Headshots… Vertical, Horizontal, or Square?

I shoot a lot of professional portraits for all types of professionals, ranging from tech minds and wealth advisors through to dancers and scientists. Every company is unique, so every photo shoot we plan is designed to meet the individual clients’ specific vision.  We give styling and photo prep guidance, execute the photo shoot, select final images, and then we retouch and provide those images in print-use and web-use formats.

But here’s where the topic of Vertical, Horizontal, or Square image ratios comes into play. When we are talking about HEADSHOTS, it is important to think about the technical needs for your final image files. While your website image ratios can usually be custom, profile pics on social websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram display a square (or circle) ratio.

Traditionally, headshots were composed close and vertically.
So your portrait-oriented photo would look like THIS:

But when uploaded to a social profile…
this photo will be cropped to a square that looks like this:

And that’s kinda disappointing. The image looses some of its allure when cropped. The balance is off and despite her looking so fantastic, this image could be so much stronger if the technical needs of the final image had been considered in the pre-shoot planning.

Imagine if we had backed off and allowed MORE “negative space” (aka: background)?
(Of course, that IS what we did!)

Shooting horizontally will ensure that your final image output, or cropping, will fit your full pose within a square ratio. And now you have the freedom to crop this portrait as much as you need without compromising the subject or the balance of the portrait.

This is why Horizontal and Square ratio images are best for all your portrait needs, but especially for Headshots.

A little extra negative space around your figure is not wasted photographic real estate. Negative space often makes your profile pictures more captivating. Compare one of the tight crops from above to this last one with a little more negative space. Which do you find more appealing?

Remember too that a “headshot” or “profile pic” doesn’t necessarily have to display only your head. It is totally acceptable to use a shot that displays head and shoulders, head and torso, or even a full length head-to-toe as your profile photo.

Headshots... Vertical, Horizontal, or Square? by Kelly Heck Photography