What Makes A Great Headshot?

April 14, 2021

The infamous headshot- who needs them? When many people hear the word “headshot”, they envision something only actors or models need. These days, headshots are great for everyone! Some headshots may be more sleek and professional and some can be creative. If you haven’t looked into the headshot market as a photographer, you could be missing out!

Lauren Gray

Wild Fyre Co. | Kansas City, MO

Model: Stevie Watkins


Just about anyone can benefit from a headshot! In this industry, many artists have them done regularly. Photographers tend to update frequently as a friendly way of showing who they are, as well as their editing and photographic style. Makeup artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists, and social media managers also keep updated headshots for branding. Don’t forget about models, comedians, and singers!

Have you ever been on Linked In? Outside of our industry, almost every professional in their field needs headshots. Think real estate, teachers, sales staff, doctors, business owners… the list is endless! Companies may hire a photographer to capture photos of all of their employees, as well. 

Aside from professionals, even your everyday client may want them for their social media profiles or dating apps. Students also need them for yearbooks and senior photos!


What makes a “great” picture can be subjective, but ultimately there are a few guidelines to help create an image that truly captures your client’s personality and best features. 

First and foremost, lighting is the number one most important component. Without good lighting, your headshot may turn out subpar. Take advantage of natural lighting or learn how to use your flash!

Clarity is another important aspect in headshot photography. When taking a headshot, make sure to bump your f stop and aperture up a tad to allow all of the details to be captured. When focusing, focus towards the eyes of the face. 

Posing and angles will make or break your shot! Find the angle that works best for you and makes you feel comfortable with the results. For many, that angle is slightly above as to slim the face and not catch double chins or some up the nose action. A forced smile may not translate well on camera, so tell a joke or make your client laugh! Ask your client to give you their best blue steel or a smoldering glance. Try and get your client to stick their tongue out or give you a silly face! Once they are feeling comfortable, their genuine expressions will shine through. When posing with props for headshots, find creative ways to incorporate them! Don’t be afraid to ask your client to tip their hat, run their hands through their hair, or hold their hands up to their face. Check out posing references if you’re stuck for some creative ideas. 

Once you’ve got your images, editing is where the magic happens. If you see any stray hairs, acne, or bruising, use the cloning tool to edit them out. A good rule of thumb to editing these things out is to edit out things that won’t be there in two weeks. Don’t remove things like birthmarks, moles, or scars unless it is specifically requested by your client! After choosing your settings and color profile, double check that your photo is well lit and defined. You may opt to use the adjustment brushes to dodge and burn areas of the face to create more contrast and highlights, or use a portrait smoothing plug in to even out skin texture. 

Once you’re happy and your client is happy, that’s it! What are some of your favorite tips for capturing headshots?