Do Headshots Exist?

The views and opinions expressed in this blog entry are my own and are based on subjective interpretation.


A headshot can say so much about someone and carry such a narrative that I often struggle to call the photograph a headshot when it clearly portrays so much.

In this blog entry I wanted to explore what differences I believe there are in headshots opposed to portraits and vice versa.


Portrait of Sydney based actor Josh MacFarlane
Portrait of Josh Macfarlane

This image of Josh was taken during an actor headshot shoot. Once we achieved the headshot we kept shooting for a while and this image was one of the results.


To state the obvious it is a photograph of Josh's head. However the introduction of his hand and the idea of purposely altering your own face suddenly transforms a picture of the head into a portrait.




Headshot of Sydney based Actor Ben Durham
Ben Durham Actor Headshot

This image is a headshot. It's clear, it's direct. It tells the viewer the potential of Ben as a model or actor without being distracting or busy. But at the same time also being slightly compelling and intriguing.


A portrait of Sydney based actor Eduardo Mora
Actor Eduardo Mora

This is where it gets a little harder. This image of Ed could for sure be considered a headshot. Although for me it portrays a little too much to call it a headshot. The way this shot is lit (Rembrandt lighting) with almost half the face in shadow and combined with the expression I would consider this a portrait every time.




A big part of shooting a great headshot is breaking the barrier between the camera and the subject. Being in front of a camera isn't a very natural experience for a lot of people. The job of the photographer is to find a way of breaking that barrier.

But what happens when that barrier is no longer visible at all?

Well a photographer will no longer be shooting headshots but instead the shoot transitions into portraits.

Expressions go to the same places the conversation goes, you have found your flow and now it's on.


I'm not saying that these portraits can't be used as headshots, but there is something special about the images and for a lot of people they have more of an emotional connection to the image than they first assumed they would.



A portrait of Sydney based actor Keith Thomas
Actor Portrait | Keith Thomas

This image is a portrait that I'm really proud of. Keith and I were shooting for his acting portfolio. We made some headshots together and the shoot transitioned to more of a character portrait session. I got to learn a little bit about Keith during the two hour photoshoot. One thing I learned was that he is a war veteran. After discovering this I started to see it in his eyes, I started to understand that his eyes had seen things that I would not even be able to even begin to comprehend. I asked Keith to closed his eyes and go to a back to the war, to go back to a memory were you had to quickly make a big decision, I asked when he opens his eyes to give me a

portrait of that man.



In my opinion the headshot becomes a portrait when it's about the person and not about the purpose of the image.


Having your headshot portray you is and always will be an asset to you.


To answer the titled question "Do headshots exist" I think yes they do, however, I think you will have a stronger headshot if it is a portrait.


Hope you are all well and staying safe.


As always thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.

Feel free to contact me for your photographic needs.


Michael Quelch.