll know it if you can.
A casting director takes 3 seconds to look at your actor headshot before making a decision whether or not to give you an audition. The idea here is to make those 3 seconds an effortless experience for them so you can get one of those audition slots, and your wardrobe choices play a crucial role in that selection process. You may be the most talented actor in the world, but all a casting director sees is your headshot. If it doesn’t stop them in their tracks and tells them exactly who you are and what roles you can play, your dream goes nowhere.
If you play period roles, a great look for men is a button-down with a vest and tie or a crisp, understated shirt. Keep the wardrobe within a muted wardrobe palette. For women, a conservative top or dress with a structured neck and sleeves. Putting up your hair usually doesn’t photograph well, but I know how to light this look correctly and will make it look exactly the way it needs to look.
If you tend to be cast in blue-collar roles, for men, I suggest a T-shirt under a work/denim/flannel shirt. A long-sleeve Henley is a great option as well. For women, a similar look will work. You DO NOT want to wear clothing that has rips or has been literally used to paint houses or do yard work.
If you’re going to play white-collar roles, a dressy top for women with elegant understated jewelry works best. Men could wear a button down under a crew-neck or zip-down sweater, a crisp blue dress shirt, or a polo.
If you are in your 20’s or 30’s and can play characters much younger than you, a T-shirt or tank-top and a hoodie will convey a younger high school or college type.
The only exception to the rule is if you are cast to play high-powered executives, then you can go ahead and put on a nice suit and dress shirt along with an understated power-tie. For women, similarly a business suit or an upscale top will look perfect.
If you are a woman who is cast as the “gorgeous bombshell“ or “hot girl”, a fitted tank-top along with a “clean and natural” makeup look works best. Do not show too much skin because it will put you in a different category.
In conclusion, look at your wardrobe selections not as costumes you would wear to a Halloween party, but as a suggestion of the type of character you may be cast to play. Your headshots are a tool to get auditions so you can book acting work and launch your career.