How to Take a Headshot | Daniel Motta Photography Blog

Putting your best face forward starts with a professional headshot. Whether you need a new profile photo for LinkedIn or a website relaunch, headshots help showcase your personality, character, and style. But how do you capture these elusive properties for a winning headshot? It’s important to learn how to take a good headshot. So, let’s begin by getting a better understanding of what this unique photo genre is — and why it’s an essential part of a successful professional journey. 

What is a headshot?

Headshot photography is an extension of portrait photography in that the images artfully manifest a person’s likeness. However, headshots possess a more professional vibe than editorial portraits that fulfill many different types of creative visions. That is, headshots are typically positioned on business cards, online profiles, and websites — for commercial or business purposes. 

Headshots help build credibility, thereby maximizing brand positioning and delivering great first impressions. A standout headshot can even establish authority or perceived potential when a candidate is under consideration for a new role. Like with all types of photography, headshot photography tells stories. And for professionals, the goal is to allow the headshot to tell an appealing story that drives profitable and fulfilling outcomes. 

Types of Headshots

Headshots are typically taken for identification purposes. Corporate clients need professional headshots as they build or advance their careers. They are used across traditional and online profiles, including company websites, LinkedIn profiles, business cards, marketing materials, press releases, and resumes. Headshots tend to deliver first (and lasting) impressions so it’s important to present an authentic yet polished version of yourself. 

One-Quarter Headshot

When you think of a standard headshot, it’s the one-quarter headshot. Characterized by a tight crop from just below the shoulder to above the head, this type of headshot is typically used for social media profile pictures and bylined articles. This shot captures a clear view of the subject’s face and unique expression. 

Half-Body Headshot

This type of headshot depicts the subject from above the head down to their waist, thus capturing half of their body. Great for actors and models who want to showcase more personality — and not shy away from showing off the backdrop, the half-body headshots are perfect for casting cards and portfolios. 

Three-Quarter Headshot

As expected, this type of headshot extends down to the mid-thigh. These shots reveal both the facial expression of the subject while delivering a close perspective of the body. Well suited for marketing materials, websites, and book jackets, three-quarter headshots can help land new clients or connect with potential customers. 

Full-Body Shot

You guessed it! Full-body shots do, indeed, include the full body of the subject. Whether they are lying down, sitting, standing, or in a different position, these shots reveal the complete composition of a professional’s look, style, and attitude. When done properly, these images can help grow businesses, impress a casting director, or elicit trust from a hiring manager. 

Who Needs Headshots?

While some may argue that all professional needs a quality, up-to-date headshot, there are professions that more commonly need headshots to get hired, network, and maintain a credible, professional presence. 

Some of these include the following:

  • Actors
  • Artists
  • Athletes
  • Board Members
  • Business Owners
  • Celebrities
  • CEOs
  • Consultants
  • Employees
  • Engineers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Influencers
  • Job Hunters
  • Lawyers
  • Medical Workers
  • Models
  • Musicians
  • News Broadcaster
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Teachers
  • Trainers

How to Take a Professional Headshot

  • What to wear: Choose neutral colors when picking out your attire. Also, opt out of baggy clothes that can add unnecessary weight — especially for the half-body headshots. Use caution when electing to wear sleeveless tops for professional headshots.  
  • Go light on accessories: Allow the focus to be on your face by opting for basic jewelry without frills. Go ahead and don those exquisite diamonds if you so choose, but skip the oversized baubles and bangles for your corporate headshot. 
  • Practice poses: It’s always helpful to find inspiration from headshots you find online, be it on social media, a company website, or other marketing materials. Have fun striking different poses to boost confidence ahead of your photo shoot. 
  • Choose a simple background: Much like our advice to keep the jewelry light, the backdrop of your headshot should not overshadow the subject. Even a beautiful blur effect will help highlight the centerpiece of any headshot: the professional. 
  • Use the right lens: To get the highest-quality headshot, you’ll want fixed zoom lenses in the 85mm range and up. For exceptional output, consider prime lenses or zoom lenses with a focal length of between 85mm and 200mm. 
  • Choose optimal lighting: Opt for using natural or ambient light in capturing a great headshot. Both flash and continuous lighting ensure you’re in control no matter how dark or lit the environment is. Both lighting options are great depending on the look you want.
  • Lower the ISO: To achieve a sharp image, reduce noise and distortions by adjusting the ISO to 100-140 — while maintaining a workable shutter speed. 
  • Focus on eyes: For a truly compelling headshot image, always ensure the subject is facing the camera so the photographer can concentrate on the eyes — or at least the one closest to the camera if shot at an angle. 
  • Use photo editing tools: Remove defects, brighten the eyes, whiten the teeth, and adjust the exposure with photo editing tools. Some of the best software include Adobe Photoshop Elements 2023, Corel PaintsShop Pro, and Affinity Photo.

How We Can Help

From actors and models to real agents and lawyers, there are many different types of professionals who rely on superior-quality headshots to help advance their careers. Whether you take your own headshot images or invest in the expertise of a professional headshot photographer, these tips can help you achieve a professional headshot.

As an award-winning photographer based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Daniel Motta has extensive experience in professional headshot photography. Not local? No problem. Daniel travels across the U.S. shooting professional headshots in cities like Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, D.C. 

Contact Daniel Motta Photography today to book your next headshot photo session.