Can You Take a Professional Headshot with iPhone?

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By The Light Committee

So, can you take a professional headshot with an iPhone? Well, yes you and no. You can “take” a headshot but you cannot “make” a professional headshot with an iPhone. A professional headshot is made or created, not simply just taken. There is a big difference between the two, and it is not necessarily that headshots need to be expensive, because headshots can actually be affordable. The big difference between the two is that a professional headshot happens in a photo shoot that is collaborative. And the photo shoot has many elements that elevates a professional headshot to stand apart from anything less, like an iPhone selfie. But there’s more.

What Is a Professional Headshot?

A professional headshot is created out of a planned collaboration between the subject and the photographer. The subject will bring their outfit or outfits along with any goals or requirements they are looking to meet. An actor may have a requirement to get good commercial look and theatrical look actor headshots. To this end, they may bring a bright top for the commercial look and a jacket and vibrant colored top for the theatrical look. They may style their hair differently for each as well.

A theatrical actor headshot of a German woman with a detective look in a studio near Los Angeles
An Actor Theatrical Headshot - There is Good Effort Put Into It by the Subject and Photographer

A psychologist needing a headshot for Psychology Today may want to appear warm and inviting. So, they might want a natural light session in a top using nature-like colors. Meanwhile, the photographer brings their tools to the session. Typically, this consists of the camera and chosen lens, studio lighting or the use of natural lighting, a choice background, and later on their post production skills.

This is why a professional headshot is made and not just taken. There is much more work to it than just pressing a button. Pressing the button is the culmination of all the effort that goes into it just before the button is pressed – prepping your outfit, your hair, your facial expressions and for the photographer, setting or planning the lighting, setting the backdrops for the scene, and so on.

A woman getting professional headshots for work in Los Angeles outdoors.
Use of Natural Light to Create a Warm-Looking Headshot

Now, it may sound like it’s all work and no play but actually a photo shoot is commonly a fun and positive experience. It is one you should remember fondly for years. This is especially true every time you use the professionally made headshots for a few years to come. That’s the important part to remember – how often you will be using it, or people will be viewing it. Because it is likely to be viewed by others – and usually people that might be interested in working with you. It is everything to have it professionally made. Nothing speaks more loudly that you might be unprofessional than doing unprofessional things, like posting an iPhone photo or AI generated headshot file.

The Difference Between Using a Professional Camera and an iPhone for a Headshot

There are a lot of technical reasons why a professional headshot with a photographer is way better than any selfie. It is truly not a fair fight, but it is only so if you are working with a capable photographer. In Los Angeles alone, there are thousands of photographers to choose from with seriously varying levels of experience and quality. So, do your homework so you are sure to work with a photographer that is high quality, reliable, and affordable.

A seasoned photographer will always opt for serious gear because they are aware it matters. Never let anyone tell you differently. If you are in a car race and had to choose between a Toyota Prius and Ferrari, you’d opt for the Ferrari for many reasons. A full frame – or even a medium format camera – mirrorless camera with premium lenses is the choice gear for a veteran photographer for such reasons. It’s an expectation of you too. Imagine if you booked a headshot session with a photographer and when you get to the studio they pull out their iPhone to start shooting. That you would be upset would be an understatement. These are just some of the reasons people go to a real photographer – because even though anyone can take a picture, the difference lies in the superior quality that a photographer can create.

studio headshot with blue background of a man in LA
An Example of a Polished Studio Headshot

If You Must Use an iPhone for a Headshot

There are typically three reasons why people settle for taking a headshot with an iPhone.

Professional Headshots Cost too Much

If you shop around for headshots in a city like Los Angeles – and likely other major cities – you can start to uncover that a lot of photographers charge a lot of money for headshots. But that is not always the case. It is possible to find great headshots in Los Angeles and with affordable rates and better results than if you had paid someone else $300 to $700 or more.

The trick to find it is easy, though most people don’t want to bother with it. The trick is to spend a little time to do your homework. We’re not talking about an hour of your time, just a few extra minutes. Expand your search beyond just 2-3 miles near you and consider 10-15 miles. Though it might be 30 minutes more of a drive, it can be the difference of several hundreds of dollars and better quality on top of that.

I Don’t Have the Time to Get a Professional Headshot

You can get a professional headshot done in less than a couple of hours all in: finding a photographer, booking the session, dressing up, driving to and from, and the session. This time spent is a worthwhile investment because it is a quality headshot you can use for years. Remember the point of a headshot is that you are using it for commercial reasons: people are literally staring at it to help them decide if they want to do business with you – a casting director looking for the right-look actor, a headhunter on your LinkedIn profile, a customer on your website, and so on.

Besides, we all use the excuse of not having enough time and we all actually do have time. It’s the prioritizing and organizing of things that really should matter. If you have had the thought that you maybe need new headshots, then you should have already started planning how soon you can get them. Don’t stay on the fence as a good headshot can literally open new doors to opportunities.

black woman outdoor headshot Los Angeles
Exude confidence and your headshot will show it

I am Uncomfortable in Front of the Camera

There are some people that just can’t be comfortable in front of the camera. To help with this, practice for a couple of nights before your session in front of a mirror. A bathroom mirror is usually a great place for this. Just make the facial expressions you are wanting out of your headshot – smile with teeth and without, stand tall and comfortable, and so on.

Also, during the headshot session, ask your photographer if they can review the photos with you as you go, roughly each 10-20 shots or so. This way you will know if the shots are on track with your expectations and if they are not you can adjust.

But it is important that you muscle through getting a professional headshot because, as mentioned, there is a lot of potential business riding on it.

Getting a professional headshot is an investment in yourself, not just for business reasons but also for self-worth. There is proven data behind how a good headshot of yourself can help your self-esteem, make people look at you more positively, and most importantly consider you that much more for that gig or as their vendor of choice. So, you probably don’t want to rely on your iPhone for a professional headshot.