What are headshots and who uses them?

Headshot Photography, Headshot Photography FAQ
Relaxed headshot of a female HR business owner

In the article “what is headshot photography” we explore the building blocks of a great headshot and where they’re commonly used. We also defined a headshot as a photographic image, where the focus is typically on the head and shoulders.  Hopefully that article answers in depth what are headshots and who uses them.

There are three elements you’ll find in a great headshot. Get these right and you’ll be well on your way. 

  1. An image that focuses on the head and shoulders combined with great eye contact 
  2. A confident and engaging expression that draws you in
  3. Personality shining through

So what are headshots and who uses them? There are two main categories of headshots – acting headshots and business headshots.

Acting Headshots

If you’re looking for an acting headshot, I’d definitely recommend working with a specialist acting headshot photographer. They’ll have a good feel for the latest trends and what casting directors are looking for. 

A simple way to think of an acting headshot is an image that communicates character and is strong enough to grab the casting director’s attention. 

There’s a variety of looks that can be created depending on the acting niche.

  • Dramatic acting headshots are normally quite moody. You’ll normally see strong expressions and direct eye contact, combined with high contrast lighting. This often results in one side  of the face being quite heavily shadowed resulting in a very dramatic feel. 
  • Light-hearted acting headshots are more fun and naturally engaging. They may be more colourful and evenly lit too. The dramatic lighting style in the first example will be replaced with soft light that wraps around the face with few shadows. Overall it will feel more engaging, warmer and welcoming. 
  • Mainstream acting headshots are somewhere between the two. The lighting may have a little more character than a light-hearted headshot along with a more neutral expression.    

This article by Backstage explores everything you need to know about creating an acting headshot. 

Business Headshots

Again, when it comes to creating a business headshot, I would recommend working with a specialist headshot photographer. They’ll have a specific set of skills and equipment to help you look your best. 

As with acting headshots there’s a variety of styles to choose from. 

Let’s start with lighting. 

Natural light headshots, can feel more authentic as we recognise natural light from everyday situations. Working with natural light is easier too. There aren’t any artificial lights to set up, so the shoot can often run faster and more smoothly, especially if it’s outdoors. This relaxed approach can often translate into the final images as well. 

One of the downsides of working with natural light though, is that it’s less predictable. Often it can be difficult to replicate and very bright or low light conditions can be particularly challenging.

Studio lit headshots on the other hand tend to look more polished and the lighting is also more controllable. This is great for corporate sessions taken over a few days or at different times of the year when it’s important to replicate a style. It’s also easier to create dramatic headshots with studio lights by making small adjustments to the lighting set up. 

Once you’ve decided on a lighting style we need to focus on the three elements I mentioned in the introduction. 

Once you’ve framed the head and shoulders, if you do nothing else I would prioritise capturing a confident and approachable expression. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re the office junior or the CEO, anyone looking at your headshot should feel a connection and confidence in your ability.     

As the shoot progresses you’ll relax and a good headshot photographer will draw out your personality too. 

If you’d like to find out more, I’ve written a series of headshot photography FAQs. Clients often ask me these questions, so I hope you find them helpful.   

If you prefer a chat instead, or you’d like to plan a headshot session you can book a complimentary consultation call here. 

Learn more about headshot photography and the other services I offer including business storytelling photography, personal branding photography and corporate event photography.