There’s a fine line between a portrait and a headshot. The main difference being that a headshot is a professional representation of the subject for the desired use of the photograph, while a portrait tells more of a story. It doesn’t have to be a complicated story either, just something that makes you wonder what’s going on. Dramatic lighting, coloring, and expressive poses can take the same subject wearing the same outfit with the same hair and make-up and transform the image completely.
The photo above is of Amanda Cruz (photo by Joseph W. Nienstedt), who came by to get this headshot made for her new real estate business:
These shots are only a few moments apart – The difference in her pose and expression coupled with a change in the lighting setup and you have a completely different product. Sometimes the difference can be subtle, so the best way to determine whether you’re making a headshot or portrait is in the story. Is the photo showing the subject being themselves? Is it displaying something in their character? Then it’s most likely a headshot. On the other hand, if the shot is implying an emotion, or leading you to imagine a scenario that is playing out for or in view of the subject, then you’re most likely looking at a portrait.