How to set goals for your actor portraits

Actor portraits can trigger the most unnerving fears. Use these ‘setting goals’ tips to change the script and feel excited about your actor photo session.

Congratulations, you’ve saved up the pennies to book your first actor photo session, and you’re eager to update your Spotlight resume. But the really hard part, planning your actor’s phots, is knowing:

  • What to wear
  • What happens on the day of the photoshoot
  • How to pose in front of the camera
  • How to smile
  • What to do with your hands
  • And what happens if you don’t like your photos

I’ve compiled my favourite and little-known tips based on my ten plus years of creating actor pictures to give you the very best advice.

I know this can leave you quaking in your boots. You want to plan your actor portraits to make sure they are stunning and show how versatile you are. But you also don’t want to look fake, staged or amateur like you’re inexperienced in the acting industry. Booking actor photos is a big investment in something that may disappoint or prove a costly mistake.

What I always do you for is ease first-time nerves, drawing upon my experience as an expert actor photographer to explain what actually makes compelling actor portraits.

Use these goal setting tips to get noticed by casting directors and talent scouts.

Actor portrait fashion pose

Goal 1 – My goal is to have new photos because …..

Why did you start looking for an actor photographer?

First things first – why do you want new photos? This question inspires panic in lots of people, but it’s the single most important thing you can reflect on to make your actor photo session go smoothly.

Try the below script if you’re stuck on what to say using the 3Ws: who, what, why!

Hello, I’m ……. (who are you) and I am a ….. (what do you do) and I’d like …..(why you need new photos).

Put together it looks like this:

Hello, I’m Jane and I’m an actor on a touring show and I’d like to update my headshots because the old ones don’t look like me anymore!

 Hello, I’m John and I’m an actor on the entertainment team and I’d like to update my headshots because I’ve grown a beard!

Short, simple and efficient communication helps the photographer choose the right backdrop, plan the correct lighting and create photographs that help you win the audition or catch the eye of the casting director. Each platform (Spotlight, actor showreels, CVs and resumes) have different criteria and it’s important to capture the correct format.

Related: See a full Spotlight headshot session here

singer white top headshots

Goal 2 – My goal is to have photos that ….

When you see your photos, what do you want?

There are a few things to consider before answering this question because what you want, what you need and what you secretly desire are often different goals.

Exploring this question with the photographer at the start of the session is a great way to share your broad vision; a professional will be able to interpret your brief and stay focused on creating different types of photographs to suit all three goals.

What I offer, as a free service, is a design brief that allows time to explore your vision. I do this using questionnaires, emails, telephone calls or DMs, whatever suits your outlook and time constraints.

I love devoting my time supporting my clients because it gets the ball rolling and helps me think strategically about solutions that make your life easier.

Take Hannah here, who books me for a headshot session using my monthly special, she arrives with a blue blazer suggested by her family to suit a corporate look. But as it happens, what she really wants is a portrait that zings with personality and showcases her fun, creative outlook as a poet.

In the 30-minute taster session, we are able to capture both aspects of her professional life!

Related: See Hannah’s full session here

Actor portrait sitting on stool

Goal 3 – My ambition is to …..

How will these photos help your acting career move forward?

Booking a professional headshot photographer for acting photos is a little like moving house, starting the move feels likes changing location from A to B – old photos to new photos. Yes, you do get to update your old iPhone selfies with shiny, new photos but seeing your photos for the first time is like walking into your new house, saying, ‘Welcome Home’.

Calmly envisaging the future, rediscovering yourself in quiet corners that you’d forgotten about. Portrait sessions reawaken the essence of *you*.

New acting headshots also allows you to launch careers, win auditions, change jobs, move off the Isle of Wight, beat the competition, explore your creativity, achieve a deep-seated dream, say cheerio to painful memories, celebrate milestones and honour yourself.

Actor portrait cheeky smile

Goal 4 – I’m determined to not let ….. get in my way

What is standing in your way of getting what you want?

If you worry about standing in front of the camera, the most nerve-wracking part of an actor’s headshot session is trying to overcome niggling doubts and unspoken fears (stuck on the Island, bad hair days, nothing to wear, empty bank balances and losing your acting mojo).

Talking through your concerns encourages you to clarify what you need from the photographer and what help you expect.

You’ll be able to discuss who the photos are for (your audience), and who will make decisions based on your Spotlight CV (casting directors, talent scouts, producers, directors). Sharing your concerns must also address your competition, industry trends, timeline, budgets and quality control (do you need to print on extra-large banners, for example).

Confiding these fears to your actor’s studio ensures they are put to rest immediately. A professional actor photographer will have a solution for each and every problem!

  • No clothes (no problem, you can use my studio wardrobe)
  • Bad hair day (a little hair spray goes a long way)
  • Tight budget (book using my monthly specials)
  • Skin breakouts (I can fix that in Photoshop)
  • Worried about your figure (flattering lighting solves that)
  • Hate the camera (my camera loves you and the person standing behind it will show you what to do)
  • My deadline is looming (I have a 48-hour turnaround)

Related: Child Actor Headshot Tips

child actor wears glasses

Goal 4 – I plan to use my portraiture on …..

Where will you use your actor portraits?

A successful actor portrait session will centre on making the headshots fit for purpose. For example, if one of your goals is to use them on Spotlight, are they cropped to an 8×10 ratio? This should be clearly discussed with your photographer. The studio will then use your information to outline a mood board and photo session that match your career plan.

Information to share might include:

  • Acting roles
  • Short description (summary) of project
  • Description of your acting career or aspirations
  • Acting goals and objectives
  • Agent advice on casting roles
  • Photo specifications and format (colour or black/white, ratio, print size)
  • What you want to convey through the photos
  • Photos for inspiration (Pinterest or screenshots)
  • Deadlines

Actor portrait golden blouse

I am now offering my actor photography services on the Isle of Wight. This service allows you to take a step back from the worry of arranging the session whilst I take the reins coordinating outfits to backgrounds, deal with the technicalities and style your outfit with your personality in mind. Click here to find out more or call to learn more.

If you have any questions about my home studio or booking your first business headshot, call Amanda Herbert Photography on +44 (0)7719316609 or use the email below


Please contact the Isle of Wight Studio on +44 (0)1983 617383

or Mandy on +44 (0)7719316609 email or use the contact form below


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