Can Headshots Be Black and White?

This is a question that comes up on some occasions – can headshots be black and white? Some might argue it depends on what it’s for. For example, some might say actor headshots can be black and white but corporate headshots should not be. Some might also argue that model headshots can be black and white. The quick answer is, of course headshots can be black and white but, not as the primary ones you use – and that’s regardless of what they are for.

Your main headshots should be in color. This is for many obvious reasons I’ll go ahead and state anyway. Whether you’re an actor, business executive, model, etc., the purpose of a headshot is to show an accurate representation of you. The last time I checked, the world operates in full color. So, a black and white headshot is not an accurate representation of you.

Black and White Actor Headshot

A Black and White Headshot is a Classic and Looks Good, Like this One. But, It’s an Outdated Process and Inaccurate Representation of You.

Black and White Headshots Leave One Guessing

With a black & white headshot, you might try and guess as to the color of the person’s hair, eyes, clothes, and so on. And you’re probably not going to get it all correct. It just leaves too many questions. So, if you’re an actor or model and submit only black and white headshots to a casting director or agency, you simply create more guess work for them. It probably gets your photo tossed.

Let’s put it one other way. I’ve had countless actors, corporate executives, models, and so on come in for headshots. And, not once had any of them tell me “my agent wants black and white headshots.” Or, “my boss is requiring black and white headshots.” They’ve not even said they could use black and white headshots as an option.


Color Actor Headshot

A Color Headshot Removes the Guessing Game So People Looking at it Know What to Expect. It also Gives You More Creative Liberty to Brand Yourself.

Black and White Headshots as an Option

So, does that make black and white headshots a bad thing? No. But, if you want to use them as part of your portfolio, they should be sparingly used. For example, if you’re headshot portfolio consists of 10 photos, maybe one might be black and white. If your portfolio is under 10 photos, I’d recommend staying away from black and white headshots. Of course, that is unless there is a specific application for having it. Maybe there is a movie coming out that will be shot in black and white and a casting director wants black and white headshots to consider. Anything is possible.

The Art of a Headshot

As an art, black & white photos can be great. But your headshot is primarily for business purposes. Make sure that it addresses that. It should be an accurate representation of you. Remember too – because it is for business purposes – if your look changes you should update your headshot.

What does this mean? If you’ve grown out your hair or cut it. If you’ve lost or gained noticeable weight. Or, if you’ve aged and it shows, etc. Actors and models should consider getting fresh headshots at least annually or bi-annually at most. It’s always good to change things up and see what’s working. Corporate executives can stretch it out a bit longer. But, whatever you do, make sure it’s a professional headshot and not a selfie. Do not do that to yourself.

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