Headshot Photography

What is a Modern Headshot? Modern vs. Traditional Headshots

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Written By Nate Torres

You’re scrolling through LinkedIn and stumble upon a profile with a headshot that looks like it was taken in the 90s.

You can’t help but cringe at the outdated look and wonder why anyone would still use a traditional headshot.

In today’s fast-paced, digital world, the modern headshot has become essential for personal branding and making a strong first impression.

In this article, we’ll explore what makes a headshot modern, the differences between modern and traditional headshots, and why a modern headshot is important for your personal and professional brand.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

What is a Modern Headshot?

A modern headshot is similar to what you see in magazines – but with digital photography and more creative lighting techniques.

To most people, a headshot is just a photo of somebody’s face.

To others, it’s the difference between an average Joe and a model.

Today, headshots are not only used by artists and actors.

Anyone who has a business or online presence can benefit from having a modern headshot to include on their LinkedIn profile or other social media accounts.

Why is it Called a Modern Headshot?

It’s called a modern headshot because the style is a contrast to “traditional” headshot photos.

Well…what are those differences?

Modern Headshot vs Traditional Headshot Photos

Traditional Headshots

Traditional headshot photos are usually taken against a plain white background. Photo shoots can take place in professional studios or in homes – but the background is always neutral to showcase the subject’s clothing and express their personality through facial expressions.

Modern Headshots

Modern headshots, on the other hand, use more vibrant colors and creative lighting techniques to create trendy images that stand out from the rest.

traditional vs modern headshot
traditional vs modern headshot photo

What Can I Use a Modern Headshot For?

A modern headshot is a great way to document a personal milestone such as getting married, taking a new job, etc.

A modern headshot can be used for your LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social media profiles.

Anyone from business owners to those looking to break into their career field of choice now sees the need for one if it is not already included with their professional profile package.

In addition to social media, modern headshots are now being used as a form of marketing for local businesses.

Even those with no experience as a model can have a beautiful shot created to market their business and build rapport with potential customers.

Unlike old-school studio-style photo shoots, a small DSLR is all you need to take a modern headshot that will blow away your competition and put your best face forward (no pun intended).

Why You Need a Modern Headshot?

Here are 10 reasons why you may want to get a modern headshot.

1. Get Discovered Online

In today’s world, you have to be online if you want to make it big – or even small!

online modern headshot
get discovered online

You can’t rely on your physical appearance anymore. If you’re not Internet savvy, it’s time to get up to speed.

Since the advent of digital photography, headshots have changed.

2. Clean and Stylish

Many modern headshots are clean and stylish.

They usually feature simple backgrounds that don’t detract from the person’s face.

Even though it may not be a traditional studio background, the background is still simple in nature and not cluttered.

3. Attention to Detail

Modern photographers pay attention to detail in order to give their clients exactly what they’re looking for.

For example, if you are a client looking for a “modern” headshot specifically for Instagram, you might let your photographer know that.

The photographer can then work with you to ensure they use a background that will match your Instagram profile, make sure the crop works for the tiny area Instagram allows for, etc.

4. Headshots are Like Online Dating Profiles

Headshots are like online dating profiles. If you have an outdated, low-quality headshot it’s time for an upgrade!

5. How You Look Matters

If you want to book more jobs or get more auditions, the way you look matters. Just like online dating, if you have an outdated profile pic, it’s time to update!

appearance modern headshot

6. One Headshot Can Be Used for MANY Auditions and Jobs

The same headshot can be used for MANY auditions and jobs. And as such, your headshot must represent you as a broad, chameleon actor. A modern headshot can allow you to do this.

7. Old Headshots Could be Keeping You from Getting Work

While a headshot is usually used to obtain work or auditions – it could also be keeping you from getting the job! And it’s time for an upgrade.

Ideally, it’s best to get a new headshot every year.

8. Headshot Reveals the Real You – Well, What They Know So Far!

Your headshot should reveal your personality. If it doesn’t, it needs an update! A modern headshot can show what you’ve got to offer.

9. Headshot is your First Impression

Your headshot is the first impression people have of you. Make it a good one! A modern headshot can allow you to do just that.

first impression modern headshot

10. People Make Judgements in Seconds!

The sad truth is that people make judgments in seconds. A modern headshot can help you take control of the first impression you’re making.

Just remember, it takes a 1/10 of a second to form an initial impression just by looking at someone.

What Do You Wear for Modern Headshots?

A modern headshot is a combination of a professional and creative photo. You can choose to wear whatever you want for your shoot, but here are some guidelines:

  • Make sure you have good quality clothes that fit well
  • Bring an outfit with clean lines and interesting textures
  • Wear clothes in which you feel comfortable.
modern headshot example

3 Modern Headshot Tips

If you are a photographer, here are some tips to photograph better modern headshots.

1. Lighting

Great lighting is essential to great headshots. You can’t go wrong with either natural light or studio lighting.

So, use one of these two setups for your shoot (and find a space that has lots of light) and you’ll be good to go!

Remember the three-point lighting setup that involves a fill light, key light, and backlight:

three point lighting
3-point lighting setup

And if you are photographing with natural light, then utilize ambient light.

2. Setting Up Your Shot

When setting up your shot, think about what you want to convey and what the client is going to use the image for.

Make sure to actually have the client tell you what look they are going for in the pre-shoot consultation. Ask them to even show you examples of photos they like so you can try to emulate the look with your own style.

3. Framing the Shot

Make sure your shot is framed well. In other words, be mindful of how it will look on a social media profile or on a website. If it looks odd, try to resize and straighten your photo with an online image resizer.

How to Find a Modern Headshot Photographer?

1. Ask Around

If you want a modern headshot, ask around for recommendations from friends and co-workers who have had theirs done recently.

2. Check Out Photography Websites or Portfolios

After asking around, check out as many photography websites as possible to get a feel for the different styles and prices of local photographers.

Then, contact each local photographer to see if they are available on your date and book an appointment.

3. Pick the Best Modern Headshot Photographer

After talking with a few different photographers, pick out the best one for you and ask about their prices, packages, and availability. Then, book an appointment!

4. Get Your Own Ideas

You know yourself and your look better than anyone else. Get together some ideas of what you want and bring them with you on the day of your shoot.

5. Discuss Your Ideas with Your Photographer

Before getting started, make sure to sit down with your photographer and discuss exactly what they need from you during your shoot – including any wardrobe changes.

6. Have Fun with It

Last but not least, have fun! Your headshot should represent the real you, so make sure to enjoy your time during your shoot.

Final Remarks

We hope you enjoyed this guide on modern headshot photography.

This guide is also a part of our Headshots Hub, so be sure to check that out for further headshot photography tips and insights.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you wear to a modern headshot?

When choosing an outfit for a modern headshot, it’s important to keep it simple, clean, and professional. Neutral colors and classic styles are often the best choices, and you should avoid anything too flashy or distracting.

What are the trends for headshots today?

Some of the current trends for headshots include natural lighting and a more relaxed, candid look. Additionally, there’s a move away from overly retouched images and towards more authentic, genuine shots that showcase the individual’s personality and style.

Do headshots need to be straight on?

Not necessarily – many modern headshots use off-center framing or creative angles to add visual interest and showcase the subject’s personality. However, it’s important to make sure the angle doesn’t distort the subject’s features or look too unconventional for the intended purpose of the headshot.