What type of photoshoot do I need? The guide to help you decide
Updated: Aug 15
I hear this all the time: "I just need a couple of headshots!"
Really? Maybe you do. But before you decide, it's worth exploring the potential of personal branding photography to establish your credibility and differentiate you from your competition.
Depending on your situation, a headshots shoot or a personal branding shoot may be the thing you need.
This article will help you decide which type of photo shoot is right for you, as well as explaining what the experience is like with me so you get a peek behind the scenes.
My guilty secret
Can I let you into a secret? Until recently I’ve been surviving on a few head and shoulders photos taken in the last few years to use online. But not having a broader range of photos has been holding me back. I know my clients want to know a bit about who I am before they book, and I haven’t been using photography to build trust and recognition with them as much as I should have.
So, a few weeks ago I had a shoot with photos showing me hanging out in my neighbourhood, my house, and my office, so that I can give my audience a window into my real life (albeit a slightly tidier one, with combed hair). Showing more of what my life looks like felt very important, to tell a more rounded story of who I am. My personal brand is down to earth and quite upfront, sometimes a bit silly. All attributes I wanted to show through photos.
So, how do you know whether you need to book a headshots session or a personal branding shoot?
First of all, let's clear up what the difference between the two is.
What is a headshot photoshoot?
Simply put, the aim of a headshot photoshoot is to get a high quality ‘head and shoulders’ shot, used mainly for your social media profiles, and website. This can either be for an individual or for a whole team of people.
Now, we’ve come a long way from the classic corporate style shot, in a suit on a grey background (or perhaps a cityscape in the distance). Bringing in colourful backgrounds, animated expressions and informal clothing are all totally acceptable - headshots don’t need to mean conforming to a formal style anymore.
The shoot itself tends to be pretty short and you can choose anything from one to a bunch of photos - but they're all pretty similar in format. Sometimes photos are taken in a studio, increasingly they are taken outside.
The most common uses are for websites, company 'team' or 'about' pages and social profiles.
What is a personal branding photoshoot?
People tend to book a personal branding shoot when they understand how crucial it is to build a relatable, human brand around their work. And when they are ready to be more visible as their business grows.
The aim of a personal branding photoshoot is to give a more rounded picture of who you are, for the purposes of promoting your business or building your reputation. To do this, the photos show you in context - whether that be showing you working, being in a particular environment, or the poses and expressions you assume.
While a personal branding shoot may produce some headshots, the aim is to capture a much wider range of photos such as action shots, behind the scenes shots, and candid photos. You may use props, or involve other people - for example mocking up a workshop or a consultation with a client.
The bank of photos from a personal branding shoot can be used for your website, social media profiles, blogs and social posts, pitches, and any content you may produce to promote your business.
How to choose between a headshot photoshoot and a personal branding photoshoot
There are a number of factors to take into consideration when deciding what type of photoshoot you need. Here are the main ones:
Stage of your business
The reason I offer my Simple Headshots package is because not everyone is ready for a full branding shoot. For example, if you are not self-employed, and simply want to look professional on LinkedIn, a great headshot will certainly do the job for you.
Similarly, as people start out in their self-employed career, they may not yet have a strong idea of what their personal brand is and what they want to be known for. Having some professional headshots is enough to get going, until they feel clearer on how they want to present themselves to the world.
On the other hand, some people, regardless of the maturity of their business, see the value of having a strong visual presence and have the experience to know the many different ways personal branding photography can be used to build their reputation and income.
Because personal branding shoots are bespoke and longer than headshot shoots, they tend to cost more. Many of my clients start out with a headshots session and then invest in a personal branding shoot once their business is more established and their earnings are higher.
In general a personal branding shoot is a larger investment because of the time that I spend with you in preparation, shooting and editing. Before the shoot we have a consultation to understand your goals, what you want your photos to say about you, and then I help you translate that into a shoot plan including locations, clothing, props and the list of shots we need to capture. We also spend time talking about any fears or insecurities you may have, and make a plan so that you feel supported.
Because personal branding photography captures you in a range of scenarios, the shooting time is longer. Furthermore, you receive a larger set of photos, which involves additional editing time to make them look tip-top.
Headshots session are usually quick, with little by way of advance preparation. Turn up looking smart, with your most relaxed smile, and you are pretty much ready to go.
Personal branding shoots however require much more input from you in advance as they are bespoke to the client. As I explained above, I help my personal branding clients to think through all the different elements of their shoot and design it with them - it's a collaboration.
If you are short on time and want to get your photos done swiftly will little prior input, a headshots session is better for you.
The beauty of personal branding shoots is the sheer variety of different shots that we produce. We can capture a range of different expressions and poses to suit the mood of different articles you may want to post. We can capture close-ups of the tools of your trade, or shoot wide angle (i.e. further away), showing you in an amazing location to create the stand-out image for your home page.
This variety gives you a lot of content to work with for months ahead.
Headshots are quite simple - we are looking for a crisp, natural-looking head and shoulders shot that can be used wherever you want to appear.
Need for a bespoke approach
With a personal branding shoot you are in control of crucial elements such as the location, what type of shots you need and the mood(s) you want to convey. There is far less scope for this with a headshots session, which tends to be in a fixed location with a fairly standardised approach.
So, if personalisation is what you need, a personal branding shoot is for you.
Your confidence in front of the camera
This is something that affects a lot of people, so if you feel super awkward in photos you are definitely not alone. I strongly believe it's the photographer's job to make you feel more confident so that you can get great photos whatever type of shoot you go for.
But, because personal branding shoots tend to be longer, that gives you longer to warm up and get used to being photographed. So much so that, before long, you'll have lost all your inhibitions about posing. Further more, the pre-shoot consultation is a really important opportunity to get some coaching to build your confidence, if needed. If you're feeling extra-nervous then turning up for a headshots shoot may be a bit daunting.
So, there you have it. The pros and cons of headshots vs personal branding photoshoots. Whether you now know which to go for, or still need help deciding, I'm here to help. Drop me a hello if you'd like to chat about your own shoot.
And, if you need some inspiration on the many ways you can use personal branding photography? Grab my free guide: 13 game-changing ways to use brand photos to grow your business.
And, just because, here are some of my favourite recent shots from both headshots and personal branding shoots.