When it comes to actor headshots, there is a lot of debate about how much retouching should be done. On one hand, you want to present yourself in the best possible light, but on the other hand, you don’t want to misrepresent yourself or appear too heavily edited. So, what level of retouching is appropriate for actor headshots?

The key for headshot retouching for actors is to create a clean natural look.  Removing temporary distractions such a blemishes without drastically altering your appearance is the primary goal of retouching headshots, while enhancing your natural features. However, it is VITAL that any retouching done keeps your headshots looking as close as possible to how you will look when you walk into the casting office, or send off your self tape.  I cannot stress this enough. Here are some guidelines to consider when it comes to retouching:

Skin: While it’s common to want to remove blemishes or any skin imperfections, it’s important to maintain a natural look. Avoid over-softening the skin or removing all traces of texture will make the the photo appear overly retouched and fake.  It might make for a nice fashion shot for the cover of a magazine, but when you audition, and appear NOTHING like your headshots, this will never bode well for you in the eyes of the casting director.  Headshots are not “who’s hotter” contest.  If a casting director keeps looking at you, then back at your headshot, then back at you, squinting their eyes because they are not sure if it’s really the same person…yea, that’s bad.  This is acting, not high fashion modeling… embrace ALL your beautiful imperfections… because the dirty little secret is, for a number of roles, those imperfections are wanted.

Eyes: Brightening the eyes can help draw attention to them and make them appear more lively. However, be careful not to overdo it, as overly bright eyes can appear unnatural.  Your eyes should never look so bright that the first question that comes to mind is the casting director wondering if laser are about to shoot out of them.  Sad part is, I’ve seen it, and it one of the faster ways to have your headshots completely disregarded.

Teeth: It’s common to whiten teeth and remove any discoloration or stains, but be sure to maintain a natural look. Avoid making teeth look too unnaturally white or perfect.  This is another great example of when you audition, there is no hiding how truly white (or maybe not so white) your teeth really are.  And like the eyes, if they seem altered too much, the casting director may begin to doubt the entire photo, and just simply not take the change of calling you in and you not looking at all like your photos.

Hair: Flyaways or distracting hair strands can be removed, but be careful not to overdo it and make the hair appear unnaturally smooth or airbrushed.  Again, it just looks to fake.  I’d rather see a few genuine flyaways, a real genuine look to the photo, than trying to make it perfect.  Think about the characters you seeing in the vast majority of TV or film or even commercials.  Are they “perfect”?  No, they are not, so don’t feel you need to be.

Overall, the goal of retouching should be to enhance your natural features and present yourself in the best possible light, without appearing overly edited or fake. It’s important to work with a photographer and retoucher who understands the balance between that clean natural look just the right amount of editing, and who can provide guidance and feedback throughout the process.