How Many Headshots Do You Need?

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By The Light Committee

If you are considering getting a headshot, or headshots, you will eventually need to answer the question – is one enough or should I get more than one headshot? How many headshots you need is dependent on how you plan to use it, or them. This includes your profession. For example, an actor in Los Angeles will need more than most. So, what are some considerations?

A dramatic actor headshot of a man with a beard in a studio near North Hollywood with a blue background
Actors Usually Need to Have Many Headshots and Looks to Show the Many Characters They Can Pull Off

In almost every case, having more than one headshot is a good choice. Now more than ever, most of us have many online profiles for various reasons: career websites, company website, social media, dating, and so on. The top seven social media sites alone have hundreds of millions of users per site. But most people seeking headshots are primarily using it for work-related scenarios. Here is a list of some of them, of which you might find your scenario.

  • An actor needs various headshots for various castings.
  • A real estate agent uses them across many marketing materials.
  • A model needs them as part of their modeling digitals.
  • A businessperson needs one for the company website.
  • A businessperson uses one for LinkedIn.
  • A creative professional needs one for that announcement.
  • A doctor uses them to market their practice.
  • A graduate needs one as part of a job application.
  • A lawyer uses them to brand their law practice.
  • The company you just joined requires it for their website.
  • Authors need it for their book or published articles.

This list could go on and on. There are many scenarios for getting professional headshots. In many cases, people have multiple such scenarios and so multiple headshots are useful. Or the field they are in requires using multiple headshots, such as acting and modeling.

In addition, you probably do not want to use the same photo for your LinkedIn profile that you will use for your dating profile. But you might get away with using the same headshot for LinkedIn that you use for your company’s website. These are just some considerations. So, what about profession-specific recommendations? Read each below or skip to the one that most suits your scenario.

Actor Commercial and Theatrical Studio Headshots
Actors Commonly Need at Least Two Headshots On the Low End

How Many Headshots Do Actors Need?

An actor usually needs two headshots on the low end and around seven on the high end. But what are the details on this?

There is certainly no fixed total to how many headshots actors can use. Usually, the more an actor has in their arsenal, the better prepared they will be for varied casting calls. But what is too little and too many? The most common advice has been that an actor should have two at a minimum and around 5-7 at maximum. However, some actors successfully use more than 10 in their profiles.

Actors need truly good quality headshots and there are generally two categories of headshots to consider. They include a commercial look and a theatrical look. There are many actor headshot considerations just in getting these two headshots.

The Commercial Headshot Look

The commercial look is usually the most important of acting headshots. It is often technically characterized as bright, evenly lit, and cheery. There are several looks that can be captured in a commercial headshot.

First, it is a good idea to get a nice clean and practical shot of yourself with a warm smile. In this shot, you might not worry so much about aligning your posing, expressions, or wardrobe with any specific character. It is a shot that essentially says, “this is the usual me.” This is a classic commercial look.

Moving beyond this, you might want to start making considerations for posing, expressions and wardrobe that are specific to, or lean toward addressing, characters you might be ideal for. These can include common roles such as a doctor, lawyer, successful businessperson, athlete, a mom, a dad, the friendly girl, or boy next door, and so on.

The Theatrical Headshot Look

The theatrical headshot is the next most common type of acting head shot. It is often technically characterized as having darker tones, with distinguished shadows falling on parts of the face, and an overall dramatic feel. There are several looks that can be captured for theatrical headshots.

Now you are looking to make considerations for posing, expressions and wardrobe that are specific to dramatic characters you might be ideal for. These can include roles such as a thug or bad person, cop or detective, a distraught person, a villain, a victim, or other similar dramatic characters.

This by no means covers all potential characters and looks to target. These are just the most common for most people. But the main point is an actor should seriously consider multiple headshots for commercial and theatrical looks or at least one for each.

A Quick Word on the Comedic Headshot Look

Some actors seek to specifically target comedy opportunities. For the most part, this can be done using a similar setup to a commercial headshot, which generally means very bright and vibrant colors. The key difference here is the expressions in the headshots will be more jovial. This is often accomplished with a bigger, more obvious, smile.

Another consideration if you are going to use a comedic shot alongside a commercial headshot, is to consider making sure the outfit, and perhaps the background, are different. This helps create clearer separation of the purpose between the two.

Creativity to Fit the Look

Beyond the lighting, your expression, wardrobe and posing, another consideration is the background colors One school of thought is to make sure the background is simple and not distracting from keeping the focus on you. You can also use color in the background to contrast or sync with colors your wearing, or with the color of your hair or eyes. Another school of thought is to use a background that mimics where a specific character would be, such as a villain in a dark alley or cop against a brick wall. This can help the viewer more easily see you in such a role. No two casting directors are alike and what each prefers varies. So, use varied headshots.

How Many Headshots Do Models Need?

Models usually need one or two headshots and three other shots. So, what are the details on this too?

Like actors, models should also have plenty of options to rotate shots and be sure to use ones that are most helpful to them landing gigs. At the very least, models need a close-up headshot and full body shot. To submit to modeling agencies, you might add a couple more shots. This can be a half-body shot and three-quarters body shoot, or another headshot or other combination of these shots.

Modeling digitals usually consist of at least four shots. But with models, the more shots in their portfolio, the better. They should use shots in their modeling gallery for all the types of photo shoots they can cover or want to cover.

For example, this could be a model in a dress against an all-white background or in a cityscape setting. A model in a fitness outfit after or during a workout in a gym or outdoors. It could be a model in a swimsuit at the beach or against an all-white background. A model in an office setting doing business or home setting relaxing, getting ready for work, as a mom or dad, and so on.

So, models usually move beyond headshots to also use lifestyles shots in their portfolio. Usually, models will have tens of such photos in their gallery or that they send out for casting opportunities.

How Many Headshots Do Entrepreneurs, Corporate / Businesspeople Need?

Businesspeople can often get by with one headshot and use it on multiple business profiles, but many professionals opt for two headshots.

Some professions can use quite a few headshots, such as real estate agents, doctor, lawyer, and so on, where the person is often the brand. Others that can be included in this list include financial advisors, chefs, marketing consultants, insurance agents, and so on. In such cases, headshots can be used beyond the company website: online business profiles, advertising, print displays, and so on. In some of these cases, one headshot is good enough. However, because of marketing needs, many in these professions might benefit from more than one headshot.

Many businesses understand they can market their key employees to differentiate their business. Thus, headshots of key team members with bios on the company website are more popular than ever. When team members get company headshots, they often use the same photo for their LinkedIn profile. Thus, some executives get by with just one headshot.

Now, for some quick tips on other professions or scenarios.

How Many Headshot Do Dancers Needs?

Dancers need headshots too. In some cases, dancers will be asked to submit a headshot as part of an audition. So, it is a good idea to be favorably remembered by submitting a professional headshot.

In many cases, the dancer headshot can be done in an outfit that they would audition in. To provide an edge in their submission, they might also consider providing a full body shot.

How Many Headshot Do Authors Need?

Authors often want a headshot for their book. But they might also need a headshot as part of marketing their book. So, they might use the same headshot or get a second look for the marketing.

It is important for authors to be sure the headshot they get conforms with specifications needed for printing a book or for digital editions.

How Many Headshots Do Musicians Need?

Musician headshots are much like model photoshoot needs. A good headshot of the musician is good to have. Bu after that it is likely best to become creative about the photoshoot.

This could mean capturing shots for an album cover theme, for their social media marketing, or for other marketing opportunities. As a result, a musician might opt for one or two headshots and then multiple lifestyle type of shots for a variety of other uses.

How Many Headshots Can You Use for PR?

Some PR agencies will ask the clients they work with to provide headshots. There are many such uses for these. It can be to submit alongside an article that will be published in a magazine. It can be for a speaking engagement at a trade show. It can be for a speaking engagement on a podcast. It can be to use for a press announcement, such as for a hiring, and so on.

So, sometimes one good headshot is enough for these scenarios. Some executives might opt to do more than one headshot to submit. In this way it gives the person you submit the headshot to the option to choose their favorite.

There are many other scenarios that could be covered for getting professional headshots and how many looks or retouches you should get. But hopefully, this covers most scenarios you might encounter.