What Is a Headshot? [Updated 2021]

by | Jun 23, 2021

If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely been asked to provide a “headshot” by an employer, application system, content publisher or creative agency. 

As one of the USA’s top headshot photography studios, we’re here to help with an easy-to-understand headshot definition. 

What Is a Headshot? 

Simply put, a headshot is a closely cropped professional photo used in a wide variety of business and creative promotional materials. 

The six most common elements of a headshot are:

  1. Professional camera that minimizes lens distortions (like those found in a wide-angle iPhone camera) and maximizes resolution so that the headshot can be used on various screen sizes and marketing materials
  2. Sufficient lighting on the subject of the photo to clearly emphasize them as the primary focus
  3. Specific posing meant to convey professionalism and charisma
  4. Appropriate clothing for the subject’s industry and use-case
  5. A pose/expression that conveys charisma and professionalism to the outside world
  6. Retouching or “airbrushing,” which removes distracting temporary imperfections like acne, yellow teeth, stray hairs and under-eye bags.

Of course, a bad headshot can have only some/none of these elements, but a good headshot will have all six. 

What Is a Professional Headshot Photo?

The only things that distinguish a “professional” headshot from other types of headshots are: 

  1. When someone uses the term “professional,” they’re most likely referring to a business/corporate headshot versus an acting/creative headshot. 
  2. The person using that term is emphasizing the importance of quality. In the headshot photography market, there is a wide range of providers with a similarly large range in quality.

Common Types of Headshots

The most common type of headshots are used for acting and modeling. But, there are tons of industries where professional headshots are extremely common.

So, here is a list of the most common types of headshots:

Types of Creative Headshots

Acting Headshots

Modeling Headshots

Author Headshots

Conference Speaker Headshots

Types of Professional Headshots (General)

Corporate Headshots

Business Headshots

Realtor Headshots

Lawyer Headshots

Doctor Headshots

Therapist Headshots

Where to Get Headshots

Because headshots are a fairly common service, most local photographers will offer some sort of headshot package on their website. However, generalist photographers typically won’t be as experienced with specialized headshot techniques for posing, lighting, and retouching. 

For many professions, your LinkedIn headshot or corporate website headshot will create powerful first impressions with employers and customers. So, it’s important to invest in getting the right headshot for your situation.

HeadShots Inc is the San Francisco Bay Area’s top-rated headshot photography studio, with over 250 5-star reviews across Google Maps, Yelp, and Facebook. We’ll be adding two more studios in the Bay Area soon, so check back at our website often.

If you’re interested in getting a new headshot, visit our Individual Session or Team Session pages for pricing information.

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