How To Take Your Commercial Headshot To The Next Level

For me, there are two levels of commercial headshots. One is the standard smiling shot, while the other is all about character, personality, and energy… and thinking outside the box. 

Before I dive into this topic, I want to first talk about the standard commercial headshot that most actors get. The standard commercial headshot that most actors get (heck, all actors get) is the smiling shot — the cheery, uplifting, light-hearted smiling shot… and yes, every actor should have one of these.

However, there’s another level we can go to with the commercial headshot — a level that brings with it more personality and more energy and thus, more impact. Now, since we’ve already established that every actor has the required smiling shot, then there’s an opportunity here for you to stand out when submitting for that next commercial audition. 

This next level combines a more defined character and then matching that character with its appropriate energy (i.e. expression, pose). 

I’m going to illustrate what exactly this is with an example. 

In talking with my client, Wesley, over the phone a few days before our shoot I learned that he liked to wear bow ties.

I said, “Bring the bow ties!”

Upon meeting him in person I discovered he had a mischievous playful personality. 

It was during the process of getting a standard smiling shot, that I thought of the idea of having him photobomb his own shoot. I’m always looking for new ways to do things stylistically so I told him the idea and he liked it. And with his bow tie, it just all fit together to create a more unique and memorable commercial image. 

In comparing both shots, it’s clear to me which one shows more personality, is more interesting, and delivers more emotional impact.

Now, this kind of shot is like the icing on the cake because it requires knowing the personality of your client and then both of you agreeing to play and experiment and have fun and try different things. I believe it’s most effective when you can recognize and capture a truly genuine part of your client’s personality that shows a lighter and more playful side. 

This technique works well with actors who are also stand-up comedians who want more of a publicity shot. Having them do something or pose in an unconventional manner that’s organic to a part of who they are can really add a lot of interest to the image. 

So, the next time you’re preparing to get new commercial headshots, try and think of a look, an expression, a pose, an attitude, that expresses a side of you that is still light and commercial, yet outside the box of your standard smiling headshot. It may just be the ticket to your next commercial booking.