The Complete and Only Actors’ Headshots Makeup Guide You’ll Ever Need

Are you getting ready to schedule your very first headshot appointment?


Charles Tumiotto Jackson

2 years ago | 6 min read

Imagine this: you’re at an audition, with tons of other actors waiting outside to go in to read the lines they’ve been given. They call you in. You step in front of the director and a couple of other important people, handing them your headshot and acting resume.

The director looks down at your headshot, then at you. She turns to one of the other people and says:

“You know what? This is exactly what I was looking for. I love your look — here, and in your headshot.”

Actors’ headshots can make a difference in an audition. Not always as dramatic as in this story — but you do need a high-quality headshot to look professional and be taken seriously.

But how do you get your makeup just right for the headshot? How do you stand out and look effortless all at once? If you don’t know how to do your makeup for one, you might be stressed.

That’s why we’ve put together this article. In it, you’ll learn everything about how to do your makeup for your headshots. Finally, you’ll be more likely to land your dream role. Read on to learn more.

Apply a Primer First

Even before you put on any makeup, you need to follow the first of headshot makeup tips: apply a primer first. This will make the rest of your makeup look balanced. Additionally, if you have any wrinkles or laugh lines, they’ll vanish a little underneath the primer.

Additionally, a primer will provide you with a “blank canvas” upon which to put on the rest of your makeup.

Use Concealer Correctly

Concealer’s a bit of a tricky one. If you overapply, you might end up with a caked-on effect with your makeup. To avoid this, apply concealer after applying your primer but before putting on any foundation.

The concealer should be used for only two reasons: to cover up your under-eye circles and to cover up any blemishes.

Use heavier concealer for the under-eye circles. For blemishes, only cover up minor ones. If you have larger ones, this might end up in you putting on way too much concealer and then foundation on that area.

If you have a larger blemish you need to cover, there’s no need to worry! The photographer can always use their photography software to remove these from the photographs.

Follow the Right Rules for Foundation

When you’re doing makeup for your set of headshots, it’s important that you don’t use too much foundation. Even though you might want to your skin to look even or to cover up some blemishes, using too much can have a caked-on effect.

When a photographer takes your photos in headshots sessions, the camera will bring out the caked-on look of the foundation.

For this reason, you should use less foundation. It might also be a good idea to use a lighter foundation.

Use Liquid Foundation

The best type of foundation for headshots in NYC and elsewhere is liquid foundation. Oil-free (alcohol- or water-based) is great, too. When it comes to the most common type of foundation for photo makeup, many people use one with an oil-free matte finish.

However, if you buy this type of foundation, apply it carefully and in small amounts.

Types of foundation to avoid include compact or powder foundation, since this won’t give you the right amount of coverage.

You should also avoid dewy, glowy, or sheer foundations, since these will make your face too shiny in pictures.

Make Sure Foundation and Powder Match Your Skin Tone

It’s easy, when doing your photoshoot makeup, to be tempted to go out and buy a ton of new makeup. However, when it comes to the foundation and powder you use, it might be best to go with a tried-and-true choice that has always worked for you.

If you switch to a new foundation or powder, then you need to make sure it matches your skin tone. This is because an important rule of thumb when doing actor headshots is that your makeup looks as natural as possible.

To find the right foundation or powder to match your skin tone, go to a professional makeup store where you can have someone find your skin tone-matched makeup for free (for example, Sephora).

This is because, sometimes, the makeup will look a little different under the lights than when you put it on.

Ask if you can get some free samples of foundation facial makeup to try at home, since testing the color against your wrist doesn’t always work depending on how often you go into the sun.

Keep Eyeliner Light

Even though eyeliner looks great on the stage and adds to the dynamism of your facial expressions, it’s not the best choice for headshot makeup. In a photograph, heavy eyeliner will make you look older.

If you decide to use eyeliner, then you have to apply it lightly to avoid this issue.

Don’t Use Any Products With Sunscreen in Them

While it’s usually a good idea to use products with sunscreen in them because it protects your skin from issues such as aging, it isn’t a good idea when you’re getting traditional or organic headshots. This is because sunscreen creates unwanted shine in photographs.

Use the Right Lipstick Color

When it comes to your lipstick color choice, you should go one shade darker than what your lips look like naturally. The direction of color should be toward a darker red shade. You can use some lip gloss to make the lips fuller, but make sure not to go for too much shine.

Note this: if you don’t usually wear lipstick, then you should just wear a gloss or balm. At the end of the day, you want to represent yourself in your photoshoot, so this will make you look professional while still looking like “you.”

Neutral Eyeshadow is Best

For eyeshadow, it’s best to go with neutral colors. This will look more professional and your eyes will shine out more brightly than if you have heavier colors on your lids. Considering the importance of eyes in acting, you want yours to shine.

This said, if you think you prefer another color, then bring some additional eyeshadow hues to your shoot. This way, you can apply it halfway through. At least this way, you can have different options.

As long as you come in wearing neutral eyeshadow at the start, you won’t have to mess with removing the darker colors if you had been using those originally.

Wear Mascara

If you don’t usually wear mascara, it’s a good idea to wear it to your photoshoot. This is because it will make your eyes look larger and more expressive, which is something many casting directors will be looking for.

When choosing the right mascara, choose one that doesn’t clump. Additionally, don’t search for ones that get you the maximum amount of value, as this won’t look natural.

Some people like to use false eyelashes. If this is the case for you, remember to wear ones that aren’t longer than eyelashes are naturally.

Use the Right Blush Color

When choosing the blush color for your headshot, you should go with a color that’s slightly rosier than what your skin looks like naturally. This way, the blush won’t look dramatic. Again, that’s something that looks way better on stage than in a headshot.

You also need to be careful not to apply your blush too heavily. To do this properly, first apply in a wide circle lightly. Then, a second time in a smaller area, and then a third time just in the smallest area.

The edges of where the blush is should be gradual instead of abrupt.

Do this all carefully and slowly, as it will be more tricky to remove the brush than to but a little more on. The last thing you want is to have to start over completely with your makeup!

You Know How Actors’ Headshots Makeup Works — Now What?

Now that you know all about actors’ headshots makeup, you might have some additional steps you want to take. Maybe you want to learn about the best makeup brands to use for a headshot shoot.

Or maybe you want to book an actor’s headshot shooting with a professional photographer. Whatever you need, we can help.


Created by

Charles Tumiotto Jackson

Content Marketer, willing to put the “social” back in Social Media. Forget about “Hacks” and obscure secrets to grow on social media →







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