Did You Know There Are Four Types of Headshots? Why You Need #4

The quality of your headshot could be what’s standing between you and your dream job. You could be denying yourself incredible opportunities because you’re using the wrong type of headshot. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article with the following headline: “The Perfect Professional Headshot is Worth $1,000, and Maybe Even a Job.”

So, how do you get the perfect professional headshot? You’ll need to avoid the first three types of headshots; the fourth type is your best bet. Here’s everything you should know about the different kinds of professional headshots (and how to ensure you’re representing yourself with the perfect headshot):

The First Tier: Horrible Headshots

The first type of headshot is the bottom of the barrel. Truthfully, headshots in this category shouldn’t be considered professional at all.


This category includes all headshots taken with a phone. Are you currently using a selfie for a “headshot?” Maybe you’re using a photo someone took of you while you stood against a wall. Even worse, people have been caught cropping themselves in their wedding photos instead of getting a professional headshot.


It’s simple: your headshot is unprofessional if you’re in this tier. Your headshot should never be taken with an iPhone! It doesn’t send a positive message to those who come across it. The Wall Street Journal says the perfect headshot could be worth a job.

Here’s the thing: a bad headshot could cost you a job.


Hundreds of online articles outline how to take a headshot just using your iPhone. While it’s great that iPhone photography is a tool at our disposal, photos taken with an iPhone don’t compare to professional headshots that were taken in a studio with the right photographer (more on that later).

The Second Tier: A Lit Headshot

Here’s a brief lesson on lighting a photo: three-point lighting should be incorporated to illuminate a headshot properly. What is there-point lighting?


MasterClass has the perfect definition: “Three-point lighting is the standard form of professional lighting in video production and still photography. It involves using three light sources placed in three different positions. Playing with the size, distance, intensity, and position of these light sources, including their degree angle, allows it to control how light and shadow fall on a subject, creating different moods.”


While you don’t necessarily need to be a master at three-point lighting like John, it’s good to understand the basics to ensure your headshot is perfect. Here are the three types of lights in three-point lighting:


  1. The key light: the key light is the primary light and the brightest light. This light can be found on one side of the camera.
  2. The fill light: the fill light is placed on the other side of the camera. It’s used to fill out the rest of the face and create natural shadows.
  3. The backlight: the backlight is placed behind the subject. This light is meant to separate the photo’s subject from the background.


You can see John demonstrating three-point lighting in this behind-the-scenes YouTube video. Can you spot the backlight? It’s hiding because it can’t be caught in the shot!

The Third Tier: Great Studio Lighting, But No Facial Coaching

The third tier of headshots is the most common. Why? Most headshot photographers don’t offer facial coaching with their photography services. You could have excellent studio lighting, a professional-grade camera, and wear the perfect thing for a professional headshot—you still won’t get a perfect headshot without facial coaching.


John says, “The biggest thing that sets me apart from most other headshot photographers is the facial expression coaching. Many people can create good headshots and have good lighting for a headshot, but you can notice when looking at people’s headshots that there is no facial coaching. It basically looks like a fancy ID photo. Stand in front of the camera and say ‘cheese.’ That makes for a CHEESY photo. When doing facial expression coaching, I can help a client get the best out of their look(s). Confidence comes from the eyes, and likeability comes from the mouth. I work to create that combination with my clients to create the best shot that shows confidence and likeability all in one shot.”

The Fourth Tier: The Perfect Headshot!

YFinally, we’ve reached the perfect headshot! Every professional deserves to find a photographer capable of capturing the perfect headshot. Talented headshot photographers know how to get a perfectly lit, clean, and flattering headshot: the perfect headshot.


John has had clients who believed they got quality headshots until they received facial coaching. Here’s a quick story: one corporate professional visited the John Glaser Photography studio in Katy, Texas, to update his headshot. While he saw the importance of having an updated professional headshot, he had never gotten the perfect headshot until he stepped into John’s studio.


He admitted that he never liked his smile in headshots (a common complaint of people who’ve never received facial coaching). John gave him some facial coaching before beginning to photograph him. After a few minutes, John turned the monitor around to show the client the images.


The client got emotional; he had never seen himself photographed this way.


After people experience facial coaching before and during their headshot sessions, they’ll never go back to tier three. What’s the point in booking a professional photographer if you’re not going to get the perfect headshot?


You deserve to present yourself in the best way possible: don’t settle for anything other than the perfect headshot. You can’t get a perfect headshot without selecting the right photographer!