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  • Writer's pictureLiz Devonshire

Getting Serious About Portraits In Personal Branding Photography!

Updated: Feb 14


We need to get serious for a minute! Our hibernation is coming to an end and so, we hope, is Lockdown ….now we have to get serious. What have you done to ensure your business is gonna stand out and look ready? Have you made a plan?

Personal Branding Photography London

Cause you really need to reach out to your audience, you need to be visible and communicate with them to say… ‘I’m still here, I got through and I’m here for you!’

Remember it’s the pictures of you that create the like, know and trust vibe around your business that’s so important, especially, in the currant climate. And the best way to do this is through beautiful new fresh imagery of you and your business, which communicates to your ideal clients, that you are just what they need and want.

I talk to lots of people about what kind of pictures they may want and need in their business and I’m often asked what the real difference is between a professional headshot and a portrait? And when we also start hearing other labels like corporate headshots and personal branding it can become pretty confusing.

Personal Branding Photography London

Personal Branding Photography is a combination of everything business, including headshots and portraits relevant to your business, the small details which are important to your enterprise, like product shots and flat-lay, if and when required shouldn’t be overlooked in this process either. Also there should be an element of the personal, dependent, on how much you want to share with your customer. And all shot with your business style and brand in mind.

Corporate Photography has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, once upon a time it was dull and stuffy but now it has really become very dynamic – although still based on the basic headshot in terms of style, features some companies have embraced are; a wider shot sometimes up to ½ length with an environmental backdrop. But the important thing is it should include the corporate image, often smart, slick and formal looking.

Here are a few points about portraits and headshots to guide you when making a decision.

Six differences between the professional headshot and the portrait.

1. The Purpose

When we are deciding whether to opt for a simple headshot or portraits, we need to start to think about exactly how we want to use the imagery? Where are we going to use it? And what do we want or need to convey about ourselves and our businesses through a photograph? Are we looking for profile images for social media? A photograph for your ‘about page’ on your website? Or will it appear in a gallery of employees on a web page? Are you simply introducing yourself? Or are you wanting to make a deeper connection with the viewer?

Personal Branding Photography London

If the picture is small, like for an icon for social media, then a headshot is by far the best option, and it’d work well in that context, or if you’re making just an initial introduction to your ideal audience on social media, however, I really think if you are looking for imagery for your ‘about page’ especially, if you are a sole trader or have a small number employed within the company, then portraits may say more than just a headshot. When there are a lot of employees, then the general trend will be to use headshots.

But things are ever evolving and I would suggest that where you have the opportunity a portrait is perhaps a much better option than headshots, they convey so much more than just a head and shoulders, they tell a story, and I’m all for a story.

So why don’t we go with portraits rather than a basic headshot? Well sometime we may feel it’s the easiest option, it maybe connected to body confidence, or we are constrained by requirements of a third party, but often it can come down to cost.

2. The Pose

What exactly is a headshot? Well, lets be clear on this, headshots are close-up photographs of the head and shoulders, usually with the subject facing forward, looking professional yet friendly and often smiling. This is because the subject is communicating a message to the observer. Perhaps that message could be trustworthiness, friendliness, approachability and to convey a relaxed and friendly feel to the images or maybe you want to give the message of professionalism and strength.

Personal Branding Photography London

Portraits have much wider scope; and could be just the face, ¾ length, the whole body or even just the hands or feet, it can be an interpretation of who the sitter is, its pretty wide ranging. A portrait could show the person performing their job in some way or simply striking a much more informal pose. Portrait photography is much more personality-driven and often captures wonderfully natural pictures. It’s about telling a story, where professional headshots are about introducing yourself or communicating a quick message to the observer.

3. The Orientation

Traditionally, the headshot tends to be presented in the 'portrait' orientation (vertically). In contrast, portraits can be portrait or landscape in orientation (vertical or horizontal). But actually in reality, we should be shooting 'both' in our headshots too, and here we come back to purpose, particularly how we are using the imagery, if we are working with a web designer, the picture will need to fit the design, and it’s better to be able to be flexible, if the vision changes, it’s all about choice.We don’t have to follow trends, its about what works for us and

Personal Branding Photography London

it can feel very freeing to move away from the constraints of tradition. But it’s important to still convey the message we want to communicate and of course for the composition to create a beautifully balanced photograph.

Although photos can be cropped to fit the right size for any purpose, it is far better not to shoot with that in mind it can reduce quality and compositional intent.

4. The Location and Background

When we think about going to a photographer for headshots we often, assume - Headshots are going to be taken in the photographer’s studio or in a room set up as a studio at the subject’s place of business. A plain black or white background would often be used for headshots, although a company could also choose to use their brand colours or have a backdrop which includes their logo. And, this was often the case in the past, and for some clients, this is still their requirement. But depending on the type of business, this isn’t always what is needed these days and breaking away the norm can be refreshing, modern and effective and this means the headshot is becoming overall more flexible and more aligned to the portrait.

In contrast we are ‘used’ to Portraits being shot anywhere and are used to seeing more interesting backdrops. For a small business owner, a portrait could include them working in their normal environment such as an office, restaurant, gym or anywhere else. Outdoor locations are also great for portraits, which massively increases the scope for locations.

5. The Tech

Often, the lighting for a professional headshot tends to be bright, with the face fully lit, making the person stand out very clearly against the background and presenting a professional image, and shadows are not generally seen in professional headshots. Conversely the lighting used for portraiture could if desired be much more dramatic, moody or even fun to create a totally different look and feel entirely.

Of course Natural light should not be overlooked, artificial lighting is often used, especially in corporate headshots or where multiple images need to be shot in the same location and need to match, to give a more uniform style, as its obviously easier to control, whereas natural light can be unpredictable. However, it is widely acknowledged that natural light is much more flattering for portraits, and to a certain extent with experience, we can have some control over the results.

Personal Branding Photography London

While discussing the technical aspects of the differences between, headshots and portraits, we can perhaps mention lenses, I don’t want to get too technical about this. And I think its important to remember, as creative, which we photographers are, we don’t want to necessarily be using a set type of lens for any work, as often its our vision that creates the unique style and the creativity that differentiates each photographer, but as a very rough guide; some photographers use long focal length lenses (>85mm) for a professional headshot, as longer lenses reduce facial distortion and allow for some room between the photographer and the subject.

When dealing with Portraiture the type of lens will vary greatly and we can use a wide scope of different lenses - shorter focal length lenses, between 24-50mm will allow for more of the body and background in the shot, whereas the lenses with a longer focal length allow for more intimate shots.

6. The Cost

We find headshots often tend to cost less than portraits, and it’s often perceived that this is because they generally require less set-up, have more straightforward lighting and background and many people could be photographed over the course of a morning; in the case of corporate headshot shoots. But actually the truth is, especially right now as we look at a more modern feel to the headshot, the similarities between headshots and portraits set up are strong. I think the real difference is the time we spend on a headshot and how many digital images are provided at a set cost. After all, very few people want dozens of headshots, whereas with portraiture we are able to provide more variety in imagery, so our client is actually getting more useable visual content for their business marketing.

I hope that’s given you a bit of an idea about a professional headshot vs. a portrait.

I personally believe that all companies what ever their size, now need to show an image of the business founder, in order to sell to their ideal audience. Statistically we buy more from those who we know, like and trust and photographs, whether headshots or portraits help with that.

Personal Branding Photography London

I love photography and I’m keen to see the best photography I can in every business, but I know times are tough, so for the rest of 2021 if you make a booking for Creative Headshots, you will have the choice of turning it to a Mini Portrait session, it will still be a 30 minute shoot, at a single location, with 4 digital images included, but instead of 4 headshots you will get 4 portraits, giving you a little more choice and flexibility.

If you want to know more, please give me a shout and we can have a lovely chat about what you need. You can reach me by calling me on 07941 126999 or by email I'd love you to join me on my Facebook page too. For other services checkout my website

P.S. I almost forgot, please check my New Shoots FB page for information on the great online workshops that are available to help you get the most out of your smartphone. We are expecting to get back to some face to face workshops at Borough Market, soon so you can join our waitlist or check out our Online-Workshops – here. Thank you.

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