How many headshots do I need? Steve Lawton explains.

APHP member, Steve Lawton looks at how many headshots you need to include in your portfolio, and why.

The great architect, Mies Van Der Rohe was first attributed with the phrase; “Less is more” when describing the de-cluttered and powerfully direct style of early modern architecture. I think the same can be said for how actors present themselves on Spotlight or other actor platforms.

Along with a strong and impactful main profile image, my advice is to really only have one other image from the same headshot session in the gallery section. We want to avoid the idea that the full range of your emotional gamut and versatility will be represented by a string of different poses and set-ups from the hopefully excellent session with your APHP photographer. This will only undermine your presentation as a competent and self-posed professional who will always impress more in person or in self-tape than in photo-shoot - with all the implications of a managed outcome that that implies.

The gallery section of Spotlight is most effective when it shows images of you working, either stills from a film, television or theatre job. Your video showreel, if you have one, will then expand on the tone and character of that first key, main profile headshot.

If you are starting out in your career, resist the temptation to populate your profile with numerous headshot images. Exercise choice. Casting directors know the stage you’re at and are far more likely to call you in if they see a clear and professional statement of intent using a well-chosen, elegant choice of just two head-shots; one main and one gallery.

For men their main pictures should be their default presentation – how they are if we meet them in the street, albeit beautifully shot and lit. The gallery image should have a contrasting set-up and tone, perhaps with a beard or unshaven.

For women the same rule applies, with possibly the second image with hair alternatively up or down. Again, we’re hinting at versatility – NOT spoon-feeding – remember, “Less is more”!

Your headshot session should always include a range of tops and - again keep it simple. Combined with the tonal and lighting changes the photographer makes throughout the session, there should be plenty of choice. The differences of the shots may be subtle – but each picture will demonstrate a moment of uniqueness and character for you to consider – never an easy task as there are almost invariably a great spread of pictures.

I shoot anything up to 400 images in a session depending on the package booked. I then make two or three passes to boil them down to the best 120 – 200 which I forward to you on PDF contact sheets. Then the hours of consideration and comparison begin before you come back to me with your final choices. Good luck!

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