Often I am asked by people ‘ what is the difference between a Headshot and a Portrait.

The straight answer would be ‘ Headshots are for business and your promotional material. Portraits are for hanging on the wall in your home or office’

The difference between headshots and portraits is not a matter of technique – but is in fact, one of intent.

Portraits generally try to tell a story about the sitter. A personal sentimental connection for the family I guess. They will generally be shot in a different lighting scenario and so will be more moody and add character to the sitter. They are allowed more shadow to the face than a Headshot.

Headshots are self-descriptive . They are shots of the head ( Headshot ). As a rule, headshots do not go below the shoulders and almost NEVER include the hands. Portraiture can include the full body and hands.

Headshots are almost always evenly lit or at best very light shadows, but must NOT be blown out ( highlights that remove skin texture from the sitter ) Having said this portraiture in all manners should not have blown out areas.

Headshots are generally used by business persons, actor, musicians and all staff members to represent who they are. Headshots MUST be shot at eye level and the sitter must be looking at the camera. This gives the viewer full engagement. Portraiture, on the other hand, can have the sitter looking off in other directions.

Above is a strip of three portrait scenarios. The middle one could count has a Headshot. But to me, it is a portrait. Also, the sitter is wearing jewellery with a name tag so that would not count for a Headshot

Now below, is a strip of three promotional shots. the outer two are headshots and the middle is a promotional shot. Again full length, so it would possibly indicate portraiture, but it was shot for a promotional manager who was the client. The client requested a full length shot for their company magazine. All three photographs use lighting that will evenly light the face with minimal shadows.

And  then further down here we have a musician who needed a shot with his saxophone. A journalist who wanted her headshots outdoors, and a framer, Les Cliffe who wanted shots for his website showing him at work and his guild commended title with him. Again it comes under the category of Headshot/promotional material.  You will notice the lighting style in all three is different. It is more natural and evenly lit.

fourTwographs - the art of getting you noticed.