Which one is for you?

Without fail, every headshot inquiry I receive states: “I need headshots that are professional, but not stiff. I want them to be relaxed and show my personality.” To which I respond, “Perfect - that’s what I do!” And then I ask, “What do you need them for? Where will you be using your new headshots?” Their answers reveal if they need headshots - or if they actually need personal branding photos.

Headshot Photography

To best understand the difference, you can think of headshots as a traditional “head and shoulders” crop that focuses primarily on capturing what your face looks like. These images are typically used for profiles, bios, company websites and the like. They tend to be more formal with a solid or neutral background to place the emphasis on your face. (Though I think it’s fun to modernize them a bit with your choice of clothing or a colorful background, if it aligns with the brand image you want to convey.)

headshot of woman with dark curly hair wearing a white top on a solid white background smiling at the camera

Personal Branding Photography

Personal branding photos go beyond headshots as they focus on capturing your whole essence - who you are, what you do, where you do it, how you do it, why you do it, etc. - in an effort to connect with others.

Personal brand photography can include images of you, your product, your business location, your business tools, your team, your pets, your family and more. Collectively these photos tell the story of your brand, showcase your personality and, ultimately, help you connect with your ideal client or customer. They are used for your website, social media, blog, email newsletters, marketing materials and any other content you create for your business.

Whether you need headshots or personal branding photos will be determined by your goals and purpose.

Here is a helpful overview of each to help you compare:

female relaxing in a chair with her laptop open and propping up her head with her bent arm smiling at camera in studio

Headshot Photography Overview

  • Focus: Primarily highlights your face and shoulders

  • Purpose: Presenting a professional image of you

  • Setting: Typically features a neutral or plain background, minimizing distractions

  • Style: Follows a standardized and straightforward style to convey a professional appearance

  • Usage: Commonly used for professional profiles, bios, events and corporate communications

  • Session length: 30 to 60 minutes (depending on desired variety)

  • Frequency of updates: Typically less frequent, unless your physical appearance or professional style has changed

woman with blond hair and white turtleneck sweater smiling into camera for headshots on a solid brown background

Personal Branding Photography Overview

  • Focus: Captures the personality, activities and details of your business and/or lifestyle

  • Purpose: Connecting with others by showing who you are, what you do and why you do it

  • Setting: A variety of settings are often included, whether it's your natural surroundings or within a studio

  • Style: Embraces creativity and personality, allowing for a more relaxed and authentic representation

  • Usage: Great for websites, social media, blogs, email - anywhere you want to personally connect with your audience 

  • Session length: Typically 2-4 hours, though it really depends on your needs

  • Frequency of updates: Often more frequent to stay current or if you need fresh content on an ongoing basis
woman sitting on floor leaning against a white studio couch with blanket relaxing with a wine glass and smiling

Headshot examples captured in a studio:

headshot of female with short blond hair wearing black blazer in front of solid black backdrop smiling
headshot of female with short blond hair wearing black blazer sitting in chair in front of sage green backdrop smiling
headshot of female with short blond hair wearing stylish sage green blouse laughing with hands on head on sage backdrop

Personal Branding Photography examples captured in a studio + on location:

blond woman in jeans and t-shirt sitting on floor looking and smiling at the yellow cell phone she holds in her hands
creative headshot of female with long blond hair wearing a wide-brimmed hat and laughing into camera
female in white top and jeans standing in coffee shop smiling with coffee in one hand and her yellow cell phone in other
female in white blouse, jeans and wide-brimmed hat shopping in a home furnishings store and laughing towards the camera
female sitting in cafe holding a cup of coffee in one hand while scrolling on her laptop with other hand and smiling
female walking down city sidewalk in a dress and hat with roller suitcase in one hand and her cell phone in other

Headshots vs. Personal Branding Photos

To summarize, headshots serve as a concise and professional introduction, focused on a clear portrait of your face. Whereas personal branding photography is a storytelling experience, capturing you in a more holistic way, emphasizing connection and personalization. The choice between the two really depends on your goals and your intended use of the images, which I'm happy to help you figure out.

(And yes, I will always include traditional headshots as part of your personal branding photography session if you need both!)

jill neil photography

photographer Jill Neil holding up camera to take a photo in studio and smiling at image on back of camera

Personal Branding + Headshots

Are you ready to invest in yourself and your business with professional photography? Whether you need a few new headshots or a library of custom images for your website, social media + marketing needs, I'm happy to discuss the right option for you!

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