Headshots and business portraits are how we say hello. Get tips on how to nail professional headshots for LinkedIn, acting profiles, and more.

Make a great first impression with a great headshot.

A successful headshot tells you who someone is. Unlike passports, driver’s licenses, or ID photos that simply show you what someone looks like, headshots need to convey more, like a subject’s attitude, character, and personality.


To get a good headshot, a photographer needs to know whose headshot they’re taking and how it’s going to be used. A headshot for a professional that will be used on LinkedIn is going to be different from an actor’s or model’s headshot. To master this field, you’ll also need to know how to photograph the human face and practice people skills that put your subjects at ease and draw out their personality.

What is a headshot?

A headshot is a greeting. Headshots need to give the viewer the sense that they’re meeting someone, in a professional context, for the first time. Seeing a headshot should feel like an introduction that complements whatever text or context it’s paired with. A headshot makes a LinkedIn profile more than just a list of work experiences and a professional profile more than just a list of skills and interests.

“Telling a story with the headshot is crucial.

Otherwise, it’s just a person,”


says editorial and portrait photographer Grace Rivera. “It needs to say something and resonate with the viewer to evoke a feeling.” That feeling, Rivera says, should come from the subject, but it’s up to the photographer to create a context where that feeling can take shape.

Given their similar subjects and emphasis on the personal, headshots and portrait photography share a lot. Often, technical tips and tricks for one will apply to the other. However, Rivera is quick to note that the two are not the same thing. Headshots and portraits each have different stories to tell, and photographers need to keep their purpose in mind when doing them.


“If you’re going to take a headshot for LinkedIn,” says Rivera, “it’s going to be a completely different mindset than an editorial for a magazine. If I walk on set prepared for a corporate headshot when the job is an editorial for a magazine, I would fail. Be mindful of who you’re shooting, what you’re shooting for, and where the image is going to live. If you take the time to do that, it’s going to have a positive result.”

How to light subjects for headshots.

Getting the lighting right with a headshot can be a challenge. Conventional wisdom around headshots recommends white, soft light against a white background. However, both hard and soft light can work well in headshots with the proper planning and consideration. “It really just depends on the choices you’re making and the look that you’re going for,” Heather Concannon, who has a master’s degree in studio lighting, says. “If you want a more dramatic effect, harsh light — like direct sunlight or a big light — is going to make your subject look a certain way, and that can be really cool.”


Matching lighting to the subject’s look and personality is essential. “When you are shooting portraits,” Concannon says, “you always want to take that gut check and think about where your light sources are coming from. Then make sure you adjust accordingly.”