Just wanted to thank you again for the headshots! They just got me a casting with Estée Lauder this Sunday and I’ll be shooting a commercial tomorrow with Karlie Kloss! Insane!!! You are the best!
— Iyeisha, actor & model

Preparing for Your Headshot Session

Makeup for Headshots

All images © Lisa Hancock

All images © Lisa Hancock

Some photographers actually make it mandatory to hire a professional makeup artist for your headshot session.  I don't but I do strongly encourage it.  Over the years, I've learned just how important professional makeup is, particularly to a woman's headshot (men, you’re lucky, you don't usually need it).  Whether it's an outdoor shoot with natural light or indoors under studio lights, you need a stronger application of makeup than you normally wear and only a skilled, trained makeup artist can make it look natural on camera.  

I hear horror stories all the time from women about their experiences with makeup artists.  Usually the problem is you were made up too strongly or you didn't look like yourself.  This is a big deal because a) you need to feel good during your shoot and b) it’s really important that you look like yourself in your headshot.  You need to look like yourself but you also need to look your best and, unfortunately, the way most women do their own makeup looks completely washed out on camera.  

One of my top headshot makeup artists, Jennifer Margaret, applying makeup to a recent client.

One of my top headshot makeup artists, Jennifer Margaret, applying makeup to a recent client.

Over the years, I’ve worked with dozens of makeup artists and built up a really outstanding team of artists. They all do amazing work and they all understand how to work with all skin tones.  That last part is absolutely essential to me. My makeup artists understand how headshot makeup needs to look and they also work with you in a collaborative way so that together you create a look you’re comfortable with. Best of all, the beauty of having a makeup artist there with you during the shoot is we can test how the makeup photographs and fix any problems on the spot.  I can’t tell you how priceless that is!

But hey, if it's just not in your financial reality to work with one of my makeup artists, I understand that. During your consultation, let's talk about some alternatives. One way or another, your makeup needs to look great.

Hair for Headshots


Your hair also needs to look its absolute best in your headshot or it will be distracting.   If you have straight or wavy hair, I strongly recommend that you get a blowout at a salon before coming to your shoot.  If you're using my makeup artist, she will do light touch-up on your hair during the shoot but not full-on styling.   Please bring your favorite hair products and tools in case we need to make any changes.  

Wow! I love my headshot! Looks amazing! Truly. Everything is perfect. I can’t express how grateful I am for your amazing work. I had such a great time and am truly happy with my pictures.
— A Kelly, actor

Fortunately, for curly-haired people, your natural hair is increasingly getting popular for commercial work. But for your legit shot, I think it’s fair to say that you still need to have a straight hair and a curly hair shot. I’m still hearing that a straight hair look is seen as more “universal” and will open more doors for you. It sucks but it’s just the reality of the business.

Whatever the preferences of the industry, curly and natural hair are a photographer's dream.  They're easy!  They don't need to be perfect with every hair in place.  So, personally, I love working with curly or natural hair. But it’s my job to tell you what you’re going to need out in the real world and apparently, in this day and age, you’re still going to need a straight hair shot.

Guys, you may want to consider coming to your headshot shoot unshaven and then shaving halfway through the shoot for some clean-shaven shots.  The clean shaven shots are going to be more "universal" and will get you more auditions, but it's nice to have some shots with stubble or a beard, if those are looks that you like to rock.  Make sure it will only take a few minutes to shave though so it doesn't cut into your shoot too much.



If you're using my makeup artist, you don't need to bring any makeup with you to the shoot.  But if you're doing your own or getting it done elsewhere, be sure to bring the following items so we can touch up:

  • Matte face powder (if you are very pale, a shade darker will be better under the strong lights). This should be transparent or close to your skin tone, and it should be matte - NOT bronzer or shimmery powders.

  • Undereye brightener. Can't emphasize this enough. Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown and NARS all have good undereye concealers.

  • Matte blush in a rose or natural pink. People tend to look washed out on camera and need some extra color. Again, shimmery blush is a no no for headshots because it tends to make you look oily.

  • Eye pencil or shadow in dark brown or black.

  • Mascara. It makes a huge difference in opening up the eyes. If you really want to get the most out of your headshots, get individual lashes applied to the outside corners of your eyes.

  • Lipstick or gloss in a sheer pink or nude. Don't go with a dark lip color in your headshot. It tends to look severe and can age you.

  • Smoothing serum, hair spray, or styling gel for your hair.

  • Blow dryer, flat iron, curler, brush, comb, or any other tool you might need to touch up your hair.

Recommendations for Men


Men, your needs are a lot simpler!  Bring some Chapstick or lip balm to keep your lips from appearing dry, and any product you may need to touch up your hair (comb, gel).  If you need a little concealer or powder, I have some basic makeup that I can apply for free.

Also, like I noted above, you may want to consider coming to your headshot shoot unshaven and then shaving halfway through the shoot for some clean-shaven shots.  The clean-shaven shots are going to be more "universal" and will get you more auditions, but it's nice to have some shots with stubble or a beard too, if those are looks that you like to rock.  Make sure it will only take a few minutes to shave though so it doesn't cut into your shoot too much.

What to Wear


Taking the time to plan your wardrobe and get your clothes ready for the shoot is probably the single most important key to a successful headshot.  To start, set up a phone consultation with me so we can talk about your casting and what colors might work best on you. Then, really take care to consider your wardrobe. Do you already have the right clothes in your closet? Or do you need to go shopping? If you have to buy a few new things, you can always leave the tags on and return them later!  Next, clean, iron and pack your tops carefully.

Thank you so much for doing such a great job with my headshots. You’ve been such a sweetheart throughout this whole process. I really appreciate all you did for me...
— K Cartusciello, actor

Bring lots of choices of things to wear, so we can play around and see what works best on camera.  It's far better to bring too many things than too few.  We never know until we try it, and I’m often surprised by what works best for different people.  Bring at least five different tops. Even if you only get two looks with your package, if something isn’t working, I can tell right away. I don’t count it as a look and we move onto something else quickly.  It's just so important to get the look right.  It can make or break your headshot.

The color and fit of your shirt are really important.  First, the color needs to contrast with your skin tone. So if you have a light complexion, wear something dark like navy blue or burgundy. If you have a dark complexion, wear something light, like orange or olive green. Second, make sure the clothing fits well in the shoulders and flatters your shape. Finally, the look has to fit your casting. So if you’re type is a young high school student, you should be wearing a t-shirt and jean jacket, not a blouse. If you’re type is a business man, you should be wearing a button-down shirt and blazer, not a t-shirt.


Some good rules of thumb to live by:

  • Stick to solid colors. No patterns or text. They’re distracting and big no no’s in an actor headshot.

  • No white. It’s too bright and pulls attention away from your face.

  • No pale pastels. They read as white on camera.

  • Black and neutrals (grey and beige) are okay but they might be boring. Be sure to bring some color options too.

  • Dark colors tend to work best for legit headshots and brighter, more cheerful colors work better for commercial headshots.

  • Bring a variety of necklines. Different necklines frame your face differently and can change the shape of your face. It can really make a difference so let’s see what works best on you.

  • Avoid shiny fabrics.

  • Make sure your clothes are free of stains and wrinkles. Take the time to iron your clothes, if needed, and pack them neatly so they don't wrinkle en route to the shoot.

  • Ladies, be sure to bring a smooth, nude bra that won't show underneath.

  • Make sure to wear pants with pockets so you have somewhere to put your hands when standing. It really makes a difference. When you have somewhere to put your hands, you look more comfortable and confident.

  • Bring at least one pair of pants that will go with everything and that fits well for a 3/4 shot. Even though they’re not as popular as they once were, it doesn’t hurt to shoot a couple of 3/4 or body shots to put on your website or actor profile.

If you’re still not sure what to bring, look at what other people are wearing in their headshots.  Look on my website and other websites for inspiration. Most of all, take the time to call me to talk about your casting and what colors will work best on you.

Accessories - Yes or No?

For actor headshots, the rule of thumb is no jewelry.  Not even stud earrings. But feel free to bring a pair of glasses for a different look, especially for commercial headshots.

For corporate and business headshots, the opposite is true.  Nothing does the trick quite like a chunky necklace to complete the shot.  If you're in finance, a string of pearls is even better. Bring a variety of necklaces and earrings to try out. Guys, bring a few different ties to choose from.  Bottom line is, if these are business headshots, feel free to bring accessories.