What Are Headshot Requirements?

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By The Light Committee

If you are looking to get professional headshots you might being doing so to meet specific requirements. If so, it is a good idea to get those requirements down to the specifics. It will help the photographer you are working with ensure the requirements are met.

ERAS medical residency headshot of a woman in Los Angeles
An ERAS® Medical Residency Applicant Headshot Has Specific Requirements to Meet

Headshots for Social Media Profiles

There are countless social media websites and apps and they usually have different headshot sizing requirements. So, this is a brief overview of some popular ones, keeping in mind this information is current as of this publishing and subject to change without notice. Also, these are just size requirements for specific social media. There are other possible requirements you might have to meet, of which some will be covered after this section:


LinkedIn, a popular career site and app, recommends a resolution of at least 400×400 pixels and maximum file size of 8 MB. This is a square or 1×1 aspect ratio. They suggest avoiding using small low-resolution images. It is likely that even if you use 800×800 or 2,000×2,000 image that it will be scaled down to somewhere around 400×400. However, keep in mind people can click on your thumbnail for a larger view of your headshot.


According to Facebook, the profile picture is 176×176 pixels on your Page on computers, 196×196 pixels on smartphones and 36×36 pixels on most feature phones.


The current consensus online is that Instagram’s profile picture max size is 320×320 as it is difficult to find the answer from Instagram itself. Currently, it does not seem you can click the photo for a larger view, even on a desktop.

Twitter (X)

The Twitter profile picture is 400×400 pixels with a maximum files size of 2MB. You can click on a profile to view a slightly larger version of it.

A corporate headshot of a woman in a suit in studio near Glendale, CA
To Get the Most Out of a Headshot Session for Medical Residency, Consider Getting an Extra Shot You Can Also Use it on LinkedIn and More

Headshots for a New Website

A common milestone calling for new professional headshots is a new website or website redesign, whether for an entrepreneur or corporate team. You might be working with a web designer that is going to post your headshots to a specific web page. First, be sure your web designer does not just post tiny thumbnails. If you are investing in professional headshots, they should be showcased as such and not wasted by your designer converting them to small JPEG files. If space is a premium on the page, consider allowing people to click the photo for a larger version of it.

Your professional headshot is part of the branding. So, minimizing it is not ideal. That said, ask your web designer for specific crop sizes they want. Common crop factors are: 1 to 1, 1 to 2, 1 to 3, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, 4 to 5, and 5 to 7. Think of these as the relative size of on side, say 5 inches, to the other, 7 inches.

One more point on aspect ratio. You might want to use a hero image of yourself on the home page or your about page. This is an image that usually spans across the entire width of a web page when viewed on a desktop screen. This might be a ratio of 16 to 9, for example. If you are going for this type of shot, be sure it is planned for in advance with your photographer as there are probably different background considerations to consider during the headshot session.

Also ask your designer what their preferred file format is. Common requested formats may include JPEG, PNG, or TIF. But there are other possible. You might want to consider background colors in advance for a headshot in case there is an opportunity or desire for the background to match your brand’s color scheme.

Author Headshot or Musician Headshot

If you are an author of a book, the publisher is likely to have specific sizing and quality requirements. Before meeting up with your headshot photographer, be sure to get these details from your publisher.

At a minimum, ask them what file format is preferred and the dimensions they want (a pixel by pixel, inch by inch count, or crop factor). You may also ask them if there is a preferred background as this may help in better branding the book. For example, if the cover is to do with a nature scene, perhaps your headshot should be shot outdoors.

For musicians, if you are using an artistic headshot of yourself as part of the album art cover, be sure to get album art cover requirements.  You will usually want to go with 3,000 x 3,000. But the resolution will need to be 300 dpi if you are printing the art for a physical CD, whereas 72 dpi is usually good enough for screen resolutions.

Documents for ERAS® Residency Applicants

If you are applying for medical residency, you have a variety of application requirements. Currently one requirement is to include a headshot for the medical residency application. It is used to identify an applicant when reporting for an interview.

Because the photo is part of an interview process, many applicants opt to hire a headshot photographer in Los Angeles, and in other cities too. In addition, meeting the technical requirements for the headshot can be tricky. With a professional photographer, they can help meet them. ERAS requirements currently include a crop of 2.5 in. x 3.5, a resolution of 150dpi, and a maximum file size of 150kb.

Actor Headshots

Getting some of the best actor headshots in Los Angeles can be difficult. There is a plethora of photographers. So, finding the cream of the crop can be a chore. Further, getting really good and affordable headshots in Los Angeles is also as difficult. At the end of the day, actors will need to find a photographer that knows what they are doing because actors too should get headshots to meet certain requirements.

First, make sure your headshot is full color – black and white is pretty much to be avoided, at least as your main headshots. You should also get them from around the chest up and cropped vertically – 8” wide by 10” tall.

This is the norm but by no means the rule. There is no known industry standard that says you must have your headshot in this crop factor, in color, and so on. However, there are various casting and profile websites that have stringent file upload restrictions. So, getting headshot done to maximize all the places you can use them usually means conforming to these specifications.

For printing purposes, you may opt to add your name in a small but noticeable font at the bottom right or left corner. There is no standard for what size or color the font should be, nor for your name being on the bottom, top, side or back either.

There is also no standard for whether you should print your headshots borderless or with a white border. This is a personal preference. Some people use a white border so they can clearly put their name in that section. Some people prefer their face take up as much of the space as possible. Each has a different advantage, one focusing on adding visibility to their name and the other to the person’s face.

Modeling Digitals

With so many modeling agencies worldwide, it is only expected that there be no established requirement for how and what modeling digitals a model should submit or have in their portfolio. Crop factors can be varied. However, a model might consider maximizing the size of the photo to provide as much detail as possible.

A woman in a modeling digitals model comp card made in a studio in Los Angeles
Some of the Common Shots Used for Modeling Digitals Includes a Headshot

For example, if a file upload website states the maximum upload file size should be no more than 2 MB, that is room to play with. One can easily submit a file size of around 1,600 x 1,600 in size, with good resolution as a JPEG. Doing so would be better than submitting a file of 400 x 400, especially if the site might try to upscale smaller files.

In general, most models will want to have good headshot photography and a full body shot. Then, an additional two to three complimentary shots should be considered. It is almost always a good idea that a third shot of the model in a swimsuit be used too. This is a three-quarter to full body shot. Then, other shots might include half or other three-quarter body shots, or a second headshot or beauty shot.

There can be many different requirements depending on the application. We have not even touched the surface. There are different business card sizes, printed brochures, there are real estate yard signs, billboards, posters, and so on.

The important thing is to find out technical requirements for the medium where the headshot will be used. Figure out if the headshot then needs to meet or align with any branding elements. Finally, find a professional photographer that understands these and can work with you to meet these minimum requirements with a professional headshot to help you stand out.