Skip to main content

Commercial VS Theatrical Headshots (Explained)


When it comes to the acting industry, there are two types of headshots: commercial and theatrical. But you may wonder why anyone would need two headshots and any differences between these types of headshots. Casting directors look for something specific in a headshot depending on their role for the role player. Here are the main differences between commercial and theatrical headshots.

Commercial headshots

These headshots appeal to the advertising industry since their main aim is to promote a product to a particular demographic group. When considering commercial headshot, you should put into account the demographic group you want to appeal to in the ad. The photographer has the task of capturing a personality that people in the targeted demography can relate.

Smile vs. No Smile

Commercial headshots require, for the most part, a smiling face. You will be smiling into the camera a lot when posing for this type of shot. This is because the advert needs to ooze warmth and charisma to connect with the audience, keeping in mind that your image has only a few seconds to achieve the feat. Your photographer needs to capture you in your best natural element, not when you have a plastic smile across your face.


Your commercial headshot must portray you as likable and relatable. To achieve this feat, you need to don warm and bright attire. We are talking about color that pops, jewelry that attracts attention but doesn’t overshadow you. For this reason, avoid dark colors, such as blacks and grays, since they tend to sap the warmth and energy out of your shot. What if you have only dark clothing? No pressure: pose before a bright background.

Theatrical Headshots

If you are going to feature in films, plays, and TV shows, theatrical headshots would be your thing. Theatrical headshots bring out the layers of an actor’s personality, bringing out a little more emotional background than a commercial headshot. To bring out the character assigned to you, the theatrical headshot does a great job of laying your personality bare so that the audience can understand your actions. This is quite unlike in commercial headshots, which depict you as trustworthy so the product can sell. Theatrical headshots represent personality according to the role played in the film or TV show.

Serious vs. No Smile

Theatrical headshots require a confident expression without necessarily smiling. However, the facial display depends on the character you want to portray. It could be a vulnerability behind the eyes, or a knowing smirk, may be all you need to showcase your personality in the play. Although not all the shots need to be severe and stoic, they are more grounded than commercial headshots.


Before you pose for theatrical headshots, you need to consider the colors of your clothes. Unlike commercial headshots that require brighter shades, theatrical headshots need moodier, darker colors. Depending on the character you want to depict, select your wardrobe to cut a stronger impression than commercial headshots.

No photographer is either commercial or theatrical – it is how you pose before them. Put on light colors, and complement them with a smile on your face, and the shot becomes a commercial headshot.  Change to darker colors and a serious demeanor, and everything switches to a theatrical headshot.

Schedule a Session With Duane

But some photographers may have a particular style. If you are not sure whether they are commercial or theatrical, you may want to go through their portfolio to see the images they produce. If you are looking for a photographer who understands the two types of shots, look no further than us. Please contact us for more details if you need a professional photographer for commercial and theatrical headshots.


Good Headshots vs. Bad Headshots (Explained)


If you are a business or acting professional, you’ve likely heard that you need a headshot to build your brand — which is absolutely true! However, bad headshots can cause a lot more harm than good in your career. So the question must be asked:

What Makes a Good Headshot?

Here at Duane Furlong Studios, we have taken our fair share of headshots, and have come up with a few things we’ve noticed help your headshot stand out, in a good way:

Headshot is Well-lit

While it seems like a simple statement, good lighting is incredibly important when it comes to headshots. You want to put your best foot forward, and people need to be able to see you. Poor or intentionally dramatic lighting can distort facial features and prevent the employer or client from recognizing you in your headshot – you need something that will help them remember you and your personality.

Headshot Has You as the Focal Point

The whole point of a headshot is to help an employer (in the business or the entertainment world) see you. Distractingly busy backgrounds, clothes, or hair-dos will not only draw the attention of the employer, but it will make them have to work harder to focus on you. Opt for solid tops and solid backgrounds, in colors that will make your face stand out in the picture. You want to make their job as easy as possible by putting your face as the complete focal point of the photo, with nothing to pull the eye away.

Headshot Gives a Taste of Your Personality

All that being said, you don’t have to make your headshot completely void of personality – in fact, it should help the employer or client understand you a little bit more as a person. If you like bright colors, by all means opt for a brighter background or shirt for a bright pop of color. If you like to smile, smile. If you want to display a more serious, professional, business-like side of you, opt for more muted colors and perhaps a more serious expression.

However, a good headshot will not advertise you as something you are not. Stay true to your personality and let that shine through your headshots.

Headshot Looks Like You

All of the previous points are important, but none more than this: a good headshot looks like you. It looks like you on an above-average day, but it still looks like you. Excessive Photoshop edits, makeup, or hairstyles that aren’t natural or usual for you, elaborate clothing that you would never wear – they all will do nothing but to confuse your potential employer or client when you sit in front of them and hand them a headshot (or they find it on your website or social media) that looks nothing like you. Every time you go through a hairstyle or bodily change, you need to take new headshots to make sure that you are giving the people with whom you interact a picture that is up to date.

Additionally, many employers use your headshot to remind themselves of your interview (or performance, if you are auditioning) when making decisions on who to hire. They need to be able to match your face to the interview they went through, and if your headshot looks nothing like you, they are going to have a difficult job remembering who you are.

Talk With The Experts

All this being said, it is incredibly important for business professionals and actors to have quality, up-to-date headshots to bring to interviews and auditions. If your headshots are needing a refresh, contact us to book an individual or group session today!