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Three Different Kinds of Headshot Sessions Explained

As far as professional headshots are concerned, there are a lot of different styles out there. However, they all tend to fall into one of three categories. Naturally lit headshots, studio-lit headshots, and a combination of the two. What industry you’re in, and what kind of brand you’re trying to match or establish will determine which style is right for you. Unfortunately, unless you’re a photographer, you probably don’t think about pictures this way. You’re probably thinking in terms of how you look, and less about how the photo looks. So, if you’re rolling the dice without thinking of the image itself, there’s a good chance you won’t get what you really need.

Helping you understand the difference, and making a choice that is both appropriate for your needs, and is cost effective, is what us professionals are here for. To help our clients better understand what they’re getting, we’ve separated these different kinds of sessions into their own packages. So now, I’d like to take a few minutes here on the blog to explain the difference between these different kinds of sessions.

Modern Business Portraits

“Modern Business Portraits” are the name we’ve given to headshots that are created using entirely natural light, typically outdoors in a thematically relevant location. For example, a realtor might be photographed in or around homes the kinds of homes they sell, while a nutritionist might be pictured in a garden or among nature. We call these “business portraits”, as opposed to “headshots” because stylistically they appear more natural, relaxed and approachable than do headshots created under studio light. They mimic the look and feel of a personal portrait you might hang on your wall or put on the mantle, or give to family members.

These kinds of portraits are the best choice for people who need to garner closeness and emotional-trust with their clients; they may portray you as a little less “official” and a little more relatable. We recommend these kinds of sessions to lots of different businesses, but especially people in sales, mental healthcare, childcare, wellness, coaching, and other professions of that nature.

Sessions of this kind tend to move quickly and produce a higher number of images to choose from than do other headshot sessions. If this kind of session is right for you, they are also the most cost effective, since we can offer these sessions at a considerable discount if held in certain locations (Bowie, Annapolis, Crofton, Greenbelt).

Classic Headshots

“Classic Headshots” are on the opposite end of the spectrum from Modern Business Portraits. They are headshots created entirely under studio light, typically in front of a neutral colored backdrop, and generally right in your home or office.

Classic Headshots are best for people who need to be seen as authoritative, strictly-professional, or part of a highly unified, standardized team.  Headshots of this kind typically are not making any ‘statements’; they reveal how you look at your best, but offer little for an onlooker to relate to. They will appear comparatively generic to the untrained eye unless a more stylized use of the lighting is requested. When discussing images, those words may have a negative connotation, however, it may be the most appropriate option for your business.

We recommend this kind of session for businesses with a lot of employees to photograph, because they’re highly efficient. Not everyone needs to be present the whole time, making them less trouble to schedule. When dealing with groups, each headshot will take around 15 minutes and people can pass through as necessary. We also recommend these kinds of sessions to professionals in no-nonsense industries such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, fiduciaries, and so on.

Classic headshots will cost a little bit more than Modern Business Portraits, as your photographer has to account for, set up, and manage studio lighting at your location. However, for groups, the per person price is a bit lower.


“Headshots+” sit right in the middle of the spectrum between Classic Headshots and Modern Business Portraits. Headshots+ may produce a combination of studio-lit images as well as naturally-lit images, or may combine both natural light and studio light into the same images to create a unique, high-end look.

Headshots+ offer maximum flexibility, allowing for headshots to be created to meet the various branding needs of a business. For example, it may be important for a CEO to be pictured in a light-hearted, natural environment, as well as a more serious representation at their desk or in their office. Book authors, also, for example often have a need for some natural light images for book signings, and a more formal studio-lit portraits for the inside of the book cover.

Headshots+ also offers the greatest variety of images since neither the available light, nor the location is a limiting factor in the session. If you need headshots around some industrial equipment in a dimly lit warehouse, there’s no problem. If you want headshots at the desk, in the office and in the buildings lobby, Headshots+ will cover all of it and produce more options to choose from in the end.

Let us help you decide what’s right for your business

We help businesses reach their goals through different kinds of photography every day. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you with this process, check out the For Professionals page right here on our website. We have pricing and package information available immediately on the web, and we’re happy to answer any and all of your questions to help you better understand the needs of your business. Feel free to reach out directly and we’ll get a conversation started!

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