Headshot photography focuses on capturing the likeness of an individual, and is often used for professional purposes, such as on resumes or websites. It is important to note that while headshots technically and traditionally refers to closeup portraits of a person’s head and shoulders, photographers (like myself) use the term headshots to refer more loosely to portraits for business. So a headshot session with me will very often include crops ranging from head and shoulders all the way to full length portraits.
Headshot photography trends change over time, as do the styles and preferences of clients. Some trends that are popular in 2023 include:
- Natural light: Natural light is often used in headshot photography because it creates a soft and flattering look. It is also a great way to create a more natural and realistic look.
- Simple backgrounds: Simple backgrounds, such as a plain wall or background, help to focus attention on the subject of the photo. They can also help to create a more timeless look.
- Minimal editing: Headshots that appear minimally edited tend to look more natural and realistic. They can also help to create a more timeless look. A very skilled photographer should be able to retouch photos in a way that it still captures the subject authentically and thus appears unaltered, even when substantial time and effort has gone into retouching.
- Authentic expressions: Headshots that capture the subject’s natural expressions are more likely to connect with viewers. They can also help to create a more approachable and relatable look.
- Environmental backgrounds: Environmental backgrounds are on trend in 2023. These backgrounds can be out of focus and still provide context about what someone does for their profession. Environmental backgrounds can even be done digitally in photoshop, while appearing like they were taken on location.
Some trends that are considered dated in 2023 include:
- Unnatural or stiff expressions: Headshots that feature stiff expressions can look uncomfortable and unapproachable. As your photographer, I’ll work with you to bring out the authentic smile hiding underneath the nerves. And even if you feel uncomfortable in front of the camera (most do), it is my job to make sure your headshot doesn’t look uncomfortable.
- Busy backgrounds: Busy backgrounds can be distracting and take away from the subject of the photo. They can also make the photo look dated. I’ll expand more on this below!
- Unnatural editing: Headshots that are excessively edited or altered with apps and filters can look unnatural and artificial. They can also make the subject look like they are trying too hard. It is unfortunately very easy to go overboard with editing unless you’re a skilled photographer, so please don’t DIY your edits, nor hire a photographer without clean and authentic edits in their portfolio.
- Unrealistic expectations: Headshots that create unrealistic expectations of the subject can be disappointing and even harmful. They can also make the subject look like they are not being themselves. Some common examples include over-slimming, over-smoothing, significant darkening or lightening of skin tone, or “enhancing” curves.
It is important to keep in mind that headshot photography trends are constantly evolving. What is considered trendy today may be considered dated tomorrow. The best way to ensure that your headshot is timeless is to focus on capturing your natural beauty and personality.
Here are some additional examples of what kinds of backgrounds look dated:
- Busy backgrounds: Busy backgrounds, such as those with a lot of people or objects, can be distracting and take away from the subject of the photo. They can also make the photo look dated. For example, if there are blue trash bins in the background, or if someone is walking past the subject. These kinds of things should be removed or not captured to begin with.
- Backgrounds with harsh lighting: Backgrounds with harsh lighting, such as those with direct sunlight, can create over- or underexposed areas that distract from the subject in the photo.
- Backgrounds with strong patterns: Backgrounds with strong patterns, such as those with stripes, graffiti or brick, can be distracting and take away from the subject of the photo. They can also make the photo look dated.
Ultimately, the best way to choose a background for your headshot is to choose one that is simple, clean, and flattering. You should also choose a background that reflects your personality and style.
Here are some more specific examples of backgrounds that are on trend in 2023:
- A solid color paper background or wall: This type of background is perfect for people who work in the creative industries, such as photography or design.
- A city skyline: This type of background is perfect for people who work in business or finance.
- A wall of windows: This background works universally with a range of corporate professions or people who aspire to have a corporate position.
- An urban sidewalk: This works best if it’s out of focus–ideal background choice for traveling professionals or those who work uptown.
- Abstract greenery: Popular among all non-corporate professionals. It appears lively and approachable.
It is possible to create environmental backgrounds digitally in Photoshop. This can be a great way to add a touch of creativity to your headshot and to make it stand out from the competition. When creating a digital environmental background, it is important to choose a background that is relevant to your profession and that reflects your personality and style. I provide my clients with a gallery of digital backgrounds so that you know what’s possible, but I’m more than happy to select one for you if you’d rather not decide on your own.