A headshot is a greeting. Headshots need to give the viewer the sense that they’re meeting someone, in a professional context, for the first time. Seeing a headshot should feel like an introduction that complements whatever text or context it’s paired with. A headshot makes a LinkedIn profile more than just a list of work experiences, and a professional profile more than just a list of skills and interests.
“Telling a story with the headshot is crucial. Otherwise, it’s just a person,” says editorial and portrait photographer Grace Rivera. “It needs to say something and resonate with the viewer to evoke a feeling.” That feeling, Rivera says, should come from the subject, but it’s up to the photographer to create a context where that feeling can take shape.
“Telling a story with the headshot is crucial. Otherwise, it’s just a person.”
Given their similar subjects and emphasis on the personal, headshots and portrait photography share a lot. Often, technical tips and tricks for one will apply to the other. However, Rivera is quick to note that the two are not the same thing. Headshots and portraits each have different stories to tell, and photographers need to keep their purpose in mind when doing them.
“If you’re going to take a headshot for LinkedIn,” says Rivera, “it’s going to be a completely different mindset than an editorial for a magazine. If I walk on set prepared for a corporate headshot when the job is an editorial for a magazine, I would fail. Be mindful of who you’re shooting, what you’re shooting for, and where the image is going to live. If you take the time to do that, it’s going to have a positive result.”