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Headshot photography tips

Face to face - master the art of headshot photography with professional tips and techniques...

Headshot photography tips

Here are 25 of my headshot photography tips I've learned over the years. These tips apply to beginners, amateurs, and professionals.

1. Understanding your client’s needs

As basic as it may sound, listening to and meeting your client’s expectations is crucial! Rally as much information as you can.

Start with the fundamental questions about the theme of their headshot photograph. Use all of the information you can get to create a rough sketch of how their headshot would look.

For example: Let's say the client tells you they want a headshot for their LinkedIn. Then you might already picture them wearing a nice dress shirt with a white background:

Then, slowly ask more detailed questions regarding how formal or unconventional they want their headshot to be.

Is this headshot for personal or professional use? Uncover what meaning they want to attach to their headshots. These detailed questions will help you plan all the elements necessary to capture the headshot, such as:

  • The lighting
  • Poses
  • Setting/venue
  • Equipment necessary
  • Clothing/props

Just remember, as with most other situations, clear and effective communication will become your best ally. Don’t forget to make sure that both parties are on the same page!

2. Have a pre-session consultation

Before the session begins, a consultation is necessary. Consultations should clear up any potential misunderstandings between the client and the photographer.

For example, do they want a headshot that conveys happiness:

Or one that is a bit moodier:

3. Clothing and outfit

Clothing plays a big part in headshot photography and is one of the things that needs to be discussed. Not everyone will be conveniently dressed for the perfect shot.

So it’s perfectly fine to give them a suggestion based on the theme they are going for. For starters, using solid neutral colors that aren’t too flashy and bright is always a good idea.

Keep in mind that the main focus of headshot photographs is the face of your client. Colors, brands, and patterns that are too flashy or attract too much attention should be avoided. Unless they fit the client’s theme and that is what they ask for:

Although optional, preparing a short guideline for fashioning future headshot photography would be desirable. This could also add professionalism to your craft.

4. Be flexible and creative!

Not all headshot photography must be done in a studio with a formal backdrop. Have fun and explore different scenery that may work in your client’s favor.

For example, imagine you're photographing a professional actor who wants a headshot that showcases their versatility for different roles. You've scouted a picturesque outdoor location with soft natural light, but as you start shooting, you notice a colorful graffiti-covered wall nearby.

Instead of sticking rigidly to your original plan, you decide to be flexible and creative. You ask the actor to pose against the vibrant wall. The result is a headshot that adds an edgy and distinctive element to their portfolio along with a professional one:

The sky becomes the limit as long as you are willing to be flexible.

5. Prepare all of the essentials

Prepare some extra tools for the session. Tools such as a mirror, a comb, or other equipment that were requested during the pre-session consultation are available.

Is the client representing a brand? You can possibly prepare some props/accessories to be worn, as long as they don’t ruin the composition or take up too much space.

Just remember, the focus should be on the model and not the accessories. But, depending on the agreement during the consultation, these are still subject to change.

6. Prepare a plan B

Nothing is guaranteed to go entirely according to your expectations, so it's always good to have a backup plan.

Not photographing in a studio? Uncontrollable factors such as weather, lighting conditions, or even the sudden appearance of a crowd could disrupt your session. You don't want this to happen:

Make sure to have a backup plan before conducting a session. Maybe choose a location with an indoor setting nearby. You can never go wrong with going out prepared!

In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

7. Keep the client comfortable

When a person feels uncomfortable, their expression becomes stiffer and forced. To ensure the client remains comfortable throughout the session, prepare some water and keep a casual conversation.

For example, here is how a conversation I had with one of my subjects during a headshot photography session:

  • Me: "So, have you had any interesting projects lately (knowing they were a designer)?"
  • Client: "Actually, I just returned from a vacation to [destination]. It was a great escape from work, and I got to try some amazing local cuisine."
  • Me: "That sounds incredible! Traveling can be so inspiring. Did you have a favorite dish from your trip or any memorable experiences you'd like to share?"
  • Client: "Oh, absolutely! I tried this delicious [local dish], and it was amazing. You have to try it sometime. And I also had the chance to explore [landmark or activity], which was a dream come true."
  • Me: "Wow, that sounds like an amazing adventure! It must have been quite an experience. By the way, you're doing great in front of the camera. Your confidence really shines through."

Take the lead and guide them through the session, especially if it’s their first time doing it.

Remember this, people dislike doing things wrong or causing unnecessary inconvenience. These feelings make them anxious. First-timers in any field or activity will have this same emotion, which is perfectly natural! If some comforting is in order, do not hesitate to do so!

8. Keep your cool and relax

Most beginner headshot photographers feel uncomfortable thinking about having to retake the same pose repeatedly. What begins as a small, awkward start can become increasingly uncomfortable. The pressure builds upon your shoulders to take the best photos you can.

But don’t worry, every photographer goes through the same thing. If all else fails, take a deep breath and try your best. Here's a tip, it helps to know your female and male poses so it’s muscle memory when you’re on your photo shoot.

9. Be enthusiastic and honest

Now, let’s talk about honesty when it comes to praising your client. When giving compliments to make your client feel more confident, make sure it’s genuine.

Nobody likes flat-toned praise that just feels made-up, so make sure to show your real excitement for the photoshoot. Make sure that the compliments come out naturally, as though you are conversing casually with the client. For example do they have great hair? Let them know!

You want to make your subject feel:

  • Safe
  • Special
  • Proud of themselves

Remember not to barrage them with too many compliments. This may make them feel that you are “buttering them up” and can even come across as unprofessional.

10. Make good use of lighting

The importance of headshot photography lighting cannot be overemphasized. In photography, light highlights the client’s form and features.

The use of lighting is easily the make-or-break aspect of your photo. Remember the three-point lighting system:

Too little light could make them look intimidating or serious:

Too much light may not highlight any of the client’s features at all, resulting in a ‘flat’ look:

To get started with an estimate of how much lighting you need, consider the following:

  • What is the client’s purpose for the shoot?
  • What is their best feature?
  • Is the photo going to be taken at a generally bright or dim venue?

Adjust your headshot photography lighting accordingly to achieve the best results. Remember popular lighting setups:

  • Loop Lighting
  • Rembrandt Lighting
  • Butterfly Lighting
  • Split Lighting

Your adjustments can include equipment such as an on/off-camera flash, a strobe set-up, or even a ring light. Yes, ring lights can be used to take headshots. Ring lights can create a very flattering light and display the subject’s complexion well. They also provide plenty of depth and dimension to photos.

11. Find the best camera settings

It is always advisable to adjust your camera settings to suit every scenario or photo shoot. A quick guideline would be: F-stop between f/1.8 and f/4 for a shallow depth of field, which causes a gorgeous bokeh effect. Shutter speed should be at least double the length of your focal lens.

A good camera setting acts as a safety net, which you can rely on when shooting in a new environment. For better results, let’s move on to the next tip on how to use the focus accurately.

12. Fix your focus

Keeping the client in-focus is one of the most important parts of any kind of portrait photography.

General guidelines to avoid blurry photos include:

  • Focusing on the eyes
  • Using a fast-enough shutter speed
  • Using the correct F-stop for your creative goal
  • Lower f-stop number for shallow depth of field
  • Higher f-stop number for narrow depth of field

Consider using a tripod if you choose a higher F-stop since it can get quite shaky. Of course, all of these guidelines depend on your specific situation.

For example, some headshot photographers like to use higher f-stop numbers to capture everything in focus, including the subject's outfit. Don’t be too rigid; sometimes, you may need to break the ‘rules.’

13. Consider additional gear

Depending on the outcome of your pre-session consultation, you may want to bring additional gear to fit the location requirements. You can achieve excellent headshots with basic photography equipment.

But you'll want to consider additional gear depending on the goal of the shoot. Addition gear can elevate the quality of your shots and enhance your creative options.

Some additional gear options to consider:

  • Reflector: A reflector can bounce and diffuse natural light or artificial light onto your subject, reducing harsh shadows and creating a flattering, even illumination.
  • Softbox or Umbrella: Softboxes and umbrellas are popular modifiers for studio lighting. They help diffuse and soften the light source, producing gentle and even lighting on your subject's face.
  • Backgrounds: Investing in various backgrounds, such as seamless paper, fabric, or collapsible backdrops, allows you to change the look and style of your headshots quickly.
  • Light Stands and Tripods: Sturdy light stands and tripods are essential for positioning your lights and camera precisely. They provide stability and allow for consistent results.
  • External Flash: An external flash unit can be used as a key light or fill light, especially in low-light conditions. It provides additional flexibility and control over your lighting setup.

When considering additional gear, assess your specific photography needs and budget. Start with the essentials and gradually invest in more gear as your skills and client base grow.

Each piece of equipment can open up new creative possibilities. They can also contribute to the overall professionalism of your headshot photography.

14. Experiment with various poses

As a photographer, you can help to make your client’s photo as flattering as possible with poses.

For example, you could ask them to extend their neck to avoid that dreaded double chin, tilt their head at a slight angle, and many more.

Remember, the poses you choose will be dependent on the look that your client is trying to achieve. Posing men and posing women is surprisingly different, as some poses are considered more "feminine" than others.

A good pose for a male headshot photo should convey confidence, approachability, and professionalism.

  • Stand or Sit Up Straight: Have the subject sit or stand with a straight posture. Good posture exudes confidence and professionalism.
  • Face the Camera: The subject should face the camera directly. The shoulders can be slightly turned at a slight angle for a more relaxed look.
  • Relax the Shoulders: Ensure that the subject's shoulders are relaxed and not tense. Tension can be evident in the neck and jawline.
  • Chin Forward and Down: Ask the subject to push their chin forward and slightly down. This helps define the jawline and reduces the appearance of a double chin.
  • Eyes to the Camera: Direct the subject to look directly into the camera with a friendly and approachable expression. Encourage them to relax their facial muscles for a natural look.
  • Hands (Optional): Depending on the desired style and mood of the headshot, the subject can have their hands in various positions. Common options include clasping the hands in front of them, resting one hand on the chin or cheek, or placing hands in pockets (if applicable).
  • Smile (Optional): A subtle and friendly smile can warm the headshot. Encourage the subject to smile naturally without appearing forced.
  • Eyes: The eyes are a focal point in a headshot. Ensure they are well-lit and sharp. Catchlights in the eyes can add depth and life to the photo.

This classic head and shoulders pose is timeless and works well for business headshots, professional profiles, and various other applications:

A good pose for a female headshot is similar to a male headshot. They can differ in subtle ways to emphasize femininity and highlight individual characteristics. Here's a classic and flattering pose for a female headshot:

  • Elongate the Neck: Ask the female subject to elongate her neck slightly by pushing her chin forward and down. This creates a more defined jawline and reduces the appearance of any double chin.
  • Angle the Face: While keeping the body facing the camera or turned slightly at an angle, have the subject angle her face slightly to one side. This adds a soft and flattering dimension to the image.
  • Relaxed Shoulders: Ensure that the subject's shoulders are relaxed and not tense. Relaxed shoulders convey comfort and ease.
  • Gentle Smile: Suggest a gentle, natural smile. Encourage the subject to relax her facial muscles and create a warm, approachable expression.
  • Eyes to the Camera: Instruct the subject to look directly into the camera with soft, welcoming eyes. Catchlights in the eyes can enhance the connection and vibrancy of the portrait.
  • Hands (Optional): Depending on the style and mood of the headshot, the subject can have her hands in various positions. Common options include resting one hand on the chin, lightly touching the face, or holding a prop (e.g., glasses, a book) if it suits the context.
  • Hair (Optional): The subject can experiment with different hair positions, such as letting it flow naturally, tucking it behind the ears, or pulling it to one side, depending on the desired look.
  • Accessories (Optional): Accessories like earrings, necklaces, or scarves can add a touch of personality and style to the headshot. Ensure they complement the subject's overall appearance.

The basic principles of posing for female and male headshots are similar. Good posture, relaxed shoulders, and a genuine expression. There are adjustments in head and body angles, neck positioning, and the subtleties of expression.

These can create a distinctly feminine and flattering look for female headshots. Experiment and see what works best for your client!

15. Find the perfect angle

Believe it or not, everybody has an angle. You know, that angle that makes them look and feel good no matter what?

Everyone has their reasons: Maybe they have some acne or a scar that they are not comfortable showing. Perhaps they prefer an angle that puts a little more emphasis on their jawline. Ask them; you'll be surprised that most will have an answer for you!

Even though you are the photographer, asking them if they have any preferred angles is an act of thoughtfulness.

Here's a pro tip: Ask if they have any favorite photos of themselves. If you find them picking all side angle shots from a certain side or all front-facing shots, then you've found your answer and you can focus on that side.

16. Mix and match your compositions

Let’s be honest; nobody wants their profile photo to look like their driver’s license. It just looks bland, and there is nothing attractive about it.

To avoid your headshot looking like a driver’s license photograph, consider using some rules of composition. Rules of composition that can make your photos more exciting include (but are not limited to):

  • Framing – Place your subject within the frame of two elements.
  • Rule of thirds – Your subject should be where the imaginary lines meet.
  • Negative space – Leave lots of space around your subject for breathing room.
  • Simplify – Focus on your client; only have 2-3 other elements going on in the background.

17. Keep the background simple

Another essential part of headshot photography is background management. To wow your client at first glance, the picture and backgrounds should be kept simple.

And simple does not necessarily mean boring. Make sure to set up lighting to help create separation between the subject and the background.

This way, even if the background happens to be a cityscape, it doesn’t overpower the subject. If you use natural light, ask them to move away from the background to create distance.

You can then use a wide aperture to blur the background. A nicely blurred background can quickly turn from busy to subtle and muted:

18. Try shooting while tethered

Tethered shooting gives you the option to screen through images faster. Another neat feature it provides is instant image storage on your hard drive.

Minor details and small problems can become more apparent while shooting tethered in a studio:

At the same time, showing pictures to your client becomes even easier. Shooting tethered allows them to understand minor tweaks regarding poses or angles. It may seem inconvenient for those who conduct a session outside of the studio, but it’s worth considering, given its many benefits.

19. Attention to detail

Because of how little is shown in a headshot, attention to detail is the difference between a good photograph and a terrible one. Eyes must always be in focus. These ‘windows to a person’s soul’ can give more meaning to your headshot photographs.

Although it’s difficult to tell someone to make their eyes playful or softer, try to ensure they don’t look zoned out. Do not underestimate the power of fixing the seemingly unimportant details.

For example:

  • Getting sharp focus on the eyes
  • Knocking off some dandruff
  • Straightening their posture
  • Avoiding double chins
  • Smoothing out creased collars.

It may seem a little pedantic, but it does make a difference!

20. Price accordingly

Different rates may apply depending on where you live and your current situation. A general guideline would be to check the other photographers around you based on their level of expertise.

Headshot photography prices shouldn’t be too low as they require you to edit the photos individually. Make sure that it will be worth your time and effort.

Some people provide packages that include the following:

  • Length of their session
  • Number of locations
  • Number of headshots they edit
  • Some people just write $300 for four pictures and call it a day.

A little psychological trick is to make the cheapest option undesirable and make the rest of the choices more worth it.

For example:

Option 1: Basic Package - $200

  • Includes a 30-minute session.
  • One outfit.
  • One background.
  • Five edited photos.
  • No additional perks or extras.

Option 2: Standard Package - $250

  • Includes a 1-hour session.
  • Two outfit changes.
  • Choice of backgrounds.
  • Ten edited photos.
  • Online gallery for viewing and selecting images.

Option 3: Premium Package - $350

  • Includes a 2-hour session.
  • Unlimited outfit changes.
  • Multiple backgrounds.
  • Twenty edited photos.
  • Online gallery for viewing and selecting images.
  • Professional hair and makeup artist included.

The basic package is intentionally less desirable by offering limited session time, outfit changes, and edited photos. The goal is to steer clients toward the standard and premium packages, which offer more value for a slightly higher price.

Although some may consider it deceptive, many industries are performing this practice to make more profit. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide your rates. Just make sure that it is worth the hard effort!

22. Confidence is Key

Even if you're a beginner, project confidence. This doesn’t mean pretending to know everything.

But rather be confident in your ability to learn and adapt. Your confidence can help put the subject at ease and create a more professional atmosphere.

23. Be present and observant

During the shoot, be fully present and observant. Sometimes, the best shots come from unplanned moments. Being attuned to your surroundings and your subject can help you capture these spontaneous, powerful moments.

24. Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities

Don’t be discouraged by mistakes. They are inevitable and are valuable learning opportunities. Analyze what didn’t work and why, and use that knowledge to improve your next session.

25. Practice, practice, and practice

As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” Practicing will help you get more comfortable taking images in various settings.

Start by asking your Uncle Bob or a family member who lives with you. Ask if they want a headshot photo. Search for good natural light in your backyard or set up your lighting, and off you go!

The no-pressure practice acts as your photography sandbox, which is convenient! Good luck, and go out there and capture some headshots!

How do you look good in a headshot photo?

Looking good in a headshot photo is all about looking relaxed. The rest is up to the photographer regarding lighting, posing, and editing.

As the subject, if you aren't relaxed, it will come across in the photos, and you will have still and unnatural facial expressions. If you are nervous before getting your picture taken, practice how you are going to smile in the mirror.

Will you have no smile? A half smile? Or a big smile? Practice these smile types to see which one you think you look best with when it comes time to get your headshot photo taken.

Can you wear makeup in headshots?

The answer is yes and it depends.

Yes, you can wear makeup in headshots. Just make sure not to overdo it. The makeup you use in your headshot should reflect how you look on a day-to-day basis.

We also say it depends because sometimes the photographer has to hire a professional makeup artist (or MUA) and maybe you will want to use their services as opposed to doing your makeup yourself

It depends on what you’re trying to do with your headshot and also whether or not the clients want you to use a professional makeup artist (or MUA).

Should you hire a makeup artist for headshots?

If you are a photography student or hobbyist, then most likely you won’t be hiring a makeup artist for your headshots because this would cost more than what an amateur like yourself can afford.

If you are a professional headshot photographer, then it is common to have a makeup artist that you work with on-set.

So it is up to you, but if you want to take that leap from amateur to full-fledged professional, then you should be working with a makeup artist.

And if you do so, remember to factor this into your pricing so you aren’t losing money! (If you hire a makeup artist — charge more).

Makeup tips for headshot photography

Here are 10 tips to remember if you are applying the makeup yourself for a headshot session.

1. Watch the foundation

Be aware of the amount of foundation you wear because it will cover up your natural skin tone and cause shine on your face. Instead of wearing foundation, wear a tinted moisturizer or BB cream to help even out your skin without adding sparkles.

If you do decide to wear foundation to your headshot session the best type of foundation is the type that is oil-free (water or alcohol-based).

Oil-free matte finish foundation is most common for headshots, but some find it a bit difficult to apply, as they dry quickly, and it also makes a caky look if applied too thickly.

2. Wear blush and lip gloss

To add some color to your face, apply a light touch of blush on the apples of your cheeks and apply some lip gloss to prevent dryness.

The gloss will make the lips “pop out” more and the blush will add more color and liveliness. Also, watch out for irritation that can be irritated by too much gloss.

3. Wear mascara and eyeliner if necessary

For your eyes, you can wear some light mascara and eyeliner to make them pop!

Just remember not to overdo it, Cleopatra, because you don’t want your face to look too overdone. (Unless of course this is a stylized session and you are going for that look).

4. Bring a mirror

Bringing a mirror is important because you want to make sure that your makeup is staying fresh throughout the session.

Makeup tends to move around during a shoot, especially if you are moving your head around trying to find the best angles.

5. Concealer for blemishes

Having a good concealer for your blemishes is important because it will help minimize the appearance of blemishes before you take your headshot.

If you don’t have any, then ask your photographer if they have some that you can use during the session.

If you are really worried about a blemish that is still showing, your photographer should be able to easily hide it when retouching the photo in their software of choice (such as Photoshop).

Just let them know to make sure they “remove” the blemish.

6. Lipstick with subtle color

A good lipstick with a subtle color is important because it helps brighten your complexion. If you don’t like wearing lipstick, then remember the lip gloss.

7. Keep eyebrows simple

Your eyebrows can enhance or distract from your face, so you want to keep them looking natural and simple for your headshot.

If you have bold eyebrows, then you might want to opt for a more natural look. You don’t want them detracting from your eyes.

8. Eyeshadow

Avoid dark or bright eyeshadow colors because they can either add or subtract from your face.

Pretty much, just avoid the extremes on both ends — light and dark.

In the case of a headshot, you want to add to your face so try using a lighter shade of eyeshadow that compliments your skin tone and doesn’t distract from your headshot.

9. Powder

Using a powder that won’t cause shine on your skin is important because you want to avoid looking too shiny in your headshot.

If you choose the right powder, then this will help minimize the shine that comes with oily skin.

10. Avoid using SPF

Be careful using any products with SPF in them as it can create a white cast in the photos making you look like Casper the Friendly Ghost.

What are the best camera settings for headshot photography?

The best camera settings for headshot photography depend on your desired look. Some headshot photographers like the shallow depth of field look, while some prefer to include some details of their clothing in the headshot.

Here are some recommended camera settings for headshot photography:

Aperture for headshot photography

For headshot photography, you'll want to use a wide to medium aperture, such as f/1.8 to f/5.6.

  • A wider aperture, such as f/1.8, will allow you to blur the background and create bokeh.
  • A more narrow aperture, such as f/5.6, will allow you to retain some detail in your subject's clothing and hair.

Shutter speed for headshot photography

The best shutter speed for headshot photography is one that ensures you don't have any motion blur. A safe rule is to use double the reciprocal of your lens' focal length.

For example, if you use a 50mm lens, you should at least be using a shutter speed of 1/100s (if you are shooting handheld). If you are using a strobe light for an off-camera flash, then you'll need to ensure you use a shutter speed within the flash sync speed.

This is usually capped at 1/250s of 1/200s if you use a flash without high-speed sync.

ISO for headshot photography

The best ISO to use for headshot photography is one that is as low as possible while still ensuring your headshot is properly exposed. By keeping it as low as possible, this will avoid noise.

Focus mode for headshot photography

The focus mode you'll want to use for headshot photography is ideally single-point autofocus and focus on the eyes. Remember, the eyes should be the sharpest part of a headshot.

White balance for headshot photography

The white balance you choose for your headshots depends on the lighting conditions. I usually adjust my white balance to either auto or select one of the presets based on my lighting (e.g., daylight, cloudy, tungsten, etc.).

Just remember, the goal is to have natural-looking skin tones.

File format for headshot photography

The best file format for headshot photography is RAW. Hands down.

What should you avoid in a professional headshot?

There are five things you should always avoid in a professional headshot:

  • Backgrounds that don't align with the subject
  • Too much makeup or jewelry
  • Poor lighting
  • Uncomfortable pose
  • Lack of connection

What is the best color to wear for a headshot?

The best color to wear for a headshot is one that makes your subject feel comfortable while also aligning with the goal of the headshot. Ideally, you should choose neutral colors that aren't too flashy unless you are going for a stylized headshot.

Do I smile in a professional headshot?

The first thing subjects always ask me is, "Do I smile?" The answer I tell them is, "If you want to."

Some people are big smilers. Some people are half-smilers. Some people like to keep their mouths closed.

There is no right or wrong. Choose what makes you feel comfortable and confident!

How many headshots do you need?

In general, it’s best to have more than one headshot, no matter what your profession is.

The reason for this is because of the different platforms that we now exist on. For example, there are personal profiles such as social media sites, dating sites, etc.

We also have professional profiles such as job networking sites, job-finding sites, email profiles, etc.


So instead of thinking about how many headshots you need as a specific number, think about how many online profiles you have.

Think about the culture of each profile (whether it’s professional like LinkedIn or more casual like Instagram), and then make sure you have a headshot for each profile.

This answers how many headshots any “average” person needs, but if you are an actor or online personality, it is a bit different since you being in front of a camera is a big part of your job.

Type of headshots

Chef headshots

Chef headshots are professional photos taken of chefs.

They are intended to be used for marketing purposes; therefore, they should look professional and attractive.

The purpose of a chef headshot is to promote oneself as an expert in the field, whether it’s at a cooking school or within the food industry.

Chef headshots can be distributed in a variety of ways.

For example, a chef may want to submit their photos to a cooking magazine for publication.

If they’re interested in networking with higher-level chefs or restaurant owners, then it makes sense that the best way to get in touch is by emailing them a link to your headshot and contact information.

Chef standing in kitchen smiling at camera.
Chef headshot example

Modern headshots

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.

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

Traditional headshot of man with white background.
Traditional headshot
Modern headshot of girl in front of gate with leaves around her.
Modern headshot

Author headshots

An author headshot is a professional photo of an author, typically taken by a professional photographer.

The headshot is intended to be used for promoting the author’s writing career, not as an identification document or passport photo.

Author headshots are much more than just nice pictures of authors. They’re a critical component of the author's brand and help to:

  • Distinguish you from other authors and build your personal brand
  • Make you “real” by putting a face on your writing, helping to humanize the writer behind the work
  • Establish your trustworthiness and expertise as an author, increasing reader confidence
JK Rowling headshot.
J. K. Rowling - Photograph by Debra Hurford Brown

Business headshots

A business headshot, also referred to as a corporate headshot, is a photograph that shows the face of a person.

The goal of the business headshot is to convey professionalism. This is often accomplished through specific posing, setting, facial expression, and clothing.

A business headshot is a type of professional headshot.

In order to have a good business headshot, you'll want to:

  • Match it to your brand
  • Keep the backdrop simple
  • Dress to impress
Business headshot of man wearing suit.
Business headshot

Commercial headshots

A commercial headshot is a portrait of an actor or model for use in marketing and commercial purposes such as TV commercials, magazines, and billboards.

It’s different from an actor headshot that is used for actors to find gigs. The most important aspects of commercial headshots include:

  • Anticipating the light source and angling yourself to create shadows that define facial features and carve out cheekbones, etc.
  • Using your hands to create symmetry in the frame, drawing attention to your eyes and face.
  • Maintaining a neutral facial expression or a smile (often a smile with teeth), with a slight squint in the eyes.
Commercial headshot of man wearing white shirt.
Commercial headshot

Theatrical headshots

A theatrical headshot showcases an actor’s range of emotions with close-up shots of their face. It includes a close-up portrait and an action shot, which allows the director to see the actor’s ability to transform for a role.

It should include:

  • A variety of looks that showcase range or show a specific detail of the actor/actress’ appearance (ex., piercing eyes, sharp jaw, full lips, etc.)
  • A headshot that is one color and an action shot in black and white (or another color).
Theatrical headshot of girl wearing suit and black hat.
Theatrical headshot

Dance headshots

A dancer headshot is a picture of a dancer that they use to represent themselves, either for an audition or a fun, online social media page.

This will be the first thing people see when coming across your profile and can communicate a lot about you as well as make others take interest in what you have to offer.

Dance headshot of girl with red hair.
Dancer headshot

Kids headshots

A kids headshot, also known as a child headshot is a professional portrait of a child for their public image, typically used by casting directors and talent agents.

Headshots are usually one of the first steps in an actor’s career, as they help represent the actor at auditions.

A kids headshot could also be used just to have as a nice family photo and not for professional reasons!

You don’t need much to take a kid’s headshot, but it helps to have the following:

  • Patience and a fun environment
  • A solid backdrop that will not flop around or show background objects
  • Good lighting, whether you are using natural light or a flash, make sure the light is even and not coming from behind your child’s head (this will create shadows around their face and the wrong expressions).
  • A good camera and a photographer who knows how to adjust it for portrait shots.
Kids headshot of girl in white dress.
Kids headshot

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