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What is a Headshot?

What is a Headshot? Defined

There are many terms in the photography business, and it may seem a bit confusing at first. One such term is ‘headshot,’ which instantly conjures an image in your mind, but is it the right one? No matter what you think a headshot is right now, we’re going to explore them in greater detail. We’ll also explain the difference between headshots and marketing portraits, so you’ll know the difference between the two services. So let’s read on, shall we? 

 

Is a Headshot Just Your Head?   

Technically, no. However, the bottom of a headshot usually starts around mid-chest and goes upward. Other things that all headshots incorporate include a heads-on approach, along with the subject being obviously aware of the camera. In fact, they should be looking directly into the lens. 

Differences Between Headshots and Marketing Portraits 

As far as headshots and marketing portraits go, ‘differences’ may be a strong word to use. Rather, a headshot is a portrait that’s just cropped tightly. The two serve different purposes, though. 

Here’s why you’d want to book one over the other:

  • Headshots serve to put a face to a name. In today’s online world, people want to see who they’re interacting with. Therefore, a quality headshot is an immediate and impactful way to show yourself in a professional manner. 
  • Marketing portraits are a little more abstract; they serve the same purpose but they allow you to tell your story a little better than a simple head and shoulder shot does. Being photographed in a specific environment, whether it’s your office, a restaurant, etc., allows for a greater sense of your business.

Qualities of a Professional Headshot  

A professional headshot should instantly convey that you know what you’re doing. Their entire point is to make you seem friendly, trustworthy, and competent. This is much more important than you may realize, especially in today’s internet-based society. 

Considering the fact that people will make their initial impression of you in about 1/10 of a second, you want their first glance to be a good one. More often than not, their initial impression will be formed upon looking at a picture of you online. So, you need to make sure it’s a good one! 

For instance, what if you’re using your headshot on LinkedIn to help you look for a new job? Hiring managers will get a feel for who you are almost instantaneously, and this could push your resume to the top of the pile or into the garbage bin. While there’s nothing fair about this process, it’s simply the way people are wired. By the seventh second, their entire first impression of you will be formed, and you won’t usually get a second chance to change their mind. 

People are almost always dressed to impress in their headshots. There is some room for creativity, depending on your industry, but the general rule of thumb is that you should dress for whatever job you’d like to have. This typically means business wear. However, if you’re not comfortable in the outfit you wear, it may show through in the image. Therefore, you might wish to find something nice looking but also comfortable. 

In a professional headshot, look for the following: 

  • Includes your face and shoulders 
  • Wear neutral clothing 
  • Make sure you can see catch-lights in your eyes

Is a Selfie a Headshot? 

Even the very best selfies cannot compete with a professional headshot. That’s because they’re not taken in the right environment, nor do they have the feeling of being professionally done. Surprisingly, though, many people choose to use a selfie instead of getting a headshot. This is most likely because going to a studio takes time and costs money. But if you consider again that your headshot will provide a first impression of you, it becomes much more worthwhile to have a professional photographer take your picture. 

You may see some articles that discuss how to take a good enough-looking selfie to pass as your headshot. During the beginning stages of Covid, this was pretty much all you could do. But if you examine the guidelines behind getting a good selfie, you’ll see that it’s much more complicated than you think. 

You’ll need to hit each of the following points to even have a chance at getting a good headshot. 

  • Do a self-study through photography
  • Choose a good backdrop 
  • Pick the right outfit
  • Make sure your camera or phone is on the right settings 
  • Use a tripod
  • Pay attention to lighting 
  • The right pose
  • You may edit the photo, as long as you don’t over-edit it 

As you can see, this is a lot to keep in mind. That’s why most people reach out to a skilled photographer instead. 

The Takeaways

To summarize, your headshot should include your head and shoulders. You should also look directly into the camera and be as friendly as possible. It’s highly important that you don’t use a busy background. Instead, choose something neutral such as white or gray. 

Your photographer can help you pose, and they’ll also help you relax. Both of these are crucial elements that go a long way toward creating a good headshot. They can also help you get past the initial first impression and leave people happy to get to know you. Remember: although selfies work for informal social media, they’re not what you’ll want to use for your headshot. Turn to a professional photographer instead. 

Kyle Bondeson has nearly 15 years of experience as a photographer. He specializes in taking headshots and portraits of people in the Chicago area. Find out more about how Kyle can make you look your best by visiting KyleBondeson.com.