Types of Headshots: The Difference Between 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, and Full-Body Portraits

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Photo Source: fizkes/El Nariz/Damir Khabirov/Atstock Productions/Shutterstock

In acting, modeling, and all things industry, making a first impression counts—and nothing makes a first impression (that’s truly impressive) like the headshot. These images provide the chance for a casting director or agency to picture you in a particular role or campaign. Quality headshots that are professional, detailed, and showcase your unique look can secure auditions—and in turn book jobs. Keep reading for information on the different types of headshots, what they’re used for, and how to take good ones.

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What is a three-quarter headshot?

3/4 headshotEl Nariz/Shutterstock

The three-quarter portrait starts at mid-thigh and ends above the head. Because it highlights facial characteristics while still giving a close view of the body, models usually need this type of headshot in their portfolio and on their comp cards.

When posing for a three-quarter headshot, you should position yourself slightly at an angle to the camera. Remember to relax your arms and your shoulders so you appear comfortable, not stiff. After a few shots, you can experiment with posing your arms in different positions.

What is a half-body headshot?

Half-body shotfizkes/Shutterstock

The half-body shot starts from around the waist and ends above the head, making it a good choice when you want a more detailed depiction than a three-quarter shot. This type of headshot can be a great way for actors and models to communicate their look and personality. It is sometimes interchanged with a three-quarter headshot in portfolios and casting cards.

Stand in a natural, relaxed position when posing for a half-body headshot. Since they won’t be in the image, you don’t need to focus so much on what your arms or legs are doing.

What is a one-quarter headshot?

1/4 shotGround Picture/Shutterstock

The one-quarter headshot is probably what comes to mind when you think of the word “headshot.” It starts from mid-to-upper chest and ends above the head. In some instances, the shot frame might tightly crop from the shoulder to just above the head. Want to really catch a casting director’s or agent’s eye? The one-quarter shot provides a clear view of your facial features and expressions.

When posing for a one-quarter headshot, stand in a comfortable position and channel your energy toward making the best facial expressions: a big smile, three-quarter smile, half-smile, closed-mouth smile, and more serious looks.

What is a full-body shot?

Full-body headshotRoman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

The full-body shot includes the entire body in frame, whether standing, sitting, or lying down. It presents a subject’s size, physique, proportions, and overall look, making it particularly important for models to include in their portfolios and comp cards.

Full-body shots usually look best when subjects are positioned slightly at an angle. Start by relaxing your arms, shoulders, and legs—you don’t want to look stiff and uncomfortable. Once a few shots have been taken, you can experiment with different limb positions and poses.

Which headshot should I use?

HeadshotLook Studio/Shutterstock

When deciding what kind of headshot to use to further your career, consider the following: 

  • What job or role are you applying for? For instance, if you’re an actor and want to audition for a comedy role, a dramatic-looking headshot might not be the right choice.
  • Is it worth submitting multiple headshots to showcase your range? 
  • Always check with the company for guidelines before you submit your headshots. Are there particular styling rules you need to follow? Do they request a specific type of headshot? Do they ask for a particular stance or pose?
  • When in doubt, submit your most commercial-looking headshot that shows your personality but is overall clean and simple.
  • Remember that if you’re a model, your headshots should showcase your posing skills. Similarly, if you’re an actor, your headshots should showcase your personality and versatility.

Tips for taking headshots

photoshootKateryna Unuvar/Shutterstock

Posing 

  • Models may be required to do set poses for photo shoots—for example, a neutral stance with the arms down. Your agency may have recommendations about industry-standard poses for your headshots. If you don’t have an agent, you can ask people within the industry about which poses to use or research current trends online.
  • Highlight your personality through facial expressions and body language.
  • Slight posing changes can lead to vastly different images. Try tilting your head, leaning forward, and doing different hand positions to see what kinds of results you get.
  • Make eye contact with the camera to make a bold impression and demonstrate confidence.
  • If you choose not to make eye contact, try expressing yourself using the rest of your body. Bold poses can also communicate your personality. 
  • Be aware of where the light is coming from and position yourself toward it to make your detailed features stand out. 

Styling

  • Choose simple, form-fitting clothes that you feel comfortable in. Casting directors, agencies, and clients should get a solid impression of your body and physique.
  • Go for a light, natural style if you choose to wear makeup in your headshots. You want decision-makers to see an accurate representation of your look.
  • Style your hair as you normally wear it. If you have long hair, consider taking some shots with it down and some with it up to help highlight your facial features.
  • Remember to style yourself like the authentic you, since headshots are all about featuring who you are as an individual.

Technical

  • Usually, you should take your headshots somewhere that has bright yet soft and diffused lighting. However, depending on your area of specialization, darker locations can create a moodier, edgier atmosphere.
  • Opt for a plain, clean background, since a busy background will distract from the most important element of a headshot: you.
  • When reviewing the shots, look for any awkward crops or compositions. Fingers being chopped out of the frame, an unusual perspective, and wonky alignment may come across as looking unprofessional.

General

  • Professional photographers usually know what they’re doing, so listen to their advice as long as you feel safe and comfortable doing so. To ensure you get the most out of your experience, explain the purposes of these headshots and any specific requirements before the shoot begins. For example, you might go over any particular poses, types of headshot, mood, lighting, or style guidelines. 
  • Take multiple headshots to communicate a variety of emotions and moods. Think of these as a snapshot into your performance range.
  • When pulling your headshots together, aim for a minimum of three. These should at least include a three-quarter headshot, full-body headshot, and close-up shot that demonstrate your look and range.
  • Keep your headshots up-to-date to reflect the most current version of yourself. A good rule of thumb is to take headshots every one to two years
  • Have fun! Taking headshots provides an opportunity to get comfortable in front of a camera. Experiment with expressions, play around with poses, and get fabulous with your form.

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