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Commercial VS Theatrical Headshots (Explained)

Commercial VS Theatrical Headshots (Explained)

| Duane Furlong |
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.


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