How To Choose A Headshot Photographer in 2024 – A Step-by-Step Guide

Many people struggle to find the ideal photographer when it comes to getting the ideal headshot since searching for “portrait photographers near me” yields a lot of results. Some photographers only do headshots, some do a wide range of photography, some charge too much, and some are less skilled but charge less.

Now the question is, how to choose a headshot photographer then?

This article is designed with all the necessary information explaining the features of good headshot photographers so that you can identify the right one without much hassle.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

What is the purpose of a headshot?

headshot ideas for executive, business and professional headshots
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Headshots are mostly used for business, professional and personal branding purposes, starting from a business owner, author, actor, singer, dancer, or any professional you can name.

Building a strong online presence and attracting the right clients or employers requires maintaining a consistent brand and aesthetic. For that, one of the most crucial and effective steps could be using professional-quality headshots.

Headshots are a style of photography where the face and shoulders (upper body) of the subject are mainly focused. These types of close-up shots are a great way to show potential employers your personality, professionalism, and personal branding.

Is it worth getting a professional headshot?

Undoubtedly, a professional headshot is worth getting if you are involved in any kind of work or business that needs people to be familiar with you. A professional headshot presents you in the best possible light. You can therefore think of it as an investment in your personal branding and building your credibility.

Moreover, a professional headshot photographer is skilled enough to choose the best lighting setups, positions, or poses for the best shots and ideal backgrounds, which an amateur photographer won’t be able to do.

Are you still thinking about whether you should spend money on professional headshots?

Here are a few advantages of getting a professional headshot to assist you in making your choice.

  • People can get a sense of your personality from a good headshot. For instance, your facial expressions, such as a smile or a serious face, can indicate whether you are approachable or resolute.
  • It demonstrates your professional legitimacy. That is, a professional headshot will make your clients, employer, or collaborators believe in your professionalism.
  • It forms your identity and makes it easy to recognize you when they meet you in person.
  • It guarantees the reliability of your website, blog, or social media accounts.
  • A high-quality professional headshot can boost your self-confidence and help you connect with other business people.

Questions you should ask yourself before hire headshot photographer

a women thinking on when to hire headshot photographer

Professional headshot photography requires a significant financial outlay. So, whether you really need to make this investment or not depends on certain factors. To clearly understand the goals and results of your headshot photography, you must explore the answers to the following questions.

What can you use a headshot for?

A headshot is a necessity for personal branding. But where exactly headshots should be used is the real question. Let’s look at the areas where headshots are most commonly used to help with the answer.

  • CV or resume
  • Company website
  • Business card
  • Marketing materials
  • Magazine article
  • Author page
  • Newspaper
  • Press release
  • Dating website
  • Social media profiles such as Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Do you need a specialist headshot photographer or a generalist?

The most frequent query that people have is whether to hire a specialized headshot photographer or have the work done by a generalist. Undoubtedly, both a generalist and a specialist photographer are skilled enough to shoot images of professional quality.

However, they both possess some exclusive sets of skills that make them excel in their respective genres of photography. Therefore, knowing their nature would be very helpful in determining which one you should choose.

Generalist Photographer

A generalist may work in different genres of photography, including weddings, commercials, lifestyles, and many others. Usually, a generalist’s style of photography is spontaneous. For this reason, they tend to photograph whatever ends up in front of their lens.

This type of approach makes them chaotic and less organized. Moreover, it’s possible that they don’t have in-depth technical knowledge of shooting headshots. As a result, their ongoing experimentation and exploration of the shots might take them longer to get the perfect shot.

Specialist Headshot Photographer

A professional headshot photographer specializes in taking only headshots. Since they have been photographing the same subject for a while, they are familiar with every aspect of their photography technique. This makes them more predictable and organized.

A significant benefit of working with a specialist includes their ability to notice even the smallest details that a generalist might miss or deem unimportant.

So, a specialist or a generalist?

Undoubtedly, a specialist headshot photographer!

How many images do you need from the shoot?

Every shoot is different, so there are variations in the number of photos that can be obtained. If a shooting session lasts 30 minutes, there’s a chance that about 15-20 images will turn out to be keepers. But you don’t need to keep all of these images.

Depending on the purpose you will be using, somewhere between 5 and 10 images seem to work well. If you shoot in different looks, for instance, in different hairstyles or dresses, then you may need 3 to 4 images from each look.

However, you may receive all these images in raw format with basic contrast and sharpness adjustments, along with 2 or 3 fully retouched images.

What to look for when choosing a professional headshot photographer?

dean birinyi headshot photographer palo alto
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You should consider the following before choosing a professional headshot photographer.

Find photographers and narrow them down

The first step is to look for photographers. You can search Google or Yelp to find the top photographers and their websites. You can also ask friends or family members who may have recently used a headshot photography service for their recommendations.

Consider the photographers shown on the first pages of the Google or Yelp search pages. Photographers that stay at the top of searches are believed to be popular, trustworthy, and efficient. You should gather information about at least 25–30 photographers so that you can take the next step.

The next step is to shortlist your selections. Consider the following when narrowing down your choice of photographers.

  • If they are familiar with the style of photography you are looking for, for instance, actor headshot, author headshot, corporate headshot, indoor shoot, outdoor shoot, etc.
  • If they are specialized in capturing professional quality headshots.
  • If their price is compatible with your budget
  • How good they are at directions
  • Types of packages they offer
  • If there is any hidden charge
  • Types of facilities they will provide, including reshooting or refund
  • Environment of the studio

How rich is their portfolio? Check out their previous work and portfolio

The best way to determine a photographer’s working style, aesthetics, and consistency is to look through their portfolio. Their portfolio will give you a preview of how your images will turn out.

But what to look for in the portfolio? Let’s explore.

  • Check the lighting pattern to see if it makes the images bright or flat
  • If their photography style is consistent
  • The expressions of the subjects, i.e. confidant, relaxed, happy, or fearful
    Pose of the subjects
  • Position of the camera, i.e. eye level, higher or lower
  • Locations of the shoot, i.e. inside a studio, outdoor, or both

Aside from checking out their website, you should search for their work on other possible platforms, for instance, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or other online platforms.

Reputation: Read their reviews and client comments

Customer reviews are another great way to learn about a photographer and their service. Customer feedback also provides information regarding strengths, weaknesses, work quality, and many other aspects.

When conducting a review investigation, it is preferable to look for reviews and ratings on other search engines rather than relying solely on one or two sources.

The things to look for in the reviews and testimonials-

  • Interaction with the photographer before and during the shoot
  • Techniques they use to increase client comfort
  • Dedication towards the clients

It’s important to carefully read both positive and negative reviews because what was a bad experience for someone else might turn out to be a good one for you.

For instance, someone needed a relaxed photographer for the shoot, but the photographer turned out to be highly energetic. If you’re looking for someone enthusiastic, this is more of a recommendation for you than a criticism.

Where do they shoot: Studio or outdoor images (or both?)

The location of the shoot is also an important factor to consider. Some photographers may prefer outdoor shoots with natural light. On the other hand, some may provide their services only in a studio. Also, there are photographers who offer both in-studio and outdoor services.

Therefore, you can look through their portfolio to understand their style of work. Choose a photographer who offers both indoor and outdoor services; this will serve you better.

Check out their studio environment as well

Even if a photographer has a studio, that does not mean they are a pro. A skilled photographer might not have a studio, or a studio-owning photographer might not have the ability to take excellent images. However, a well-equipped studio may give the vibe of good service.

While researching the studio environment, you should look for the following:

  • If the location is appropriate
  • Gear that will be used for the photoshoot
  • Lighting and camera setup
  • Their backdrop, i.e. seamless paper, canvas, etc.
  • Necessary facilities, i.e. changing room, hair styling equipment, cosmetics, etc.

Will they help you with posing?

The responsibility of a photographer is to make the subject look their best. One of the best ways to do that is to assist the subjects with posing. Since headshot photographers specialize in taking headshots, they are aware of the camera angles and the posture that wouldn’t make the subjects appear unflattering.

Photographers who help with posing boost the subject’s confidence, make the subject feel at ease and bring out the subject’s natural aura, all of which significantly affect the quality of the images. Therefore, search for information or reviews regarding their assistance with posing.

Do they have any clothing suggestions?

The clothing style also makes a difference in the subject’s appearance. Since headshot photographers are experts, they are aware of what attire goes with what kind of background, lighting, or style of photography.

That’s why, depending on whether you want a formal, casual, indoor, or outdoor shoot, photographers frequently offer suggestions regarding the color or styling of the dresses. Besides, some photographers may have clothing options in their studios. If you need a clothing recommendation from the photographer, surely discuss it beforehand.

How long will your headshot session be?

The intended use of the photograph heavily influences the length of a headshot session. Simple corporate headshot sessions could last between ten and twenty minutes. However, a professional headshot in several different looks, such as an outfit change, makeup change, or hairstyle change, may take anywhere from one to two hours to a full day.

Therefore, the session length should be discussed with the photographer depending on the type of photography so that you can plan your schedule appropriately.

Check turnaround time

The next important factor is the turnaround time. There are times when photographers don’t meet their deadlines or take longer than expected to deliver the images you may need right away.

Therefore, you should always ensure that the photographer makes it clear on their website regarding turnaround time. You can also check reviews from their former clients to cross-check whether any of the clients have faced issues with late delivery.

Do they have retouching experience?

Photographers are paid not just for the photo session but also for the final, polished product. Raw images often have certain issues that need to be fixed; for instance, adjusting brightness, contrast, saturation, white balance, and tone; removing blemishes, under-eye circles, wrinkles in the clothes, and many more.

Photographers must have adequate photo editing experience to create flawless final images. Hence, enquiring about their retouching expertise is necessary.

Professional Photo Retouching Services

Work Guarantee: Reshoots or refunds if you’re unhappy

Sometimes the photos may not turn out as you had hoped, leaving you unsatisfied with the service. This doesn’t imply that the photographer lacked skill; it just means that things didn’t turn out as planned, and that happens!

Therefore, make sure the photographer has enough faith in his abilities and offers a guarantee of his work. Also, see if the photographer is willing to reshoot or reimburse unhappy clients for their money.

Negotiate to price and make sure you’re happy

Budget is a big concern when hiring a professional photographer. You don’t need plenty of images; a few stunning images are enough to fulfill your goal. A large number of images at cheap prices has a greater chance of providing low-quality images. So, the budget should be fixed considering the quality of the images.

However, the price should be set at a middle ground to work in favor of both the customer and the photographer. Thus, engage the photographers in conversation to see if they allow you to haggle over the price.

Want to Look More? Watch the Video!

Important FAQ’s of Headshot photography

What is the standard size of a headshot?

Headshots are cropped portraits where the focus remains from the shoulders to upwards, including the head and a little portion of the background. The standard headshot size is 8′′ X 10′′ for both printed and digital thumbnails. This size should be maintained for both horizontal and vertical orientation.

How much do photographers charge for headshots?

A headshot photographer’s price depends on several variables, including your purpose, style, location, and many others. On average, you can expect a cost of between $150 and $450. However, the price may begin at $25 and rise to $2,500 or even more.

Do you tip a photographer for headshots?

Tipping a headshot photographer is not subject to any set guidelines. If you are overly pleased with the images, you can tip the photographer to show appreciation for their hard work. Instead of just giving them a tip, you could also express your gratitude by writing a positive review and recommending them to others, which will benefit them more.

Should you smile in a professional headshot?

The goal of a professional headshot is to leave a positive impression on the viewers. The only strict rule for headshots is to look comfortable in the images. Therefore, whether you smile or not is entirely up to you.

What should you not do in a headshot?

The following actions should be avoided in a headshot:

-wearing distracting clothes with words, logos, or flashy colors
-using excessive jewelry or accessories
-overdoing makeup
-adopting bizarre hairstyles

What color is best for headshots?

Neutral or solid colors provide a soothing effect in the images. Dark colors like black, navy blue, and brown, or light colors like white, beige, pink, light blue, etc., look great in headshots.


Selecting the right headshot photographer can be daunting at times. However, your chances of making the right choice will rise if you pay close attention to the photographer’s portfolio, personality, and customer testimonials. Remember, the right photographer has the skill to bring the best out of you. So, prioritize image quality over everything else.

We hope that the tips above have given you insight into how to choose a headshot photographer for your upcoming headshot photoshoot.

Nayan Chowdhury
Nayan Chowdhury

Nayan Chowdhury is a Writer who deals with Copy-writing and Blogging services. Writing has always been something for him which denotes scrutinizing data in an innovative way. He is best known for working closely with B2C and B2B clients in the field of image editing and photography for digital marketing contents that triggers search engine traffic and visibility.

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