Headshot Perfection

Brogan Wilkinson

How to take a good headshot:
In the world where everything is digital, casting directors/clients/ agents and photographers flick headshots through every second to one another. Taking a good headshot seems simple; grab a camera, a model and shoot on a blank wall. However, have noticed you just don’t seem to be successful in those castings always getting cut. So you are sitting there wondering what doesn’t my headshot have that makes it stand out? Well here’s a few handle tips I have picked up along the way.

What is a headshot?
A head shot if a quick snap taken at an audition or with your agency. It’s your marketing tool, normally wearing plain colours and limited makeup portrays the real you. Often while taking a head shot you will also be required to take full-length photos from the side and front on as well.

The model:
If you are new on the block or a model icon there will never be a day when you don’t have to take a headshot. Here’s the do’s and don’t of the head shot world:


  • Never cake on the makeup- natural is best clients want to see you as a blank canvas so they can picture you in their products. Emphasise your main features a light powder to even out your skin tone, fill in your eyebrows a little and some mascara to widen your eyes.
  • Never wear stripes or colourful clothing.Solid colours and subtle jewellery look better in photographs as patterns and stripes distract the clients eyes away from your face.
  • Try limit water intake before a headshot portfolio session. Water makes you bloated and when shooting headshots and full-length shots the camera always adds 10 pounds. Limiting water intake 10 hours before a shoot means your muscles and definition will be a lot more noticeable.


  • Eyebrows are so important definitely get them dyed and maintained, editors are not having to photoshop your stray eyebrows.
  • Healthy skin. Drink plenty of water and have a continuous skin routine the less money spent on editing the more likely you will get cast.
  • Wear clothing that makes you feel comfortable. Keep the clothes humble and sensible as if you were attending a work interview. Normally a tank top and blue/navy jeans. Try not to wear black jeans as sometimes the casting director will shoot on a black background and then your legs disappear.


Working those angles and expressions:
Once you land the job the pressures on; being able to change expression and angles of your face to offer a variety of shots. Here’s what I think of when shooting headshots:

  • Think of your face as the hands of the clock, and slightly changing the height and angle of your face as you imagine your head ticking around the clock.
  • If you are feeling comfortable with that, you can start to use your shoulders which are an important part of headshots. Never raise them up to your ears because this shortens the length of your neck. I am often seen lifting one and dropping the other; while turning the head to the side and dropping the head back slightly (aiming at a 2 on the clock).

Expressions are one of the hardest things to nail as a model, often photographers comment how a model looks blank and emotionless, but then we are told not to exaggerate? So how do you find a balance?

  • Well, some models including myself kind of dig into our acting skills.
  • When you mentally think of something happy your eyes widen and a different presence comes across through the camera, as when you are sad you give a more vague blank expression.


Overall advice:
Whenever I talk to models I always just say try something new at every single shoot, try a new pose work a different side of your face. Sure you might not nail it right away, but sometimes the best photos are ones that come out of know where.


My experience:
I wouldn’t say I woke up one day and decided modelling was something I wanted to do. It kind of just became an option in my extensive training in the performing arts and one I have definitely been grateful for. It all started when I was about 15 when photography students started using me for their final boards. My Mum realised I had actually started to build a pretty decent portfolio. Mum was not from a performing or modelling background had no clue on how to get her daughter into professional campaigns etc, but somehow she managed to find some agencies. I was turned done 4 times by the age of 16, most saying I was too similar to other models, simply didn’t have the “look” or was simply living too far away. Excuse after excuse, and Mum found it hard to tell a young 16-year-old she was being rejected in every sort of way. I’ve always been determined and dedicated to building my own brand or name I got out there any way possible. Meeting photographers, doing shoots for free, attending events where I could be scouted; well I can say the hard work really paid off! On my 17th birthday, I was finally signed with a local modelling agency in Wellington New Zealand and it all skyrocketed from there. In 2014, I took my extensive portfolio and was signed to an international modelling agency, and I had the time of my life. Modelling every day, meeting people from all parts of the world and simply just falling in love with a craft that I never thought I would have the chance too. Now being back home in New Zealand back to University, I’m still doing modelling on the side. However, I’ve broadened my skills into another aspect which is blogging. Officially launching my own blog site ‘Eliza and Leigh’ this year with one of my best friends Tyler Crawford. It focuses on all things Fashion, makeup, lifestyle, interviews and, of course, a little bit about what we get up too. It’s a new and scary adventure but one I am totally going to rule soon!


Goodluck! And if you need any more tips and tricks don’t hesitate to contact us at elizaandleigh@gmail.com

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