The Differences between a Headshot and a Portrait

A Guide to Choosing the Right Photographic Style

Headshot vs Portrait? Read below for which is right for you

When it comes to professional people photography, choosing the right style is essential. Two of the most common styles are headshots and portraits, but what exactly sets these two apart?

Understanding the differences between a headshot and a portrait can help you make the right choice for your needs. Whether you’re looking to update your LinkedIn profile, build your personal brand, or simply to capture you as you are today.

What is a Headshot?

A headshot is defined as simply a photograph of an individual’s face, usually including their shoulders, including only the person who is the focus and subject of the photo.

We like to include a little more than that, but’s more of a modern style as you can see on this headshots services page.

Headshots are typically used in professional contexts, such as for actors, models, business professionals, and other individuals who need to promote themselves and their careers.

The primary focus of a headshot is the person’s face, including a clear view of the eyes in a relaxed manner, so it is important that the lighting and composition are carefully chosen to showcase their features in the best light.

Headshots are typically taken in a studio setting, in our case a mobile studio with top lighting, but can also be taken in an outdoor location if the conditions are right.

The goal of a headshot is to create a clear, sharp image that showcases the person’s unique personality and character, and that can be used for a variety of purposes, including marketing materials, social media profiles, company ID cards and job applications.

What is a Portrait?

A portrait is a photograph that captures the essence of a person, typically by showing the entire body or at least the upper half.

Unlike headshots, portraits can be more artistic and expressive, showcasing the subject in a variety of poses and settings.

Portraits can be taken in a variety of settings, including in a studio, outdoors, or in a more intimate setting like the subject’s home.

The goal of a portrait is to capture the essence of the subject, capturing their personality and character in a way that is both personal and expressive. In a portrait you can also tell more of a story by using the background to complement the character or style of the person.

Modern Headshot Example that Contrasts with a Portrait

Corporate Headshot with Loose Layered Hair. Corporate Photography by

The differences are obvious when the two photos are side by side. Both Portraits and Headshots look great but have a different purpose.

Portrait Photo Example Outdoors, Natural Background

Portrait Photo, Outdoors, Couples. Natural background. In Darlington NSW.

In a portrait you can also tell more of a story by using the background to complement the character or style of the person and give a sense of place.

5 Key Differences between Headshots and Portraits

While headshots and portraits are similar in that they both feature a person as the subject, there are several key differences that set them apart:

  1. Purpose: The primary purpose of a headshot is to showcase the person’s face and features in a professional manner, while the purpose of a portrait is to capture the subject’s essence in a more artistic and expressive way.
  2. Composition: Headshots are typically focused on the face and shoulders, while portraits can show the entire body or just the upper half. Which is how we like them.
  3. Setting: Headshots are often taken in a studio like setting, while portraits can be taken in a variety of locations, including outdoors or in the subject’s home or open office.
  4. Style: Headshots are generally more straightforward and professional, while portraits can be more artistic and expressive, showcasing the subject in a variety of poses and settings.
  5. Photographers; Every photographer has their preferred style and focus, some will focus on environmental portraits in style while other choose a more simplistic option and focus on their clients expression or clothing.

Choosing the Right Style for Your Needs

When choosing between a headshot and a portrait, it is important to consider your specific needs and goals. If you’re a professional looking to promote yourself and your career, a headshot may be the best choice.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to capture a more personal and expressive image of yourself, a portrait may be the better option.

As we said above, consider the; purpose, composition, setting, style, and your chosen photographer.

Tips for Getting the Best Results from Your Photoshoot

Regardless of whether you choose a headshot or a portrait, there are several tips you can follow to ensure that you get the best results from your photoshoot.

  • Choose the right photographer: Find a photographer who has experience in taking the type of photos you are looking for, and who has a portfolio that showcases their style and expertise.
  • Preparation: Make sure to prepare for your photoshoot by selecting the right clothing and accessories, and by taking care of your hair and makeup.
  • Communication: Communicate with your photographer about your goals and preferences, and be open to their suggestions and ideas.
  • Relax and have fun: Remember that your photoshoot is a time to relax and have fun, so try to let go of any stress or worries, and enjoy the experience.

Full Guide on FAQs for headshots here.

Corporate Headshots vs Acting Headshots: what’s the difference?

One of the biggest differences between a corporate headshot and an acting headshot is that the acting headshot is more casual and not necessarily looking into the camera.

Quite often acting headshots are have eyes looking away from the camera and the clothing is much more casual.

Corporate headshots and acting headshots serve different purposes and require different styles and techniques by both the photographer and model.

Corporate headshots are used for professional branding, company websites, LinkedIn profiles, business cards, and promotional materials. They showcase a professional image of the individual, often in a business setting, wearing business attire and with an expression that keeps them relatable. The lighting and composition tend to be more straightforward and less dramatic or creative.

Acting headshots, on the other hand, are intended to showcase an actor’s in a more blank canvas way so the talent scout or agency can see how they might embody different characters. Acting headshots are used for casting and audition purposes and include multiple looks, expressions, and poses. These photos are added to Actor’s Comp Card.

Trends in Headshots and Portrait Styles

Are there any trends in either of the two types?

Yes, there are trends in both headshots and portraits.

For headshots, one of the recent trends is the use of environmental portraits, which involves shooting the subject in a location that is meaningful to them, or that helps to tell their story. This style is becoming increasingly popular for personal branding and social media, as it provides a more dynamic and interesting background than a plain, neutral one. Additionally, the use of natural light is becoming increasingly popular in headshot photography, as it can create a soft and flattering look.

In portrait photography, one trend that has been gaining popularity is the use of creative, moody lighting to create a sense of drama or atmosphere. This can be achieved through the use of off-camera flash, coloured gels, or other lighting tools.

Another trend is the use of creative compositions, such as shooting from unusual angles or using negative space to isolate the subject.

There is also a trend towards using digital tools and post-processing techniques to create images that are more stylized and manipulated than traditional portraits.

These are just a few examples of trends in headshots and portraits, or simple mix and match what you and the photographers like best.

How to take natural light headshots either indoors or outdoors

Taking natural light headshots requires understanding the available light and using it creatively to achieve the desired result. Here are some tips for taking natural light headshots both indoors and outdoors.


Find a large window or skylight to use as your light source. This will provide soft, directional light that will help to illuminate the subject’s face.

Position the subject facing the window, with the window to their side or slightly behind them. This will help to create a soft, even light that will minimize shadows and bring out the subject’s features.

Use a reflector to bounce light back into the shadow areas, if necessary. This can help to balance the light and fill in any dark areas on the subject’s face.

Experiment with different distances from the window and different camera angles to find the best lighting for your subject.


Look for open shade, such as the shadow of a building or a tree, to shoot in. This will provide soft, even light that is ideal for headshots.

Position the subject so that the light is coming from the side, rather than directly overhead. This will help to minimize harsh shadows on the subject’s face.

Use a reflector to bounce light back into the shadow areas, if necessary.

Experiment with different camera angles and distances to find the best lighting for your subject.

In both cases, it’s important to be mindful of the direction and intensity of the light, and to make any necessary adjustments to your camera settings to ensure proper exposure. When taking natural light headshots, it’s also important to work quickly and efficiently, as the light can change rapidly, especially outdoors.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between a headshot and a portrait is essential for making the right choice for your needs. Whether you’re looking to promote yourself professionally, or to capture a more personal and expressive image, choosing the right style and following the right tips can help you get the best results from your photoshoot.

So why wait? Book your photoshoot today.

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