What’s the Difference Between Business Headshots and Portraits?

Some will tell you that a headshot is specifically a photo of just your face, probably tightly cropped from the shoulders up. Sure, it can be this and also much more. As for a portrait, some will also tell you that a portrait is basically any other type of photo of you. Also true. For sure, the lines between the two have blurred. But, the one thing that is different between the two is that business headshots are used for marketing purposes whereas a portrait is not – or at least it usually should not be. 

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Making of Business Headshots

Today, it’s quite common for a headshot to be more than just a tight shot of your face. Still, there are applications where a tight shot of your face is what you’re after. For example, this is common for a LinkedIn headshot. But, a headshot today can be so much more. It doesn’t have to be a tight crop. It’s actually okay of the shot is from the belly or chest up.

For actors or models the same is true. While it’s good to have a tight shot of your face, it’s also a good idea to have other not-so-tight shots. Furthermore, you don’t have to stare into the camera straight on like it’s a mugshot. It’s quite okay to stand at an angle. Depending on the end-use, it’s also okay to be off-center.

Lifestyle and Studio Shots

The important thing to consider between a headshot and a portrait is, again, the headshot is going to be used for marketing purposes. So, it should stay true to this. That said, often your marketing requirements will drive the specifications you need from a headshot.

For example, if you are a real estate agent, you might want a hero image for your website or for ads. This hero image you have in mind might be in front of a house you just sold or listed. For this, you might want to stand to the left or right on the photo so you have room on the other side for branded messaging. Such an example is commonly known as a lifestyle headshot but, it’s still a headshot.

For corporate executives or similar business people, a studio headshot usually is best with a classic background and with even lighting. For Los Angeles actor headshots, they also need this shot but, they usually also need different looks. An actor may also want theatrical headshots where the lighting is, well, theatrical. A model may want a beauty headshot where she or he comes across practically flawless. Actors and models can also make good use of lifestyle shots.

The Look

For corporate executives, it’s common to wear a suit. Jewelry and other accessories should be minimal. Their look should be one of confidence and approachability. And, they should look into the camera as if to make eye contact with the person looking at the headshot.

For actors and models, their attire is often one to match the roles they are after. Simple is best so that the focus stays on them rather than what they are wearing. Different expressions will be important, with a series of photos that have smiles to serious looks being important. Eye contact with the camera is also important. A full portfolio of these will arm an agent with options.

The Portrait

Often, a portrait will have many of the above traits of a headshot. Thus, it can get confusing to understand the difference. A portrait is generally a photo of a person for personal non-business use. These can also be professionally done, and very much still are but often they are captured on a smartphone.

Basically, if you’re getting a headshot done, it’s a serious consideration to find a professional photographer because money is on the line. There is the cost of paying a photographer to get great shots. Then there is the cost of how good your headshots are to help you make sales. In the case of a real estate agent, lawyer, etc., it’s about how approachable you come across in the shots that customers will call. In the case of an actor or model, it’s how well your essence matches the role a casting director is looking into.

In either case, quality matters. For business executives, poor-quality headshots can be a direct reflection on the quality of your services. For actors or models, poor-quality headshots can be a reflection as to how serious you are about an acting or modeling career. These shots are more important than most people think.

Here to Help Your Business Needs

When you speak with a photographer to discuss business headshots, they can help you narrow down how you want your business shots to turn out. However, if you need a quick headshot without much consultation, for example just for LinkedIn, that’s also good so long as you’re getting it professionally done.

If you are interested in scheduling a business headshot session for yourself or your office you can contact Headshots by The Light Committee to learn more.


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