What Is Headshot Anyway

What is a Headshot Photo Anyway?

Headshot photography of women in businessHeadshot picture of women for business marketing use

​What defines a headshot? Is it just a head and shoulders shot? Head with some torso? Argh!

What Qualifies as a Headshot

An image qualifies as a “headshot” if its primary use will be to represent the individual in a business or professional setting.

Most headshots focus on the upper third of the body, hence the name. But the test of an image being a headshot vs. a portrait is really how it will be used, not what body parts make it into the picture.

Why Are They Called Headshots If You Can Photograph Part of the Body, Too?

The term and practice of using headshots started with actors, musicians and models. They were required to submit casting directors a printed 8” x 10” cardstock image which was kept on the actor or models’ résumé until they needed a new one a couple of years down the road.

Today, headshots are used by professionals in all different kinds of industries. Business professionals who have photos taken of themselves to market their businesses or services are using headshots.

Professional Standards for Headshots

There are not any rules on how headshots should be posed, cropped, printed, or where they should be shot. Most often, the only rules come from the agency or company requesting the headshot. Otherwise, the structure of a headshot is left up to the photographer or client. Check out some headshots pictures here.

Ask for Guidance

Because there are no hard and fast rules, you’ll need to discuss your needs and wants with your professional photographer. Those needs and wants are what will guide the headshot session, from background and lighting to posing and cropping.

For example, both a realtor and personal trainer might want a headshot taken for their professional use. But the feel or astetic each wants from those headshots could be very different. The realtor may want a more traditional set…head shoulder images taken with a neutral background. The personal trainer, however, may want a headshot taken at a park or exercise facility with less traditional crops, including some "action" fitness images. Both will be headshots, but the lighting, environment, posing, and editing will be very different.

Headshots Can Be More Than Just Heads

Use is king. Depending on your needs, headshots don’t have to be only the head and shoulders. Headshots can include the chest, upper torso or even full body. A final headshot picture can be horizontal or vertical. Again, the primary determining factor is USE not cropping.

Headshots Can Be Shot on Any Background

Headshot sessions occur indoors and out, against all different kinds of backgrounds. Versitility of a headshot picture is key also. Images are often used for business cards, business social media and speaking or conference marketing. When considering a headshot consider the mood and feeling you want a headshots to convey; let your personality and confidence be the star.


So what qualifies as a headshot isn’t what body parts appear in the image or where it’s taken. Headshots are for business use no matter how the photograph is captured as long as you are using it to help increase your sales, prospects and communicate.

More information

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Carrie White Photography



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