What is headshot photography?

Headshot Photography, Headshot Photography FAQ
Female headshot photography Bristol business woman with urban background

Let’s jump straight in with a quick definition of headshot photography.

Headshot photography is a photographic style or genre where the focus is on the head and shoulders of the individual being photographed.

Having said that, it’s common for headshot photographers to include some variety in a photo session. Many headshot photographers will include the traditional head and shoulders headshot, along with some half or three-quarter body photos that show more of you. It’s a personal choice but I think a little variety helps and gives you more ways to use your headshots.

We normally think of a headshot photo in a business context. Business owners and individuals often invest in professional headshots to create an image that feels consistent with their personal brand or business image.

Photographers often specialise in this area and many have developed their own style of headshot photography.

If we look at headshots taken twenty to thirty years ago, they were often created in a formulaic style. Individuals often wore formal business suits and it would be quite difficult to read someone’s personality from their headshot.

In recent years, with the growth of social media and digital marketing, the approach to headshot photography has changed significantly. It’s now perfectly acceptable to have a headshot that feels unique, so it reflects an individual’s personal or business brand.

The days of bland and boring headshots are long gone. It’s down to the individual now to decide how they want to be seen.

Having said that, there are still a few basic guidelines that help to maximise the engagement with your headshot. As with all the rules in photography, it’s good to know them and then you can decide if you want to break them!

  1. In a headshot, the face should be the dominant feature. Often we only get a few seconds to connect with a headshot, so keeping the face prominent helps build a connection quickly.
  2. It helps to have a clean non-distracting background – this keeps the focus on the individual. Backgrounds don’t have to be a plain colour though and environmental headshot locations are incredibly popular too.
  3. Direct eye contact is used in almost all headshots. If the gaze is off to the side, it can appear as if you’re disinterested. So, having the eyes direct to the camera is one guideline that’s rarely broken. If you decide to look away from the camera in your headshot, make sure it’s an intentional decision and consider how the viewer will interpret the image.
  4. Confidence and approachability are two key personality characteristics in a headshot. Let’s think of a headshot as a visual handshake. When someone looks at your headshot for the first time, they need to feel a sense of warmth and trust. In other words they need to feel like they could do business with you.
  5. And finally a good headshot helps communicate your personality. We’re all individuals so don’t be afraid to reveal some personality in your headshot!

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.