How to Get the Perfect Actor's Headshot in London

Follow this guide to get the most out of your London headshot session.

Make sure you look like… you

Headshots are not beauty shots. They’re not about making you look younger or thinner, they’re about showing a casting director what you actually look like. They’re simply a tool. So, keep them up to date and make sure you look exactly like the person in the picture. Your headshot should capture your essence, so keep it real, otherwise you'll be wasting everyone’s time.

What are your character types?

As an actor you will probably already have found the character types you are likely to be cast for. If not, give this some thought before your shoot. Are you a tough guy, ruthless businessperson, a lawyer, a school teacher, a hopeful student, approachable mum, boy next door, social dropout? You decide. Understanding your type(s) is the starting point to a good headshot. It will help you to decide what to wear for your shoot and how to present yourself. It’s important that you are clear about what you want to achieve from the shoot and are realistic about what you can get done in the time available.

"I’m so pleased with my photographs that I’m going back for more!
Never having had “publicity” shots done before, Gary made me feel at ease and having been initially quite apprehensive I soon relaxed and ultimately enjoyed the session."

—Tom Evans

"I uploaded my new headshot to the agency website over the weekend, and have just received my first booking since November!"

—Johnny Gumb

What to wear

My advice is to start with a generic clean, classic headshot wearing something simple in a strong dark colour. A blank canvas, if you like. Once that’s in the bag you can mix it up with some more specific looks relating to your character types. Think about what they would be wearing in a candid photo. How would they present themselves? If this is who you are trying to be, then your headshot should reflect that. If you see yourself playing a business leader it makes sense to wear a suit in your headshot and not a grungy t-shirt. Try not to cram in too many looks but know your priorities. Usually three to four looks works well. Whatever you wear, remember the focus needs to be firmly on your face.


If you usually wear glasses, then wear them for the shoot. You can always try a few without. Glasses can be challenging to photograph because light reflects off the glass and spoils the image. Ideally you will have an anti-reflective coating, which means almost no light reflects off of the lens surface. If not, I recommend talking to your optician and see if you can borrow a pair of empty frames or invest in a new pair for your photoshoot. You could also see if they can remove the lens from your existing frames and pop them back in afterwards. 

Don't wear

  • Patterns and stripes (which can be distracting).
  • Shiny clothes which can reflect too much light and be distracting.
  • Very bright colours like whites or light pastels (which can draw focus away from your face).
  • Logos or images on clothes. Keep it plain and simple.
  • Avoid wearing too many accessories, hats, scarves and any jewellery. It’s distracting.
  • Sleeveless tops. Showing your arms can draw focus away from your face.
  • Very low cut necklines or high turtlenecks.

Do wear

  • Deep, strong colours. “Jewel colours” work well, like sapphire, ruby and emerald.
  • Something you love. You probably already know which colours work well for you, so start with those.
  • Tried and tested. I want you to feel very relaxed on your shoot so wear clothes that are tried and tested that you know work well for you. It’s not the time to try new outfits. If you do want to wear something new, wear it around the house before your shoot to make sure it feels comfortable.
  • Fitted clothes. Avoid anything too loose.
  • Bring options. If you know blue is a good colour for you, consider bringing a few options to play with on the day.
  • Keep colour combinations simple with solid-colours layered over one-another.
  • If it’s an outside shoot, wear an extra layer to keep yourself warm and comfortable.

Hair and makeup 

Remember, the point of your headshot is to show casting directors what you look like so avoid too much makeup. Keep it soft and minimal, cover your imperfections but try not to look “made up”. Wear translucent powder (and bring it with you) to help soften any light shining onto your skin. Come with your hair styled and ready to go. Do a bit of basic maintenance before you come, making sure those nose and ear hairs and eyebrows are trimmed or plucked the way you like. Keep your usual hairstyle. Remember, you need to feel completely comfortable and confident on the day and not be worrying about whether a new style is working for you. If you’re having a hair cut for the shoot, do it a few days before so it looks more natural. If you have a beard or stubble, just make sure it’s tidy. Come camera ready and bring some makeup and hairspray or products with you for any last minute touch-ups.

Final tips for a great shoot

  • Be prepared. Don’t leave everything till the last minute. You want to arrive relaxed and focussed so you can take your time and enjoy the process.
  • Prepare your outfits a few days before the shoot to avoid last minute dramas. Make sure they are pressed and ready to go.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before and stay off the alcohol. Drink plenty of water and eat well on the day of your shoot so you’ve got lots of energy.
  • Plan your journey and get there in plenty of time. You want to show up calm, relaxed and ready to enjoy yourself.

London based portrait photographer Gary Williams


If you're looking a lovingly crafted headshot that really captures your essence and helps to drive your career forward – then you've found your photographer. Get in touch and let's make something special. If you want to know more about me, click here.