Headshots Or Mugshots?
I’ll be honest here, I get a little bit sad every time I hear someone refer to a headshot as a ‘mug shot’.
Many people think of school photos when they think of headshots. The process of sitting down for 10 seconds, then up and away. Results that nobody really likes, and that haunt you for the next year.
But that’s the point I’m hoping to make about headshots here: Headshots aren’t like school photos. They aren’t like mugshots. Headshots are valuable tools that communicate much more than what you look like.
Headshots for personality:
No matter who I’m working with, and how long for, I work with people to engage with them and capture a genuine expression. It’s my goal to showcase personality.
This means capturing engagement in the eyes. Having great catchlights and lighting helps bring the eyes to life, but it’s the interaction between photographer and sitter that achieves this.
It also means engaging with the person in front of my camera, and coaching expression. To capturing authentic smiles, or starting a dialogue about what expression they want in their images. Not everyone wants to show their pearly whites, and that’s okay. Sometimes I work with people who want to try a mix of expressions to find what works for them.
Why A Headshot Is More Than A Mugshot:
When someone refers to a mugshot, I generally get an image of an unflattering, no-smile, documentative portrait. Used for identification purposes, a mug shot is a record what a person looks like.
A headshot documents what we each look like (of course), but it also showcases a lot more. Headshots communicate what it is like when we are in the same room as a person. They show others whether a person is bubbly, reserved, serious, approachable – or an array of other traits.
When someone commissions a headshot, we understand that they’ve made a conscious choice for a professional portrait. They’ve gone out of their way to further their career and influence the perceptions others have of them. Considerations into what they wear, how they do their hair and/or makeup, and what accessories to bring with them have gone into the shooting process. All of these things communicate a person. A headshot showcases a person on their best day. Mug shots imply….kind of the opposite.
To be honest, I love when people are brave enough to say: ‘hey, I hate having my photo taken, but I know when it’s done right it can really do wonders for my career’. Headshots are valuable. They have an important role of making connections and communicating with others.
Points to take away:
Headshots are daunting – most people don’t love the idea of having their photo taken. If you call them mug shots, you’re already adding a negative connotation into an already scary process.
A good headshot will do more than record what you look like. It will help people make the right judgements about you (people will judge you, no matter what). A great headshot will show personality, communicate professionalism, and align you at the top of your field.
People like to work with people – show who you are. Use your headshot as a tool to let people know a little more about you. Wear your favourite earrings, a quirky tie, the glasses that are also your favourite colour…. Show YOU.
To get a great headshot, it involves engagement with a photographer, coaching of posing, flattering lighting choices, and an appropriate setting. Don’t downgrade the time and effort that goes into achieving a ‘simple headshot’ by using the term ‘mugshot’.
Have I convinced you to love headshots yet?
Check out my sessions for business headshots, actor headshots, and Staff headshots.
Julia Nance is a headshot and portrait photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. Her vibrant creativity is inspired by her experiences. From photographing whales underwater to travelling in Europe. With a vast background in a range of photographic areas, it is Julia’s natural ability to connect with her subjects that ultimately drew her to the art of portraiture.
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