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Portrait VS Business Headshot.

When a photographer is working with a client there is lots of lingo and terminology that can be overwhelming for the customer. In discussions, the lack of clarification on these terms can lead to minor break downs in communication and confusion for the client about what to expect. It can be so helpful for everyone involved when we take a moment to stop and consider what exactly the words that we use every day really mean. Not only does this help from a photographer’s perspective to consider the discourse and applications of it, but also, for our clients simply breaking down the terminology help to set the record straight.


Let’s have a look in to a common area of confusion. Let’s consider the difference between a portrait and a business headshot and figure out what these terms are actually referring to!


Broadly, a portrait is a documentation of an individual that shows an accurate likeness of the person.

Often, a client will want a portrait for personal reasons. This often looks like a modelling shoot, a maternity shoot, or pictures of family members. Portraits can also be used beyond these scenarios, for example, artists and content creators will usually use a portrait next to their artist statement or work. There is some confusion here with the word personal. Personal does not directly mean something only used for yourself, but in this case can be inclusive of online profiles, a more personable application or an image to be used as a profile image that falls somewhere between business and casual. It can also refer to a picture of a person that is shot in a more creative or arty style and showcases a concept or an individual’s personality within it. Basically, a portrait is a considered and stylised image of yourself that does not scream corporate headshot!

Business Headshot.

A headshot is usually a photograph of a person’s face that presents them as a professional and refined version of themselves. This style of photograph is often associated with business because a person’s profession is the most likely place where they will have to identify in this way. You will also see business headshots on professional orientated platforms like LinkedIn and Glass Door. This is for the same reason as just stated.

In the professional world there is a specific standard one must associate with that lets people know that they are serious and confident in themselves as a professional. There is also an element of conformity in the workplace and this carries over into all of the materials, both contractually and visually. In essence, a business headshot is a photograph of a person that showcases them as a professional in a repetitional way. These kinds of headshots are usually used for business and commercial purposes.


Licensing is one of those things that changes quite rapidly depending on the job. Licensing is always discussed with a client before work is carried out if it is relevant to the job, this way there is no surprises later down the line. In essence, licensing refers to the rights a client has in regard to how and where they use the images. Most photographers are quite flexible with licensing and consider their client and their individual needs.

Individuals and most small businesses usually won’t even have to think about licensing agreements with their photographers. On occasion, dependent on the small business’s usage, licensing may need to be agreed but the photographer will be transparent from the get-go about this.

Usually, licensing is only a predominant factor when working with large corporations. You can use online tools if you feel as though licensing may be relevant to your needs to help you to determine the licensing agreements and costs specific to the job you require. The reason we mention licensing at this point is to highlight that usage can be a defining factor in the way services are named and defined. Quite often a business headshot service will be mindful of licensing in the agreement and cost whereas in a portrait service not so much. It feels like one of those things that is implicit in the name, but licensing is one of those scary terms attached to even more scary terms like ‘extra costs’ and ‘usage contract’ that can drive away clients.

In reality, it is very simple. Usually, if you are a business or client who needs to discuss licensing, you will already be familiar with it! If not, any good photographer will be very transparent and discuss any licensing procedures before continuing the work.

Ultimately, we use different terms to describe different services. If you enquire about a service that does not seem fitting for your needs, then the photographer will simply let you know that they have a service more relevant to you. This will just change minor things for the photographer, like, make sure they have an appropriate light set up for a professional shoot for instance, but ultimately, it is just to help you out with what to expect. This allows the photographer to provide you with transparent quotes and the ability to clearly outline what they will supply you with at the end!


A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity."- Dalai Lama





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