Useful actor headshot articles

Should I Smile in my Actor Headshot? (2023)

To smile or not to smile, that is the question (har har). Anyway… you’ve booked in for your headshot, and you’re planning the session. You wonder to yourself, should I smile in my actor headshot? Annoyingly, there’s no straightforward answer to that question; smiling in headshots is quite a big topic in the acting world.

However, you should ask yourself several questions when considering whether to smile or not. What casting type are you going after? Are your headshots for commercial, acting, or theatrical work? And so on. Ultimately, your headshot is your chance to connect with the camera while portraying your ideal casting type, so whether you smile or not is completely unique to your acting situation. But remember, your headshots are essential to your actor portfolio and potentially career-shaping. Potential casting directors will view those headshots on Spotlight, Mandy and any other platforms you use. You want to give off the best and most genuine impression possible!

Now for the longer answer…

Why is Smiling in Your Actor Headshot a Good Idea?

As we’ve mentioned above, whether or not you smile in your headshot is completely unique to your situation and acting goals. Here are a couple of points as to why smiling in your actor headshot might be a good idea:

    • It can make you look younger. If one of your goals for your new actor headshots is to look 5 years younger, then smiling is a great idea. As long as you don’t smile so widely that it accentuates every wrinkle around the eyes, you’ll be fine!
    • It’ll make you look more approachable. As humans, we tend to mimic the emotions of others, especially the positive ones. When we see others smiling, it creates that positive and warm feeling within us, releasing happy chemicals in our brains. So whoever is viewing your headshots will automatically feel a little happier and, in turn, make you a memorable candidate.
    • It’s perfect for specific casting types. Are you looking to audition for that indie comedy film you saw advertised last week? They’ll definitely want to see a headshot with you smiling in it. Casting types for musical theatre, light-hearted dramas, and commercial work will also benefit from having a smiling headshot. You have to exude positive and lively energy for these castings.
    • If you’re looking for commercial work. 9 out of 10 times, commercial work is light-hearted, positive, and not at all serious. Whoever you audition for won’t want to see a headshot that focuses on your best moody/mysterious pose. A natural and radiant smile will always make you the top candidate in this scenario. 
    • It’ll give you a boost during your shoot. As mentioned above, smiling releases all the good hormones. Many studies over the years have researched the ‘facial feedback’ hypothesis, which argues that your facial expression directly impacts how you feel. i.e. lifting your cheeks and smiling will release serotonin and make you feel happier. If you get some smiling shots out of the way at the beginning of your session, you’ll be filled with energy, confidence, and positivity for the remainder of your shoot!



What are the Downsides of Smiling in Your Actor Headshots?

Smiling in your actor headshot isn’t always a good idea, however. Here’s why it might not work for you:

  • You want to look older. Fed up of getting told you look about 17 when you’re 25? Avoid smiling in your actor headshot if you’re aiming for an older-aged role (or at least one close to your real age!)
  • You have Invisalign or braces. If you’re currently undergoing dental work, you might not feel very confident when you smile. So if you do end up smiling, it probably won’t look very genuine. This leads to the next point…
  • Smiling can look ungenuine. If smiling doesn’t come naturally to you, or you find yourself faking a smile, you can come across as a tad insincere. Which is not a trait your employer will be looking out for! If you have to smile, try laughing instead for a more authentic look. 
  • Your casting type is not anything light-hearted. If you’re looking to auction for more drama-based roles, then smiling probably isn’t your best option. Consider a more serious, stoic face or even a slight smirk if you want to evoke intrigue and mystery.
  •  It might accentuate wrinkles. If you’re a proper wide smiler like I am, the wrinkles in your face might be accentuated when you smile. You might end up not looking like you or your neutral facial expression. This might confuse a few people looking at your actor headshots!

In a Nutshell

In summary, it’s really up to you whether or not you decide to smile in your actor headshots. Don’t panic too much; the great thing about a headshot session with an expert photographer is that you can always get a few looks in, so you’ll have options even if you’re unsure about which acting avenue to take. With alternatives to smiling, like a smirking or serious pose, you don’t have to just be stuck with a smile.

With us at Lumosia, we understand this need for flexibility completely! We charge only £45 per session and your first image, then £45 for extra images, with bundle deals available. Every aspiring actor should be able to afford a diverse portfolio of headshots without breaking the bank! During our hour-long session, you’ll be able to create 5-6 different looks with one of our expert photographers. If you’d like to book with us at our West London or Bristol studio, you can do so by clicking here, emailing, or ringing Helen on 07810004451.

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