Commercial Vs. Theatrical Headshots (5 Quick Tips)

February 24, 2021

In the world of an actor, the are two main domains on which you can focus, theatrical & commercial. Now, there are tons of breakdowns inside and outside of these two categories: i.e. comedic headshots, character headshots, etc. But when navigating the headshot world on the journey of properly choosing a good headshot photographer, you’re going to want to recognize the distinction between a strong theatrical headshot vs. a commercial one.

Are you looking for commercial and theatrical headshots in Los Angeles?

Here are a few tips on how to achieve great theatrical and commercial acting portfolio headshots:

1 |Commercial Headshots have generally cleaner backgrounds.

Typically commercial headshots are taken on a clean solid color backdrop or maybe a location that is very unobtrusive nor distracting. You’re going to want to look like you stepped straight out of a Macy’s catalog. Now, this doesn’t mean looking cheesy necessarily but for the most part, the best commercial actors have a classic and clean look.

2 | Theatrical wardrobe is typically more character-driven.

When taking theatrical headshots, most actors are shooting for a specific type of character or look. When comparing theatrical and commercial headshot photography in Los Angeles, you have to be aware of the dimensions of your character for theatrical headshots. They may want the football-jock look, the undercover cop, the love interest, etc. There are a ton of wardrobe look options that aren’t as necessarily important to hone in on in terms of commercial headshots. Now, in both styles of headshots, you’re going to want to focus on playing towards what you mostly audition and get cast for. This is a great opportunity to get insight from your agency representation or acting managers on what looks you should be aiming for. Most importantly though, is that you recognize that commercial headshots are basically just “you”, at your most base presentable form. Let your true personality show through, whether you are quirky with a bubbly personality, or subtle and stern with a dry sense of humor. You want to keep in mind you’re aiming to be the face of a brand, a big company, or an organization that needs a face that speaks honestly to their target audience, builds trust, and ultimately says “buy what I’m selling”.

3 | Commercial Headshots have brighter more even lighting

When choosing the right headshot photographer, many actors make the wrong decision of choosing a more commercial-style headshot photographer than one that shoots theatrically. And you definitely need the right photographer for acting portfolio headshots. Now most photographers lean either one way or the other, a great photographer can produce both. But this takes you also being diligent and specific in what you’re looking for. Thinking of words like light, bright, clean, classic when viewing various headshot photographers’ work will really help when searching for the right photographer. When comparing theatrical and commercial headshots in Los Angeles, it boils down to these main differences:

Theatrical headshots will typically be darker and more dramatic with deeper richer shadows. Commercial headshots on the other hand are going to be flatter and more even in lighting. You’re not going to want to see deep shadows or anything that would distract from the actor.

4 | Theatrical Headshots are more subtle in expression

An expression is everything in headshots. It’s what those casting directors and producers want to see to draw them in. Theatrical headshots, in tandem with film and tv acting itself, is much more subtle and reserved in expression. Small tiny movements in your eyes, cheeks, jawline, are really going to speak volumes in theatrical headshots. Commercial headshots on the other hand can be a bit more bold, bright, and filled with more personality.

5 | Commercial Headshots are higher energy

Commercial Headshots are always a much higher energy than theatrical headshots. You want to truly be captivating and possess a personality that keeps peoples attention for those short few seconds that commercial runs on the screen. This means really being in tune to your own personal confidence and attitude. Embrace who you are in commercial headshots and chances are there’s a brand out there who’s looking for your exact flavor to be the face of their brand.

Hopefully, these tips really help you distinguish the differences between a theatrical headshot photographer and a commercial headshot photographer and help you choose the right one for what your acting career needs. If you need commercial and theatrical headshots in Los Angeles, its time to contact Glass Darkly!

Let’s get started today – God bless!


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