Understanding the difference between a headshot and a portrait


You can think of a headshot as being more of an iconic representation. Featuring only the head and shoulders and set against a plain background without props, the subject is usually evenly lit, with their eye line directed at the camera. Headshots are used in professional settings by both corporates and actors alike. The traditional cropping for a headshot is 8” x 10” inches, however with Facebook and LinkedIn this can also be a circle or a square.

A portrait is seen as more or a realistic representation of it’s subject. Often it will accompany an article in an editorial or feature on a bio where a more in depth representation is required. As the intention behind a portrait is generally to convey mood and emotion, elements such as styling and lighting are usually more intricate. Because portraits are seen as a photographer’s interpretation of a subject there is no specific crop size.  

While portraits can be taken anywhere, they will often use their setting as a way of enhancing their subject’s story. This can also be referred to as an environmental portrait. A studio portrait offers a more abstract representation. Often the sitter will appear against a plain background. This helps to isolate them from their environment and allows the viewer of the portrait to focus in on subtle details.