I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to invest in a great headshot! It is your calling card and the first impression casting directors will have of you. A great headshot will open doors. It is the most important tool you can invest in. If your headshot does not catch the eye of casting directors they will never know how talented you are because you will not get an audition.
Casting directors can get thousands of submissions for a role they are casting. That means hundreds of pages of tiny thumbnail headshots on their computer screens that they need to sort through before deciding who they want to see for an audition. If your headshot doesn't catch the casting director's eye you won't have a chance. Your headshot needs to stand out, it has to have life and personality.
That does not mean you need to spend $1000 or more for a great headshot. In LA for example, a headshot shoot with a great photographer will cost, on average between $250 and $350. Other markets may differ so do some homework to find out what is average where you live.
You will never need a professional headshot for a child under 5. If anyone tries to sell you professional headshots for an infant or small child DON'T DO IT. Infants and young children change so quickly that if they needed professional headshots you would probably go bankrupt trying to keep the photos current. All you need is a good close up photo of your child's head and shoulders facing forward, looking into the camera. No hats or costumes. You do need to be sure the lighting is good. Natural lighting seems to work best and try to get a shot with personality. Choose the photo that looks most like your child making sure you can clearly see their eyes, no squinting.
When choosing a photographer, remember that headshot photography is much different than family portrait photography. You need to find a photographer that specializes in headshots. If you are looking at a photographer's website and the photos look too glamorous or overly touched up that isn't the photographer you want. You want photos that look natural. Eyes are very important so be sure the eyes stand out in the photographer's photos.
Here are some guidelines you need to follow for the photo shoot.
Logo's and jewelry are also no-no's and heavy make-up is never acceptable. Stay away from prints, pastels white, grey, beige and black. They tend to wash out most complexions. Instead you want to choose solid vibrant colors that look great on you so the photos will stand out. And always wear layers, you don't want to show too much skin.
If you are getting a child's headshot done remember photos need to be age appropriate. If your child is 12 they need to look and dress like a 12 year old, not 16. If makeup is even necessary it needs to be very light and natural.
The best advice I can give you is to have fun with the photo shoot. If you take it too serious you will be nervous and your photos will probably end up looking stiff and lifeless. If, on the other hand, you are relaxed and having a good time you will get amazing photos with life and personality.