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How To Take Acting Headshots At Home? (Step by Step Guide)

I know a headshot for an actor is the most crucial marketing tool, and you can’t just go normal by cutting corners. But getting acting headshots from a professional photographer is expensive. But getting actor headshots at home is a great option. But you are an actor. You may not know how to take acting headshots at home.

To take acting headshots all you need to know is what kind of setup and equipment you need, pre-shoot preparations, and then ultimately taking the headshots.

If you get this right you will be able to shoot your own headshots in your home. Let’s see how you can do that at your home.

Also Read: How To Make A Portfolio For Acting?

How To Take Acting Headshots At Home?

I’ll mention this tutorial via three accessible areas for ease of understanding as follows.

  1. Setup and Equipment
  2. Pre-Shoot Preparation
  3. Taking Headshots  

Let’s now have a brief look at each of these areas in the following section.

1. Setup And Equipment

Note that I will be only suggesting indoor acting headshots. Yet, you can also take acting headshots outdoors by making sure you’re not taking them in the direct sunlight. So, you must be in the shade to avoid harsh lighting. Now, my first tip is the natural lighting source indoors.

You only need to set up your camera equipment in front of the window and get all the natural lighting which is perfect for your acting headshots. The use of natural light is my foremost suggestion if you don’t have any artificial lighting source. It’s the most beautiful one as well! 

Now, I’ll guide you on setting studio lighting to get those beautiful acting headshots at home. The 3 3-point lighting setup is recommended in the studio lighting setup. It consists of the Key Light (Primary Source), Fill Light (Fill in the shadows), and the Head Light (that separates the actor from the background). It will give you more dynamic, professional, and contrast as if you’re working in a studio.

Ensure that you’re setting the first two lights, i.e. Key Light and Fill Light at 45-degree angles. Then, the consideration is the background. It’s better to have a Neutral Background than a light or dark one. That background should look good on your skin tone as well. 

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I’d like to suggest a DSLR Camera as the professional element to take that attractive headshots for actors in terms of equipment. For reference, you can check out the DSLR Canon EOS Rebel T7 camera. However, I’ll also mention other references and equipment suggestions in my next part. Then, it would help if you also considered using the best Tripod. The tripod must be handy to easily rotate the camera. At the same time, it should be sturdy as well. 

For a studio-like feeling at home, you can take your own acting headshots at home in the portrait or vertical mode. As you’re considering the Canon DSLR camera, the lens you can use is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens which I use to take perfect portrait actor headshots. Another great option is the 85mm lens if you want to go for it. 

In the last, you can rotate the camera upside down on the right of the tripod to capture a headshot. Take the LCD screen down to see yourself.

2. Pre-Shoot Preparation

This section is my personal favorite as I’ll guide you through some best tips that you will thank me for. Starting with the wardrobe, choose colors that are flattering on you and look perfect as per your skin tone. Do not choose any weird patterns or anything to wear that will look strange and take the attention away from your beautiful face.

Also, wear clothes that you are comfortable wearing. For example, trying new clothes is not a good idea at this time. So, you need to wear clothes that are neatly pressed and free of any stains or distracting patterns. 

For more information on what to wear for acting headshots, you can check out our post by clicking here.

My next personal tip is to be subtle in wearing makeup as well. Unless you wear a lot of makeup products on a regular basis, do it in a light manner just to enhance the facial features and not overpower them. 

Now, the next important part of your face to look for is the ‘Eyes’. The expressions of your eyes make or break the headshot, remember that! You should be pulling the viewer into your photo with an attractive and a bit wide expression of eyes. So, go ahead and lift your eyes as much as you can. 

As I mentioned earlier about the secret ingredient of the way of presentation, it will definitely come by combining all the factors I have mentioned already. There should be a spark in your attitude and energy that should reflect in those acting headshots.

What you can do to energize yourself is to make yourself smile and put on great music. All in all, you should like how you look because that confidence will reflect through your headshot. 

If you’re a beginner and look terrible posing in front of the camera, go and practice in front of the mirror beforehand. Get comfortable with your face, take a couple of selfies, and get an idea of what your best acting angles are, best looks, best expressions, and so on.

Overall, you need to let your personality come out while taking that acting headshot. On the other hand, don’t make your chin too high or too low. What I am saying is not to show your double chin. 

3. Taking Headshots

Now, it’s time for your actor headshots. Mostly, I prefer to use my camera equipment on manual settings because it’s far better than auto settings. I’d have more control over different camera aspects with the manual settings. Thus, you can refer to my headshot settings as given below.

  • Manual Mode
  • “Portrait” settings
  • Canon T7i Lens 50mm 
  • f/1.8 Aperture
  • Custom White Balance
  • ISO – 200
  • Shutter Speed – 1/100 or 1/125

There’s nothing better than experimenting with what is working best for you. So, you can experiment with different settings and consider what looks perfect for you. Now, you are taking your own headshots at home, so you just need a thing like a remote control or app connection. However, there are also self-timer settings if you’re pretty good at using them. To get rid of the weird-looking shadows, you can use white paper or white cards. 

One of my favorite things to experiment with taking your own headshots at home is to instill any background you wish. This will be a great tip to follow if you also love using different color backgrounds. You’re only required to purchase mobile LED panel lights that are easily available on Amazon or other online marketplaces. You need to give them one splash at the back of the wall, and then you get these amazing colors. 

So, this much knowledge I possess on taking my own headshots at home. And, I’m sure that applying these entire steps can save you a lot of bucks that you’d have to pay to hire a professional photographer. 

Things You Would Need

In this section, I will break down the list of useful equipment that can offer you the best headshot photography sessions at home. So, it’s quite an intelligent choice to level up your photography gear if you’re serious about acting portfolios. 

Here the list goes on!

1. Camera (Professional Grade)

Yes, professional-grade cameras are one of the basics you need to spark your headshot sessions. For this purpose, a mirrorless camera or a DSLR camera can give you great results for professional images and provide the high-resolution files required for reproduction and printing. While buying the camera, I considered the factors, namely the resolution of more than 20 megapixels, great low light capabilities, and the ability to shoot in RAW. 

2. Lenses

As already discussed, the ideal lenses for headshot photography are 50mm, 85mm, or zoom 70-200mm lenses. These are the best portrait-length lenses and offer ideal aspects to the human subject. They don’t distort the subject and are thus more flattering for them. These are the go-to lenses if you need good sharpness and a decent amount of working distance from the camera. I always look for high-quality lenses with good sharpness specs. 

The lenses with maximum aperture of f/1.8, f/1.4, and f/2.8 are one of the best acceptable headshot lenses. They will offer you the shallow depth of field where needed. To get in more light, the wider apertures are also there that will even allow you to shoot in darker areas. And, if you love using a zoom lens or prime lens, give them a shot. 

Thus, you should combine all the useful elements such as a high-end camera, a portrait-length lens, and your best photography knowledge to get a magical outcome. Given below is other essential equipment to include in your list. 

3. Reflector

You should buy a good quality reflector if you love shooting or acting in natural lighting conditions. These smart investments will help you bounce the natural light back on the existing scenes and fill in the shadows. You can use other natural reflectors like white buildings or sidewalks as well. However, having your own reflector can increase the shooting potential. 

4. Tripod

Use Tripod during a headshot session and help yourself in a lot of ways. The major function of a tripod is the inclusion of more stability into the shots. The camera shake can be prevented especially when you shoot at low shutter speeds. It also ensures the ideal distance of the shot from the camera. And, I can have better eye contact with the subject while using a tripod. The gesture will be easily applicable and the subject feels more accessible than the lens.

5. Chairs and Stools

Using the chairs and stools can put you at ease. These are the items that help in the improvement of headshot posing and can also change the feel and look of posture. A single chair or stool can be used to extract different expressions or poses just by changing the posture. Short guy? Then, a stool is a must!

6. Shades or Umbrellas

A medium-sized umbrella or other kinds of shades are pretty helpful equipment to hit a better shot with regard to your face and hair. The umbrella helps block the light from unnecessary areas and offers accessible lighting across your torso and face. Yet, having a reflector can do a similar job as well.

7. Backgrounds

For versatile background colors, you can either use LED panels or go for an artificial background. These backgrounds are available in different textures, colors, and sizes and give you an actual scene look. So, you should invest in two or three neutral backgrounds if you’d love experimenting with them. 

How To Edit?

Let’s understand a few more important things on how you can edit your acting headshots at home! Just like the shooting and posing, it’s equally important to retouch your headshots a bit to get them on a professional level.

  • Responsible retouching always makes sure to fine-tune the exposure and white balance in the image.
  • Consider doing a quick teeth whitening.
  • Have a look at the background and make the necessary changes to make it more professional.
  • Are there any blemishes? Adjust them right away! Don’t remove the natural features, however.
  • Soften your under-eye bags.
  • Remove any extra shine if present in the image.
  •  Do contouring with the Dodge and Burn. It’s making the required parts darker and lighter as needed.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for stopping by now! These were some of my best suggestions on how to take acting headshots at home. Follow all the tips properly and make as much effort as you can to make your actor headshots look professional, decent, and according to the client’s requirements. Also, don’t forget to take care of small things such as posing, eyes, editing etc.