How to crop an actor headshot

Casting directors for film and for theater have very specific tastes when it comes to acting headshots. In just a few seconds, you are either in or out of consideration. There has never been a more important first impression to an actor. Casting directors are looking for more than just a person that fits the physical attributes – they are looking for someone that interests them. Someone they feel they can connect with.

The MOST IMPORTANT aspect of an actor’s headshot is how visually compelling it is. We want that casting director to desire to get to know you. Creating an image with such an impact is not as simple as you might think. Lighting, backdrop, pose, expression, outfit, hairstyle, amount of make-up, editing, composition and crop all make a difference (either knowingly or unknowingly) to a director when sifting through headshots of young actors and adult actors alike.

Acting headshots also need to communicate very specific talents and skill. The crop of an actor’s headshot is part of this communication, and has a way of drawing someone in and making them want to know more about you.

I believe in the rule of thirds for actor headshot photography. Not just because that rule is out there and is the popular choice, but because IT WORKS. If you’ve never heard about this photography idea, the basic idea is that when your frame is divided into thirds, the best spot to place your subject is at one of the intersections. The human eye just finds these four spots captivating, interesting, and definitely NOT boring or predictable.


With this headshot, you’ll notice that the top of this child actor’s head is cropped off.  In fact, more often than not, I cut off the top of actor’s heads during composition. If you’re new to headshot photography, this is probably pretty shocking, and you’ll likely question why this was done. My explanation is simple – it’s to make a better, more compelling photograph. This is a normal practice within the acting headshot world and not shocking to casting directors.

Casting Directors are going through hundreds of headshots a day, so having a visually compelling image is the first step in getting sifted over to the “keep” pile.

If you still need more understanding, head to google images and type in “actor headshots.”  You’ll find that the majority of these images are cropped in. Some will be zoomed out also, which is a great side-by-side comparison opportunity of visual appeal.

Check out these two examples I’ve pointed out.  These two guys could EASILY be auditioning for the same role. Which image carries more visual impact?  The guy on the left captivates, while the headshot on the right seems lack-luster, boring, and unprofessional. Lighting, backdrop, and editing contribute, but I would argue that the composition/crop of the right headshot is the most uninteresting and most uninviting element.


All this being said, however, the rule isn’t concrete. Sometimes an actor headshot or portrait will need a crop that’s wider out or closer up, as is the case for many child actors. Agencies like to have images that are close up, mid, and full body for comp cards and head cards. But we are talking about that close-up, “money” image that holds your attention.

If you still prefer that all of your headshots have a more corporate crop that includes all shoulders and top of head, we can certainly accommodate your request with advance notice and can still use lighting, backdrop, and editing to best portray your personality and character.

But seriously – who wouldn’t want these incredibly cute kiddos in their production?!   Each one is captivating in their own unique way, which is what we want!  It’s all about the expression, eyes, smile, and personality, and not a one of them required a round head.  🙂


Eldeen Annette is a Young Actor Headshot Photographer based in Erie, Colorado

Head to for more details and package options and to book a session for you child actor.

Child Actor Headshots  |  Young Actor Head Shot Photographer  |  Acting Headshots for Kids in Colorado  |  How to crop a headshot for an actor

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