Monday, August 10, 2015

The"Do"s and "Don't"s of Your Perfect Headshot

Your headshot is the “You” you leave behind in the audition room. It is how the audition panel remembers you after listening to the sea of other singers in their 11-hour audition day. If you want your headshot to be a stud instead of a dud, consider the following Dos and Don’ts of a standout headshot.

Choosing Your Photographer

DON’T hire a friend – it is easy to tell amateur work from that of a professional. A point-and-shoot camera cannot compete with the higher-quality cameras used by a photographer. The exception here, of course, is if your friend IS a professional photographer. If this is the case, lucky you! Hit ‘em up!

DO hire someone who specializes in headshots for singers – a professional photographer is one thing, but if you can find one who specializes in shots for performing artists, all the better. These photographers will know the angles and styles that work best for performers, and can get you the best results in the least amount of time. If you don’t know of a photographer near you who specializes in headshots, ask around! Your colleagues will be able to offer recommendations.

What to Wear:

DO embrace color - classic black is a fine, safe option for your headshot wardrobe. But why not take things up a notch with a color? This is a great time to break out your signature color, or find one that makes your eyes pop (why isn’t THAT one your signature color??).
DON’T wear distracting attire or jewelry – your headshot should capture your spirit and energy, rather than your fanciest pair of earrings. Necklines should be modest and jewelry minimal. 

BONUS TIP: Backgrounds – If you are able to recognize what objects are in the background, it’s not a good background. Trees, brick walls, or flowers have no spot in your headshot. Your photographer should have a good idea of where to take you, or have a studio backdrop available for use.

Choosing Your Shot:

DON’T choose an unflattering shot – While you might think this goes without saying, there are more things to consider than just your expression or bad angles. Beware of Floating Head Syndrome (wearing a dark outfit on a dark background, leaving your head floating in space!) and Big Head Syndrome (your head takes up more than two-thirds of the shot – shoot for one-third).

DO choose the shot that looks the most like you! – If you have a drastically different haircut, have gained or lost a significant amount of weight, or it’s been more than three years, get a new headshot. Your expression should match your personality and fach. If you are a bubbly, smiley person, please don’t bring in a serious, sultry headshot. No matter how fantastic the shot, there will be a disconnect between the person in the picture and the person auditioning, which will make it harder for the company to remember you later on. Finally, you will want to match your headshot when you audition, so don’t spend hours curling your hair for the headshot if you don’t plan on doing the same for every single audition.


DO get retouching done – Your headshot should look like you on your very best day. Retouching is the final polish you put on a professional shot. If the photographer will not do it for you, find someone who offers retouching services (get permission from the photographer first!). The point here is to remove distracting blemishes, stray hairs, or background elements, and enhance the image in a pleasant way.

DON’T retouch the shot beyond recognition – Have the unfortunately-timed pimple airbrushed out, but don’t ask for your entire face to be slimmed. Again, you need to look like your headshot when you walk into the audition room.


DON’T print at Walgreens or Kinko’s – Okay, let’s be real here. I’ve printed headshots at these places, and they’re… fine. Sometimes you’re in a pinch and have to have a headshot printed right away. But in general, 1-hour and instant photo printing is of a far lesser quality than professional printers, and you might even be paying more in the long run. Professional printing companies like (which specializes in headshot printing) know how to print your headshot correctly. And you buy in bulk so the cost per printed shot is actually lower than the $3.99 or more you’ll pay at Walgreens. Companies will notice and appreciate the higher-quality printing. 

DO put your name on it
– Standard headshots should have a white border with your name on it, in case it gets separated from your other materials. Use a clear, easy-to-read font. You may also include your voice type (not fach) if you like.

Your headshot is a huge part of your brand! It is what people see on your website and on your audition materials when you can’t be there in person. It embodies your personality and your energy. Make sure yours stands out from the crowd.

Be sure to sign up to participate in our Comprehensive Branding Webinar coming September 12, 2015! Rachael will be available to answer your specific branding questions. Sign up today!
~SexiSoprano was not compensated in any way by

Rachael Colman is a mezzo-soprano and graphic designer based out of Kansas City. She loves to help her fellow singers improve their audition portfolios, offering services from resume editing to headshot retouching to website design. She is currently on roster with several professional choral groups across the country, and maintains an active opera presence, most recently performing as Nancy in ALBERT HERRING with Opera Breve in Wichita Falls, TX, and as the title role in LA CENERENTOLA with the Midwest Institute of Opera in Bloomington, IL. For more information, please visit and