A Veteran actor will have many headshots in their portfolio. That comes with time. If they update their headshots regularly, you’ll have lots of looks to show off.
What about those just starting off in the industry? How many shots do they need to get started? This is a tricky question. It all depends on what you want to be submitted for. If you only want to do Commercial work, you can get by with 2 headshots : a Commercial headshot and a body shot (1/2 , 3/4, or Full). Likewise, if you only want Featured work, you’ll still need 2 different shots: a Featured headshot and a body shot (1/2, 3/4, or Full). If you want to be submitted for both areas, then you’ll want 3 shots: A Commercial headshot, a Featured Headshot, and a body shot. This is needed just to be submitted for those areas.
Now, if you want to be a bit more active and diverse with your submissions, you’ll need more images. Generally, you’ll want 4+ images in your portfolio. Yikes! That seems like a lot. But a well rounded portfolio can really help you. If we have the three shots from above (Commercial, Featured, and Body), then we can include: a casual look, business/industrial, a modeling look, with a beard, West Coast/East Coast style, a different character type (having the soccer mom look AND the tough lawyer look). Having variety makes casting you easier. If the casting director is looking for a specific character type, having a headshot of you that can relate to that character type makes it easier for them to envision you in the role. It’s hard to imagine a guy that looks like a tough biker as a friendly business man. But a headshot with a beard and tough look AND a headshot with a clean face and suit can help you get either job.
If you have a special ability, it is nice to show it off. For example, if you play soccer, having a shot of you playing your sport can come in really handy. The same is true of gymnasts, dancers, musicians, and other unique skills.
Veteran Actor 4+
A veteran actor is prepared for any time of job their agent might throw at them. They have several headshots reflecting their different looks and character types. They also frequently update their current headshot to keep things fresh.
Serious Actor 3+
There are three main types of headshots (Commercial, Featured, and Body). The serious actor has all 3 types and is ready for agency work. You may have more character shots, modeling shots, or special skill featured images.
Casual Actor 2+
Having 2 separate looks is a great thing. In this case, you'll want a commercial and a featured look to get started.
Getting Started 1+
If you're testing the waters or just getting started, a single headshot is perfect. Generally you'll want a commercial headshot - but this can vary depending on your goals.
Actress Marianne McLaughlin with both a Commercial (top) and Featured (bottom) headshot.