Headshot vs Portrait: 5 Main Photographic Differences

Headshot vs Portrait: 5 Main Photographic Differences

There are many types of photography, some more affordable than others. For example, for a few dollars, you can take home a wallet-sized portrait from a photo booth at the mall.On the other end of the spectrum, you can turn to a high-end photographer that charges thousands of dollars an hour to shoot an epic portrait of you or a loved one. But what’s the difference? What type of photo should you have?In this article, we will discuss the differences in a headshot vs portrait. Read on to discover which one is right for your needs — and how to decide.

What is a Headshot?

A headshot is a close-up, cropped image that primarily shows the face and shoulders, with minimal background. It is usually used for professional purposes such as resumes, business profiles, and auditions.

What is a Portrait?

A portrait is a photograph that captures a subject’s essence and personality. It is an intimate portrayal of a person, often highlighting their facial features and expressions.

What Is the Difference Between a Headshot vs Portrait

Headshots and portraits are two common types of photography that capture a person’s image. While they may seem similar, there are differences between them.


A headshot is a close-up photograph focusing primarily on the subject’s face, typically from the shoulders up. The purpose of a headshot is to capture the subject’s facial features and expressions, making it ideal for actors, models, and professionals seeking to showcase themselves.

On the other hand, a portrait is a more comprehensive image that aims to capture not only the subject’s face but also their entire body and surroundings. 

Number of Subjects

A headshot is typically a close-up shot of an individual, focused on their face and head. This allows for a more intimate and detailed portrayal of the subject.

On the other hand, a portrait can have one or multiple subjects, depending on the desired composition. This allows for a wider range of storytelling and allows the photographer to capture the relationship between the subjects.

Purpose or Photo Usage

The purpose of a headshot is primarily to showcase an individual’s professional appearance and personality, often for business or acting purposes. On the other hand, a portrait focuses on capturing the subject’s essence or story, often for personal or artistic reasons.


Headshots typically focus on the face and are meant to convey a professional appearance. As such, they often have a serious or neutral mood.

Portraits tend to capture a wider view of the subject, incorporating elements such as body language and setting to convey a specific mood or emotion.

Environment and Background

Headshots are typically taken in a controlled setting, such as a studio, with a plain background to ensure the focus remains on the subject’s face. On the other hand, portraits are often taken in a more natural environment, incorporating elements of the surroundings to add depth and storytelling to the image.

These distinctions make it essential for professional photographers like Karen Vaisman Photography to understand the purpose and differences between headshots and portraits to deliver the best results for their clients.

Take Your Best Shot

Whether you need a professional headshot for your LinkedIn profile or a classic portrait for your family album, understanding the differences between a headshot vs portrait can help you achieve the perfect shot. So, the next time you want to capture an image, consider the purpose and context to determine whether a headshot or portrait would be most suitable. Happy shooting!

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