Headshot Photography The Ins And Outs

Eoin Healy posing in his Athlone Photography Studio

Headshot photography is more than just taking a picture of someone’s face; it’s about capturing the essence of a person in a way that conveys professionalism, confidence, and approachability. Whether you need a headshot for business, acting, modeling, or social media, this comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to get the perfect shot.

What is Headshot Photography?

Headshot photography focuses on a person’s face, typically framing from the shoulders up. The goal is to present the subject in a professional, polished manner, suitable for business profiles, casting calls, social media, and personal branding.

Importance of Headshot Photography

A high-quality headshot is essential in many professional fields. It can make a significant first impression, convey professionalism, and help you stand out in a competitive market. Whether it’s for LinkedIn profiles, company websites, or marketing materials, a good headshot is a powerful tool in personal branding.

Types of Headshot Photography

Corporate Headshots

Corporate headshots are typically used for business purposes. They aim to present the subject as professional, confident, and approachable, often used in resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and company websites.

Actor Headshots

These headshots are crucial for actors, as they are used in casting calls and auditions. They need to capture the actor’s range and personality, often requiring a variety of expressions and poses.

Social Media Headshots

A great headshot can significantly enhance your social media profile, making you appear more professional and trustworthy. These are often less formal but still polished.

Model Headshots

Model headshots should highlight the subject’s best features and versatility. They are essential for portfolios and casting calls, requiring a range of looks and expressions.

Choosing the Right Photographer

Qualifications to Look For

Look for photographers with a strong portfolio in headshot photography, showcasing their ability to capture high-quality, professional images.

Portfolio Review

Reviewing a photographer’s portfolio helps you gauge their style and expertise. Ensure their previous work aligns with the vision you have for your headshot.

Client Testimonials

Read reviews and testimonials from past clients to get an idea of the photographer’s professionalism, reliability, and quality of work.

Preparing for a Headshot Session

Wardrobe Selection

Choose clothing that reflects your professional role and personality. Solid colors work best, and avoid overly busy patterns.

Grooming Tips

Ensure you are well-groomed for your session. Hair should be neatly styled, and makeup, if worn, should be natural and not too heavy.

Practice Poses

Practice different poses in front of a mirror to find your best angles and expressions. This will help you feel more comfortable during the shoot.

Setting Up the Photoshoot

Studio Setup

A well-equipped studio provides a controlled environment for headshots. Ensure it has good lighting, backdrops, and necessary equipment.

Natural Lighting vs. Studio Lighting

Natural light can create a soft, flattering effect, while studio lighting offers more control over shadows and highlights. Choose based on the look you’re aiming for.

Background Choices

Backgrounds should be simple and uncluttered to keep the focus on the subject. Solid colors or subtle textures work best.

Camera Equipment for Headshot Photography

Camera Selection

A high-resolution DSLR or mirrorless camera is ideal for headshots. Look for models known for their sharp image quality and reliable performance.


A prime lens with a focal length of 85mm to 135mm is perfect for headshots, providing a flattering perspective without distortion.

Tripods and Stabilizers

Using a tripod or stabilizer ensures sharp, stable shots, especially when working with lower shutter speeds.

Lighting Techniques

Natural Light

Natural light can be very flattering for headshots, especially during the golden hour. Position the subject near a window or outdoors for soft, even lighting.

Artificial Light

Studio lights allow for precise control over the lighting. Softboxes, umbrellas, and ring lights are popular choices for headshot photography.

Reflectors and Diffusers

Reflectors bounce light back onto the subject, filling in shadows and creating a balanced look. Diffusers soften harsh light, reducing shadows and highlights.

Posing Techniques

Relaxed Poses

Relaxed poses help convey a natural and approachable look. Encourage your subject to breathe deeply and release any tension.

Confident Poses

Confident poses can enhance the subject’s professional presence. Encourage open, upright postures with shoulders back.

Creative Poses

For more artistic headshots, experiment with creative angles and poses. This works well for actors and models looking to showcase their range.

Capturing the Perfect Expression

Communication with Subject

Good communication helps put your subject at ease, resulting in more natural expressions. Guide them gently and provide positive feedback.

Techniques for Natural Smiles

Encourage genuine smiles by making the subject laugh or think of happy memories. Avoid forced smiles which can look unnatural.

Expressive Eyes

Eyes are the focal point of headshots. Encourage the subject to smile with their eyes, conveying warmth and sincerity.

Editing Headshots

Software Selection

Popular software for editing headshots includes Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. These tools offer a range of features for both basic and advanced editing.

Basic Editing Techniques

Basic edits include adjusting exposure, contrast, and color balance. Retouching skin and removing blemishes are also common.

Advanced Editing Techniques

Advanced techniques involve more detailed retouching, such as enhancing eyes, adjusting facial contours, and creating a polished final image.

Delivering Final Images

File Formats

Deliver images in high-resolution formats like JPEG or PNG. Offer both print-quality and web-optimized versions.

Resolution and Quality

Ensure the final images are high resolution to maintain quality across different platforms. Standard resolution for headshots is at least 300 DPI.

Sharing with Clients

Provide clients with an easy way to access their photos, such as a downloadable link or a USB drive. Consider offering prints or framed photos as well.

Common Mistakes in Headshot Photography

Avoiding Clichés

Stay away from overused poses and expressions. Strive for originality to make the headshots stand out.

Proper Framing

Ensure the headshot is framed correctly, typically from the shoulders up with ample space around the head.

Consistent Lighting

Maintain consistent lighting across all shots to ensure a professional and cohesive look.

Headshot Photography for Different Industries

Corporate World

Corporate headshots should be clean, professional, and straightforward, reflecting the business environment.

Entertainment Industry

Headshots for actors and performers need to capture personality and versatility, often requiring a range of expressions and styles.

Fashion Industry

Model headshots should highlight physical features and versatility, often requiring more creative and dynamic shots.



Christmas Minis