Teens... I have shot a lot of teens. In fact, I suppose it is my specialty.
Below is a bunch of advice, but let me start off by saying that the most important thing for a teen is that you look young.
This is because of casting. Agencies. films and plays are always looking to cast older actors who look young into young parts. Why? Older actors tend to have more experience, are easier to work with, and are typically cheaper for a production company to employ.
Actors under 18 are subject to child labor laws,which limit the number of hours they can work. Additionally, there are often chaperoning and tutoring requirements, all of which cost the production company money. And then there are issues like growth spurts, voice changes, etc. The net result is that it is VERY hard to get cast between the ages of 13 and 18.
So why look young? Because everyone casts down. If they need a 16 year old and they have a 21 year old that can pass for 16, then that's who will get the gig.
If you're 16 and you're dressed and made up like you're in your 20's, you're shooting yourself in the foot. No one is going to cast a 16 year old for a role that needs someone in their 20's. They'll just get a 20 year old. But if you're 16 and you look 12 or 13, then there's a chance to get that sort of part, because everyone casts down.
In short, try to look less than your age.
The exception to this is when you're applying to colleges.
Girls: Wear as little as possible, as thinly as possible. No eye liner, minimal contouring. Use concealer to fix blemishes, and maybe a touch of rouge, a tiny bit of mascara, tiny bit of lipgloss. And that's it. No lined lips, no shimmer, no heavy foundation, leave your eyebrows alone. If you have very light eyebrows, brush a tiny amount of eye-shadow (brown) into them to give your eye brows a bit of definition.
Guys - no make-up.
Teens have pimples, and they're best handled by Photoshop. If you normally wear concealer to school and can apply it such that it doesn't look like you're wearing concealer, then that is fine. Usually, though, average sort of acne is best fixed with Photoshop.
However, if you have a severe skin issues it is going to be next to impossible to get cast. And the longer you let acne issues linger the more you run the risk of permanent scarring. So please, take care of it. Go to a good dermatologist and get some help. There are a number in the NY area that are excellent.
If you have braces then you have braces, and your headshot will be a picture of you in braces, and if you go on auditions you will have your braces. Braces are a part of your look right now, and that might cost you getting cast and there is nothing that can be done about that. No, I don't Photoshop out braces.
In a shoot, I take photos that both show and hide your braces, and then we pick the best photo and life goes on. Eventually your braces will come off and and you'll have beautiful teeth. Yes, it sucks right now, And soon it will be over. So hang in there, smile, and if you get the gig you get the gig!
If you're seriously pursuing work then you probably need to adopt a simple, perhaps traditional hairstyle. So, no mohawks, no color, no shaved spots, etc. If they're looking to cast Emily in Our Town it will be a lot easier for them to imagine you in the part if you have simple, natural hair. Long or short doesn't really matter (for girls) but simple, clean and healthy looking is what you should be thinking.
Boys can get away with a little bit more, but again, keep it simple and traditional.
If you have a signature look - ie, goth or some such - and you want headshots in that look, that is fine, but be aware there are limited casting opportunities for you.
Bring a brush, scrunchies. Try to avoid a lot of hair product. Keep it simple, keep it clean.
I pose teens so they look confident without looking arrogant, but there is also what I call a "story" that needs to be told.
What I mean by "story" is that there are elements that make a person unique and castible, such as hair or physique. If these elements can be captured in a headshot it makes a huge difference. So I'll frame and pose to bring out those things if possible.
Bring a bunch of different, solid colored t-shirts. Avoid sports teams, things with writing on them, busy patterns, etc.
T-shirts with crew necks work well in headshots. Pick tops with less saturated colors. A t-shirt that is a bit worn and has been washed so it is broken in somewhat is a good bet.
If you have a lot of contrast between your hair and skin (dark hair, light skin) you can generally get away with stronger color choices. If you're a blond or redhead you have to be careful not to wear something that totally takes the focus off your face.
Greens and yellows... avoid these unless you're a red head, in which case you can always get away with wearing green. People with blue and green eyes tend to look good in blue and green.
Guys - unless you have muscles avoid tank tops. Girls - don't wear something sexy and overly revealing. And girls, make sure you have sleeved as well as sleeveless tops with you - sometimes sleeveless tops make arms look fat.
Shoulder-less Tops for girls...
Shoulder-less tops can be very problematic in a headshot. They can look great, but depending on the angle. showing a lot of skin around up there can make a person look HUGE. See the picture below for visual evidence...
Most people wear pants or shorts in a headshot. Often girls wear skirts. It doesn't really matter: below your waist isn't going to be in any pictures if we're shooting headshots, and if you're shooting full body we'll have discussed what to wear in detail over the phone.
All this being said, generally anything you wear can be made to work. Pick a few things and come have fun at the shoot!
The Magic of Teal
When in doubt, wear teal. It works with literally any skin color and has a wonderful energy to it.
I retouch images of teens very carefully, because the last thing we want is for casting people and agents to think it has been heavily retouched, which would indicate that there is a skin issue.
As I said early, Photoshop can generally take care of any skin issues, so most of a teen retouch is evening out the skin, getting eyes nice and bright, and simply getting a fresh, natural look.
I tend to leave hair a bit of a mess, leaving some flyaways and errant hairs on the photo - I think helps make a headshot look un-retouched.