Headshot Styles Selection Guide by leading Boston photographer

Portraits featuring your personality and character

Create your story: how do you want people to remember you? We work together to hand craft images that give life, clarity and meaning to your context, highlighting your personality and positive attitude… with which your brand story becomes compelling.

Headshots and business portraits are a tool to accomplish a certain objective, so it is important to think through how a successful picture helps you, before start taking a picture. That’s why we include a telephone consultation to help you to think through in a goal-oriented way. The key questions are (1) your primary audience, and (2) what you want them to think of you. We’ll use these to decide the best options.

This page is designed to give a broad overview of portrait and headshot styles that are very popular. Think which style is appropriate for your situation.

1. For Corporate/Nonprofit Professionals

If you hold an externally facing function, you probably want to look approachable and pleasant. However, in some other cases, you might want to look quiet and thoughtful, or more of an inspiring leader. If you are a looking for a new job, you want to look slightly more energetic than otherwise. Even if you are not an actor, think about what character you are expected to play in your current position or the next step in the near future.

Looking confident is crucial in nearly all situations. Competence doesn’t show in pictures but confidence does, and many viewers associate confident look with competence. Use this to your advantage. People with insecurity or on the defense are encouraged to breathe some fresh air and switch their mind, at least for the photo session.

Traditional, conservative, corporate “power look”

If you are in a traditional industry, this is the most common and a safe option. Entirely conventional and no one gets excited about it, yet this is in high demand for a very valid reason. This style is appropriate for people in financial services, legal work, and other professionals where your audience expects this look and associates it with trust, credibility and experience.


Futuristic “smart look”

If your style is not very traditional, and your industry works well with a bit more progressive image, this metallic backdrop can add a bit of futuristic tone to your headshot. The subtle texture and varying tonality in the backdrop adds a bit of unique character to the image, and the range of lighting technique can enhance the bright personality or mysterious character. This is appropriate for technology, healthcare, higher education or other industries based on skill, technology or brain power.


Simplistic “authentic look”

White backdrop (which shows off-white to very light gray in photographs) combined with a simple lighting technique is increasingly common in startups and other corporate headshots. (This type of work is also most appropriate for extraction work, where the image’s backdrop is later removed or replaced in the post-production work.) The simple look adds the authentic feel to the picture, but unless your company spec requires this style, we tend to have more people choosing the metallic backdrop above over this one.

This simplistic style is most practicable and efficient to shoot a large group in a conference room, and therefore most commonly used when headshots are taken in a corporate setting.


“E-commerce look” on synthetic white

E-commerce industry uses bright synthetic white background so that the image backdrop blends with the white background on website or print catalog. This style is in fad among young professionals in certain industries. The best way to produce this type of image is to photograph just like the group above and replace the backdrop in Photoshop.


Kinder, gentler, “organic look”

Shooting against a wall, door or window in the studio helps add warmth to the personality. This is a very popular option as the second image for people who get a more traditional headshot, as most professional people still feel that they should have a more conventional picture ready.

This type of work is usually shot with natural window light, supplemented with carefully balanced studio lighting equipment, to create a range of soft, natural look. With a blend of daylight, wrinkles in the skin may become less noticeable, and many people tend to look younger. (Availability limited to certain hours of the day; request when booking.)

2. For Inspiring Leaders and Influencers

Most corporate headshots include only chest and up, and there is very limited room to use body language. However, business personality portraits are more appropriate for business owners and expert consultants interested in authentic appeal to and engagement with the audience.

Business personality portraits

There is some overlap with the non-traditional headshots, but the business personality portraits integrate body language, environmental interaction and fine tuning of facial expression to create a more fine-tuned professional impression. This type of portraits can portray, for example, more engaging, hands-on style appropriate for leadership, advisors and consultants, or quiet, thoughtful impression for serious authors, and mysterious feel for art critics and others.

3. For Your Personal Life

Personality portraits (candid & relaxed)

The ultimate marketing projects are the ones that use your very personal image: candid snapshots of a personal moment or relaxed poses, capturing your personality, without adding overly polished feel. This type of portraits are used by some non-traditional professionals (such as life coaches, creative consultants, and other relationship-based professions), but it is probably most popular for online dating profiles.

This work always involves outdoor shooting and is not practical during summer heatwaves and winter months. Not for people with rigid scheduling constraints.

4. For Creative Professionals (actor, musician, …)

Actor “audition look”

The point of actor headshot is to show your character in a clean-cut style. An old advice (e.g., one photo with and one without a smile) should be considered outdated in the day of online submissions. Actor headshots are not about fashion, style or props. It is also not about trying too hard to create a fake character. The game is to have a set of headshots, from which you select the closest match to what the casting director wants for each audition.


Creative portraits for creative or non-traditional professionals

If you are an artistic writer, musician, or another creative professional, with some specific idea of how you like to portray your personality, there are a broad range of possibilities. Organizing concepts are the key starting element.


Street fashion and style photography

For fashion brands and fashion/style bloggers.