If you want to have your picture taken professionally, you’re probably trying to figure out exactly what to ask for. It can be confusing when you hear the words portraits and headshots used interchangeably. After all, aren’t they the same thing?
While these types of photographs are similar, they also have significant distinctions. Knowing the differences can help you better explain to your photographer what style you need to best highlight yourself, your product, or your business. We’ll give you a quick rundown of what each type is and in what circumstances it might be right for you.
In a traditional sense, professional headshots are close-up photographs of a person’s face from the shoulders up. However, in recent years, that definition has softened a bit to include three-quarter-length images instead of just the head and shoulders. So if you ask for a headshot, you may want to be highly specific about how much of your body you’d like in the image.
In a headshot, the subject shows they are aware of the camera’s presence and will often gaze directly into the lens. In the past, actors and models were the only ones who could get a headshot, but now people in every profession can benefit from having a headshot.
A professional headshot is essential in today’s socially connected society for anybody trying to promote their professional brand. If you don’t already have a professional photo of yourself on file, having one taken can catapult your branding efforts to the next level.
A portrait is a unique photograph of an individual captured from a broader angle. Professional portrait photography is all about telling a story. Portraits give the viewers a sense of who you are by capturing your distinctive features. For example, on the backs of your favorite books, you’ll see portraits of the authors.
Here are the key differences you’ll see between these two types of photos.
Headshots and portraits are differentiated by their lens focus. In a headshot, the subject’s face is considerably more closely framed, and the focus is on the subject’s facial expressions and expressions of emotion.
By comparison, portrait photography has a larger perspective and shows the subject’s entire body as well as the surrounding landscape.
A professional photographer doesn’t need much space to pull off a great headshot. Headshots can be taken in the comfort of a person’s home. However, capturing a full-length portrait could be more challenging in that same setting because it requires more room.
People usually stare directly into the camera during a headshot. It’s a power move that shows confidence and draws the viewer in. The eyes will be in crisp focus in a good headshot, but the background will be blurred.
Portraits can be more creative when comes to the eye contact between the subject and the photographer. While direct eye contact creates impactful portraits, there is more room for artistry. Individuals can even be filmed gazing away from the camera.
When photographing a portrait or headshot, you have the option of changing the lighting at any given time. There are no portrait or headshot-specific lighting adjustments. For portraits and headshots, most photographers use the same lighting setups. For headshots, they like to utilize soft lighting rather than harsh lighting.
As a photographer, all you need to focus on are the light shaping tools you’re using. In order to obtain the soft light you want in a headshot, you’ll need a modifier. If you want the same warm light in a wider-framed portrait, you’ll need to use larger modifiers.
Another point of contrast between headshots and portraits is the backdrop. It’s common for headshots to be taken in front of a plain backdrop or edited to obscure the background. Pictures taken by a good photographer do not require any additional glitz or whimsy from the surrounding landscape.
Portrait photographers may choose to emphasize the subject’s environment if they believe it enhances the story they want to tell about the subject. For instance, a portrait photograph of an artist’s drawing will include the painting board, any art frames on the wall, as well as a complete photograph of the artist’s work.
Still stumped? Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to decide between a headshot or portrait:
Will the image be used for business or personal purposes? If it’s professional, you’ll probably want to stick to taking headshots. Portraits are best used for personal photos, but they may also be used for commercial purposes, such as photographing a commercial corporate team.
What kind of feeling are you trying to convey? Which tone do you want – serious, casual, friendly, or something else? Obviously, with professional headshots you want to emphasize professionalism and your best characteristics that fit your brand. With portraits, you can experiment with emotions. Only the sky is the limit.
Which photographic setting do you prefer? Are you interested in having a photoshoot at your workstation or office? Or perhaps a more neutral setting?
If you talk to your photographer about these three points, you’ll quickly come to a decision about which type of shot will benefit you.
To help you get a better feel for headshots and portraits, you can browse some of our customers’ images. You’ll see what’s possible and, hopefully, it will give you inspiration for your own photoshoot. When you’re ready to have your own gorgeous, unforgettable images taken, please reach out to Suvi Tory Photography. We’d be happy to help you reach your goals!
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