Side-By-Side Comparison Of Headshot Vs Portrait Photography
Side-By-Side Comparison Of Headshot Vs Portrait Photography

by | Nov 29, 2022

Categories: Headshots | Portraits

Headshot Vs Portrait Photography

What is the difference between headshot vs portrait photography, and why does it matter?

Over the last decade or so, what has always been defined as a headshot has literally expanded beyond the scope of its very definition. It is now very common for many headshot photographers to market half, three-quarter, and even full body images as headshots. It is not that these expanded headshots are bad. Headshot photographers are producing beautiful images of their subjects using these styles. However, when used where a true headshot is required or expected, a portrait image can work against you rather than for you.

What Is A Headshot And What Is Its Purpose?

Though it is a type of portrait, a headshot is a photograph that prominently features a person’s head and face. For composition and context, a headshot will also include the top part of the torso, preferably ending just below the collarbone.

On the surface, the purpose of a headshot is to give the viewer, typically a potential client or employer, an indication of your personality and professionalism. But it also instantaneously sends hundreds of subliminal messages. Those include:

  • Whether or not you can be trusted.
  • Your level of confidence.
  • How approachable you are to coworkers and clients.
  • Your attention to detail.
  • Whether or not you are a team player.
  • How easy or difficult it may be to work with you.

That only scratches the surface. And it does not consider what you cannot control – a viewer’s personal biases. But by taking charge of what you can control, having a professional headshot created, you are tipping the odds of making a positive first impression greatly in your favor. This is especially true because most people rely on candids or selfies to represent themselves on their websites and in their social media profiles.

Can’t A Typical Portrait Or Personal Branding Photo Do The Same Thing?

No. Images that show more of your body and your environment are great for personal branding and marketing. They are perfect for those areas of your website where your style and personality are a key element to marketing your skills, products, or services. In addition to their professional headshots, I create a number of business portrait images for my clients. They are a ton of fun and very effective in communicating your message.

It’s All About The Eyes

This is where a true headshot – a photograph that prominently features a person’s head and face in the image – does what a wider environmental cannot match.

Thanks to human evolution, the eyes are the first place we look to determine whether a person poses a danger to us. By the nature of its composition, a headshot makes it much easier for a viewer to make that determination. When we can determine that quickly and with little effort, we will immediately have a more favorable opinion of that person.

It is important to keep in mind that it takes the viewer only 40 milliseconds to make these judgments about you. Think about this in the context of your LinkedIn or other professional profile. The few extra seconds it takes a person to feel safe about you could mean the difference between a new client or career opportunity and being immediately passed over for the next candidate’s profile.


Whether it is for a new career opportunity, new clients, or even dating, nothing works as effectively as a headshot when it comes to conveying your best traits. Does it take an investment of time and funding to have a professional headshot created? Yes. However, as a marketing tool, the long-term benefits are well worth it! Schedule a free consultation with Charles Cotugno Photography to help guide your decision: headshot vs portrait.