Headshot Design Guide

This guide makes designing your ideal headshot or headshots simple. Use this as a resource to discover what kinds of setups are available in regard to the background, lighting, and composition options at your disposal. The goal in providing this resource to you is that we are able to clearly communicate your expectations and ensure that we have a game plan for your headshot session ahead of time. 



The headshot background can be a studio backdrop, a solid color, a natural environment, or a digital background of pretty much anything.



Lighting is key to the overall feel of the image. Select from a variety of portable studio lighting setups, natural lighting examples, and a combination of both.



Lastly, you'll need to decide on the resulting crop, orientation, and pose(s) for your headshots.

Group headshot sessions require precision when it comes to headshot design. I’ll need to know where to go, what equipment to bring with me, what lighting and background configuration to use, and the overall composition before I get started. This is especially important for company headshots where we are replicating the style of a previous headshot. However, individual headshot sessions can often be more creative and flexible. If you aren’t aiming to replicate a reference photo, you don’t need to decide on the poses, crops, orientations, or even the lighting in advance. 


Step 1: Background Design

Studio Setups

On Location

Step 2: Lighting Design

The lighting options are endless, especially when you factor in the many ways we can alter a setup to include ambient light, additional lights, or switching directions. These are just some of the more common studio lighting setups I offer:

Natural Light—also referred to as ambient, found, or available light—can offer just as much charm as studio lighting. However, natural light is unpredictable, as it can vary in exposure, color temperature, and softness from one minute to the next. 

Natural light is best suited for individuals, or groups with less than 5 people. It’s not suited for anyone who needs to replicate the look and feel of a studio setup (i.e. not suitable if there are strict lighting guidelines required by client). 

Step 3: Composition

There are countless possibilities for your headshot pose. This should only be used as a reference, and particularly for group headshot sessions where each team member will receive one final image. For those without strict guidelines for their sessions, please don’t get hung up on poses. Rather, trust that I will direct you into a variety of poses to flatter you uniquely.

Do you want everyone to pose exactly the same, or are you aiming for loose cohesiveness among team poses? Do you want everyone facing the same direction, or are you open to flattering the best angles of each team member? 




The crop is important to know before a session particularly in cases where clients have specific requirements, design guidelines, or preferences. In all group headshot sessions, this should be decided upon in advance. 

How much of the subject should be visible? Head and shoulders with a little room, the entire torso, something different?
How much negative space do you need? Do you need more space on the left or right, do you need to make this an extra wide banner, etc.?
Do you need a variety of crops for each subject?

Decide whether you’d like to see only horizontal images, only vertical images, or a mix of both. Want square images instead? Let me know! This is important particularly for group headshot sessions, like some of the previous factors mentioned in this guide.