Headshot vs Portraits 

Headshots are a type of portrait, but portraits are not necessarily a headshots. It can be a bit confusing, but I’ll go through it and highlight the differences.

Headshots are a sub section of portraits. Portraits for the most part show the face, but the face isn’t always the main focus of the image. With a headshot the focus of the image is the face and a good headshot maintains the focus there. This isn’t always the case with a portrait. Portraits can have other areas of the body as the main focus or have more general focus that creates a mood and atmosphere for the image.

A headshot will have the subject have eye contact with the camera/viewer. They are cropped tighter again to create the focus on the face. The subject’s personally should come through in a headshot, conveyed by there facial expression. For a headshot to connect with the viewer, the expression must be genuine and not forced. A great headshot will show confidence, approachability and sense of fun.

Both headshots and portraits can be shot both in a studio or outside. A portrait will often show more of the background, where with a headshot the background can distract from the main focus which is the face. Depending on where the photo will be used can determine which is more appropriate. A headshot is perfect for Linked-In profiles or for actor who need a photo that shows their range of emotions.

Both headshots and portraits can be used for branding images. I had a chance to speak with headshot photographer James Keates about this subject and I agree with what he says that, both portraits and headshots have a place in your marketing materials and achieve similar things.