What is a Headshot and How Can It Help You?

Written by Robert Lowdon

Robert Lowdon is an internationally published commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. He spends his time photographing architecture and industrial projects for the most part.

Published January 17, 2023

headshot of dentist

What is a headshot? This is a question that many people ask when they first hear the term. Well, A headshot is simply a photograph of a person’s head and shoulders. It is a simple photograph, but it can be a deceptively difficult image to create.

Headshots can be used for many purposes, such as online profiles, websites, business cards, and more. So I mean, it’s a bit weird, right? What a strange name for such a simple photograph.

So let’s dig into this type of photography and see how something as simple as a picture of your head can help you in your professional endeavours.

Headshots Create a Professional Image

A good headshot is an essential part of crafting a professional image. It’s a photo that is supposed to show who you are in one simple image. In addition, it should show your personality, demonstrate trustworthiness and build rapport with its audience.

Ideally, a great headshot will make people feel like they know you. This is because it takes advantage of the celebrity effect. This is because our minds build familiarity and opinions of people we see in images. Celebrities are so good at selling products because we feel like we know them or that they are our friends.

So for actors, business owners and influencers, having a professionally taken headshot can help you stand out from the crowd. Or, more accurately, build a connection with the viewer and make a lasting impression on directors, customers and colleagues.

More accurately, you would be a part of the crowd, their crowd, to be exact.

What Does Your Professional Headshot Say About You

We have already discussed how headshots build a rapport with your audience. But, it’s essential to consider how we come across the image. Do we look powerful, decisive and accomplished? Or do we look smug, disorganized or untrustworthy?

The fact is that we all form opinions about people based on how they look. It’s not right, but unfortunately, it is human nature. Maybe in the future, we can be further evolved, but for now, being the world as it is, your headshot must communicate in the right way with your audience.

As a headshot photographer, a friendly and confident headshot is the best. I like to think everyone has a “little magic” or spark in their personality, and I want the picture to show that. But, of course, you do that for your clients, and they will love their photos. But enough about me, let’s move on.

History of Headshot Photography

Headshots have been around for a long time. Since the dawn of photography, the headshot format has existed. Some of the very first photographs are, in fact, headshots! But no one called them that at the time.

From what I can tell from research, the term headshot didn’t become prevalent until the 1950s when actors used them to showcase their talent to casting directors. But actors have been using headshots well into their 20s and 30s for promotion and continue to.

Also, photography just replaced paintings in a lot of ways. For example, look at this painting below of Shakespeare from 1609. Headshots are old, really old.

A headshot is simply a photograph of a person's head and shoulders. It is a simple photograph, but it can be a deceptively difficult image to create.
I wonder how long did shakespeare have to sit for his headshot sessions?

In the 90s, headshots became more prevalent as realtors started using them for marketing themselves aggressively. They were willing to put their faces on everything, and I guess, in some ways, changed the future of public transit forever!

Nowadays, headshots are very popular and used for all sorts of purposes, but two events caused this.

The first was the internet age, specifically the advent of the company website. Once these websites started featuring leadership teams about sections, things really ramped up.

The second was the rise of social media, specifically Linkedin. Suddenly everyone needed a Linkedin headshot – everyone.

Different Types of Headshots

There are five main headshots: corporate headshots, actor headshots, branding headshots, business portraits, and headshots for social profiles. Understandably, we could further break it down into executive headshots, realtor headshots, and so forth, but I leave that for my groundbreaking novel: Headshot Photographer: A Novel – just kidding.

Corporate Headshots

Corporate headshots are images used to represent an individual in a professional business setting. Usually, these are shot on a basic background, with the subject looking straight into the camera. These headshots help build credibility and create a compelling first impression with customers, colleagues and others.

Actor Headshots

Actor headshots are portraits of actors taken to showcase their looks and talents to a casting director. They typically include a close-up image of the actor’s face, with minimal background and clothing details. An actor’s headshot is essential for any acting portfolio, and they often are the first step in getting hired for a role.

Branding Headshots

Branding headshots emphasize the person’s unique traits or personality more as part of a larger brand strategy. These headshots should be consistent with your branding and messaging to create a compelling first impression for potential customers.

Business Portraits

Business portraits are headshots that give context to what a person does and should reflect their occupational field or profession. For example, a business portrait for an accountant might include a simple background of an office, while a portrait for an artist could feature creative tools like brushes and a painting. These types of shots can be used on websites and in marketing materials to create an authentic representation of a person’s profession.

Headshots for Social Profiles

Headshots for social profiles are images used to represent an individual on their various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. They are often just branding headshots, but I needed the keywords.

Overall, professional headshots have been around since the early days of photography, but it’s only been within the past few decades that they’ve become so popular. From actors looking for their big break to realtors advertising their services, they can be an essential part of your marketing strategy.

Related: What Are the Most Important Images to Promote your Business? We asked Businesses

Why Are Headshots So Important?

Headshot photography has become essential in modern-day business. A professional headshot will:

Help your marketing work better.

Increase customer buy-in.

Help you get an interview.

Make you look better than the person without one.

I will be serious for a moment; nothing is more powerful in marketing than being well-known. The less we have to explain who we are to people, what we do and all of that, the better chances we have for success. People buy from those they know and trust. The right headshot can make it easier for people to get to know and trust you.

Are Headshots Just Pictures of Your Head and Shoulders?


Additional Benefits of Professional Headshots

Taking a professional headshot can have many benefits, including creating a solid impression with potential employers, customers and partners; establishing trustworthiness and credibility with customers or clients; and shining a spotlight on your accomplishments, skills and experience.

What is a Headshot: A Conclusion

A professional headshot can be just what you need if you’re looking for ways to set yourself up for success in today’s noisy world. Whether you’re looking to develop your acting career or an entrepreneur trying to create brand awareness, having an eye-catching portrait that captures your personality can open up new doors for success!

No matter what type of headshot you need, hiring a professional photographer who can create an image you will love for years to come is important. Not too many years; you should get new headshots every now and then. Like, don’t wait 20 years, is what I am saying.

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