In business, it’s pretty common for people wanting an updated headshot to end up with a portrait. Both are useful, but each has unique characteristics which makes one or the other better depending on how and where you use it.
I thought it would be valuable to explain the difference so you’ll know the benefits of each.
Portraits show more of the body, and are often used for websites, brochures, articles, etc. to help illustrate a story or concept.
For example, a popular use for a website is to show staff in their work surroundings:
You can see how these are great at showing staff at work.
These tell a story… by including the work environment, the viewer instantly gets an unspoken message about the business, the people in the portraits, and what they do. No one would mistake the Optometrist for the Veterinarian, would they?
These portraits look great at a medium size as shown here, but if these were to be used for a headshot, the faces would be so small you wouldn’t get a feel for their personality like you do with a properly composed headshot.
Headshots are all about the person – nothing else! They are commonly used for social media, resumes, websites, and bios. A powerful headshot is composed very tightly to focus on the person’s face and expression. We usually want to achieve relaxed, friendly expressions that make the person approachable, so being able to draw out and capture natural unstressed looks is crucial for your photographer.
A word about cropping… Some people are puzzled when they see their headshot with the top of the head cropped off. This is on purpose, of course! Since the goal of a powerful headshot is to show personality, we want to focus on your face – most specifically your eyes and mouth. There is nothing going on at the top of your head that helps people understand you!! No one will wonder if there is a top of your head, but they’ll better see the great expression we’ve captured when we focus the viewer on your face! Of course we’ll work with you to meet any special requirements you might have – we’re not required to crop the head, but this has become the new standard to top-tier headshots in major markets.
A powerful headshot also uses a background that does not compete with the subject – often white as shown above, but can also be another neutral colour like grey or black.
When used for profile pictures on social media, these still allow your personality to shine even when shown at extremely small sizes as is often the case:
Use your headshot for your main profile picture because it is much more recognizable.
A portrait type picture is perfect for your website’s “About” page, or anywhere you want to tell more of your own story.
Personal Branding Tip: When you are building your own personal brand, use the same headshot across all sites – facebook, linkedin, twitter, pinterest, Google+, etc. This makes it much easier for you to stand out, and your connections will instantly recognize you without wondering if they’re following the correct person.
Learn more about our headshot services here: Headshot Photography
What to Avoid
When considering headshots or staff photos, one of the first thought is often something like “Hey, Rachel has a DSLR, let’s have her take our pictures!”
This is a good start — (at least they’ll be better focused than a cell phone shot – hopefully)
But this route is problematic, at best. While a modern DSLR can usually deliver an in focus picture that is decently exposed, there are many common pitfalls awaiting. Some of the more common issues seen on websites and social media everywhere are:
- Posing: Do we stand against the wall or a window? Both cause huge problems – against the wall looks like a mugshot, and the window usually overexposes the picture so the person is way too dark.
- Expression: Choose from forced grin, vacant stare, or over eager smile – most people don’t feel comfortable in front of a camera and it shows without someone to coax natural looks from them.
- Lighting: Without the benefit of understanding how to shape and control light, pictures are destined to be far less than the best, even with good equipment.
- Amateur Look: Any one of these issues puts a picture in the the category of snapshot, and unfortunately most amateur pictures look exactly that way.
Whether you’re promoting yourself or a business, it pays to use professional headshots and portraits from a highly skilled photographer. The people who see your pictures can certainly tell the difference.