Throughout a model’s career, the headshot is arguably the most important photo they will ever take. You’ll need it when applying to a modelling agency, when interviewing for brands, in your modelling portfolio and on your z-cards.
But what exactly is a headshot, and how can you get the best possible one?
What is a Headshot?
A headshot refers to a photo that is taken of a model’s head. It may also feature the shoulders and chest, but the head and face are the most important aspects of a headshot.
It’s really important that a headshot is high-quality. When applying to modelling agencies, the headshot is often requested as the most important image. You will also need to feature your headshot in your modelling portfolio, and if you have z-cards it is a good idea to put your headshot on there, too.
Actors also need headshots to include with their applications.
Headshots can be taken from different angles – you don’t necessarily need to be head-on (which can be a deeply unflattering angle).
You’ve probably already got some headshots you’ve taken yourself via selfie – most of us have a headshot on our social media profiles.
Why is it Important?
A headshot in modelling is a little different to your Facebook headshot.
Having a good headshot is essential because it gives viewers their first glimpse of your face. It is the photo that is most often judged first by modelling agencies and brands. They want to find someone with natural beauty, and the headshot allows them to see a close-up of your face with no props or busy background to distract them.
One quick glance is usually enough to tell prospective photographers, agencies and brands whether you could make it as a model, so it is vital that the headshot really emphasises your looks and makes the most of your features.
While simple in theory, a good headshot can often be the most difficult photo to take. That’s because there is nothing to hide behind. The face can also be tricky to angle well. It can take some practice before you truly master how to take a good headshot.
We’ve put together a list of pro tips on how to take the best headshot.
How to Take a Good Headshot
Now to the important stuff – how to take the most professional, best headshot.
1. Hire a photographer.
Don’t try and take a low-quality selfie; it’s just not going to be good enough. Remember that you are competing for spaces and jobs; if you want to stand out from the others, go pro.
Hire a professional photographer, who can take your headshot at a proper studio. Studios are set up to have good backgrounds and lighting, which will definitely help you take a better shot.
There’s another benefit to having a proper photo shoot; afterwards, you can purchase your favourite photos and include them in your modelling portfolio and on your z-cards.
2. Decide what type of model you want to be, and target your headshot at them.
Modelling is divided into lots of different categories, depending on the audience. The main categories are high fashion and commercial, though commercial can be further categorised into genres like plus-size, petite, alternative and more.
Figure out which type of model you want to be, and which type of model your look best suits. Then you can focus on any special features you have that may capture an agency’s attention.
3. Know your lighting.
Finding your lighting can be one of the most difficult, but important, things to understand as a model. It takes practice, but the more you do it the better you will get. Lighting can completely change the shape of your face, as well as the mood of the photo. If you’re new to modelling, practice finding the best light in a mirror.
If possible, regularly check your photos between poses so you can see how to adapt and change your pose to better find the light. Most photographers are happy to show you your photos as you work.
Modelling professionals are able to find their best light with no effort because of their practice and experience.
4. Find your best angle.
Most of us have a “best angle” or “best side” that we turn towards the camera whenever a snap is being taken. Being a model is that x100.
It can feel very different when a stranger is taking your photo as opposed to yourself or your friends. These are the people who likely know what your favourite angle is, and are happy to retake if you’re not happy with the end result. Working models do not have that luxury – it is not up to them which photo is chosen from the mass of others taken at a photoshoot.
As a model, it is your job to know exactly how to pose. You need to understand precisely how to alter your facial features. A photographer may ask you to laugh or smile, or they may ask you to appear moody or sultry. Can you emulate these facial expressions, even if you’re not feeling the emotion behind them? There are 42 muscles in the face – you need to be able to control each one, if not most of them. Acting classes can really help you find and use your emotions for facial posing.
5. Use skincare and makeup to emphasise your features.
It’s important to keep your makeup nice and simple for a headshot. Start with a good base. Use a moisturiser that sits well under makeup and leaves the skin dewy and fresh.
Foundation and concealer can be used to cover any redness and blemishes. Use your fingers to really work products into the skin and create a more natural, seamless look.
Contour powders or sticks can be used to draw in cheeks and elevate the cheekbones. Blush is great for giving the skin a healthy glow, while highlighter can be used to bring light and vibrancy back to the features.
As for brows and lashes, remember to keep them nice and natural. Fill in brows with a pencil matching your real brow hairs, and set in place with a brow gel. For lashes, a good tip is to layer two different mascaras together. Brush them through after to separate the lashes and prevent mascara clumps.
On the lips, a light swipe of lipstick, gloss or even a lip balm can often be enough. A lip liner is a good way to even out the shape or help to plump them slightly.
For inspiration, Google your favourite model’s headshots and try to copy their makeup.
Hair can also be left natural, or pulled back to really show off your facial structure.