A lot of sitters are unsure about what to do with hair and make up for a session. With portrait work this can be pushed in any number of directions and there really aren’t any ‘rules’ as such. But with headshots there are a few guidelines you can follow to get the best result.


Your headshot first and foremost needs to show a casting director what you look like. So simple, natural make up that suits your tones and doesn’t significantly change your appearance or create a distraction is always best. There’s a little more scope with hair as you might wish to curl, straighten or even shave during a session but make sure you get your typical, day-to-day look captured first and plan any significant changes with your photographer before the shoot. And be really careful about making any bold choices immediately before your session. Fake tan or hair dyes may not always land quite the way you expect!


With headshots there’s so much emphasis on your face in close up that little details can start to require a lot of work in the edit. It’s always worth double checking to ensure make-up is evenly and cleanly applied. Is your foundation and so on nicely blended in or are there any sudden lines or clear colour boundaries where you can see the joins? Modern digital cameras can capture an almost forensic level of detail, so don’t rush your preparation and check to see if your headshot photographer has good facilities for hair and make-up on site.


I keep a supply or hair bands, wipes and blotting paper in the studio but plan ahead and bring along anything you think you might need on the day from make-up to hair accessories, lip balm, moisturiser and so on. Like clothes, it’s always good to have options.


Before shooting we’ll plan looks and characters. Although make up will be kept clean and natural throughout, we can shift emphasis – taking things slightly lighter or darker, tying hair back or pushing it up. So again, bring what you need to help subtly shift your looks into different directions, characters and castings. Does the make-up you’ve chosen work with the wardrobe choices you’ve brought along? Can you switch things up easily on the day? Having a clear idea of what you want from the shoot really helps so take a look at ‘I’ve Booked My Headshot Session – What Now?’


You always have the option of having your hair and make-up worked on professionally before a shoot. And if you ask your photographer they can often arrange this for you as part of your session, or would be happy for you to being along your own make up artist. But remember this will add to the overall cost of your shoot and the main goal is to look like the person that will be seen at castings and on self-tapes. So while professional hair and make-up can often be central to a portrait or editorial shoot, that’s not always the case for headshots. Whatever your day to day look, be careful of moving too far away from it for your headshots so they always reflect the person who will arrive for an audition or appear on a self tape.

Making the right choices for hair and make-up is easier than you might think. Plan a head, keep things simple and keep an eye on the details and you’ll achieve the perfect look.