The 6 Headshot Types | Determine Which One You Need

Commercial & Brand · Headshots · Thoughts · Tips And Tricks

Congratulations, you’ve realized you need a new headshot. So you just need to Google “Atlanta headshot photographer” and run with it, right? Eh, maybe. There are six different headshot types (3 for actors and 3 for corporate types). Do you know which ones you need?

Let’s break each one down so you can make an informed decision.

First off, there are two groupings for headshot types: acting and corporate. Each has three types of headshots for a total of 6. If you’re full-time as an actor or you’re a corporate type and never want to touch a stage, then you can ignore half of these. 

Elements of Different Headshots Types

The key differences between headshots types revolve around two principles:

  1. Lighting
  2. Personality & Pose

Lighting is pretty straight forward – bright vs. dark, the quality of light, and lots of other technical photography things. For the non-photographers here, you only need to be concerned with brightness and the quality of light. By the quality of light, I mean, does the transition between bright and dark areas appear sharp (hard), or does it have a gradual change (soft). Soft light is generally more pleasing, whereas hard light is very edgy. Each has its purpose and its place. For headshots, you’ll typically want softer lighting. 

Headshots are all about your personality – nobody wants to see a mugshot. While the corporate headshots types are pretty straightforward (smile!), actor headshots can have more variety of expression involved. Along with what your face is doing, your body position also matters. Even though most headshots are only capturing your shoulders and up, biomechanics (sorry, biomedical engineering background here) says that how you place your feet will affect your posture. And we all know that posture affects perception. Headshots are your first impression – make it stellar.

Types of Acting Headshots

  • Dramatic Headshots. These are the bread and butter of most actors. Typically dramatic headshots are very moody with prevalent shadows and a more intense expression. Very popular for stage actors, this headshot style represents a lot of the lighting found in your typical theater production. 
  • Comedic Headshots. Bring out all the personality for these headshots! These images are supposed to be full of life and a bit quirky (and unfortunately, I don’t have a great example of this). The lighting for this style doesn’t have a lot of intense shadows. For film and stage, the lighting of those productions is typically very bright because it makes you feel happier and warmer. 
  • Commercial Headshots. Similar to comedic but with a bit more shadow work, these headshots have a little more variety. Commercial headshots are more relaxed in terms of personality – most casting directors want a simple, relaxed look (not even a gigantic smile). 

Types of Corporate Headshots

  • LinkedIn / Standard Headshots. This is the simplest of the headshots. These are what everyone thinks of when you hear “headshot.” The lighting is simple and typically soft, most closely matching an actor’s commercial headshot. The personality for these is pretty typical, a friendly, natural smile.
  • Team Headshots. Effectively these are the same as the LinkedIn / Standard headshots but matched with your colleagues of the company where you’re employed. Many offices with smaller teams will have a webpage dedicated to identifying their staff and to make it look professional, they’ll try to have everyone get the same headshot. 
  • Presenter / Speaker Headshots. Okay, headshot might be a generous term here. I’d almost call these portraits. These images are usually a little more personality-based, and I think better suited to be a 1/2 body or even 3/4. The goal of these images is to be marketing material to show off your personality and expertise for a keynote or event. The lighting can also be more diverse, depending on the mood and message you want your viewers to interpret when seeing these images. Serious topic? Go dramatic. Want to be warm, inviting, and jovial? Go for something with less intense shadows and a bigger smile. 

Which Headshot Types Do You Need?

Alrighty, so we’ve walked through the different headshot types. Now, which ones should you get? 

For corporate headshots, you only need the standard LinkedIn type image. Your company should handle team headshots. If you are an expert, respected thought-leader, and are giving lectures and presentations to large groups, then you need to snag a presenter/speaker headshot as well.

For actors, I would highly recommend all three. The essential item I impress upon my actor clients is that you can’t walk into an audition for a comedic role with a dramatic headshot. It just doesn’t work. You want to minimize the friction a casting director experiences when choosing whether or not to book you. Actors are cast based on their looks, so help those in control of hiring you. Give them a headshot that helps them see you in the role they want to cast. If you can only pick one, go with a commercial look as it’s the most “multi-purpose.” Just remember, a jack of all trades is a master of none. For more information, learn which colors to pick and my tips for clothing to wear for awesome headshots.

Wrap Up

I hope all of this information was helpful, and you know what headshots you’ll need moving forward. If you’re still having trouble deciding or want more clarification between the different headshot types, feel free to email me your questions or ask in the comments section below! I’m happy to help.

If you’re ready to get your next headshots and like my style of photography, please check out my headshot services page. I’d be happy to help you.

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