July 27, 2023

Smart Phone vs. Professional Headshot

Smart phone vs. professional headshot. Years ago people were asking, “why use photographers now that digital cameras are more affordable?” Fast forward another few years, “why use photographers now that smart phones can take photos?” Now, the question is “why use photographers when we can use apps, filters and AI to create images?”

smart phone professional headshot

Yes, technology is always advancing and we will continue to be affected in various ways. However, we aren’t always affected negatively. E.g. Adobe has released AI photoshop for photographers to test in beta and it’s been really exciting to see the advancements that will be available soon. Regardless, I’ve always responded to the above questions with ‘professional photographers don’t just click a shutter button to take a photo 😉’. There is so much more that takes place during a photoshoot to create the professional headshot above.

Glam filters and AI apps have gone viral on social media. I’ve used them myself, they’re super amusing and addictive, so I completely understand the hype. However, app enhanced images still look filtered and artificial (at least today in 2023 lol). Therefore, it just depends on what’s important to you and what purpose your photos need to serve. If you’d like to create a flattering and professional portrait of yourself authentically and enjoy the experience in doing so, then continue reading below.


A professional and flattering portrait requires photo prep (e.g. what to wear, professional makeup application etc.), understanding and using light effectively, posing and proper editing.  And yes, those who are comfortable in front of the camera can certainly manage after trial and error to create a great headshot. My client above created one. However, when she showed the iPhone headshot to her son and employer they both gave her some constructive feedback, advising her to find a professional photographer. They felt that the iPhone headshot wouldn’t make the best first impression to customers, clients, press purposes etc.

A consultation with a professional photographer will help as they will explain how they will take care of everything. Most professional photographers can even assist with makeup, as they have makeup artists that they have thoroughly vetted and trust to work with them on photoshoots (I explain further below). I also tell my clients that this portrait session will be a fun and empowering experience. They’re often hesitant and confused lol. However, they always leave my studio at the end of the portrait session with smiles, feeling confident and reconnected. (I’ve even had a few dance out of my studio lol).

Professional Makeup Application

Clients who aren’t comfortable doing their own makeup can take advantage of the professional makeup artists (MUA) who work with photographers. These MUAs have been carefully chosen by photographers for their clients. I’ve personally selected my MUAs for their exceptional skills, makeup kit, work ethics, timing, personality and sanitization process. My MUAs also provide various styles from an enhanced natural look to complete glam. They are an important part of my portrait session experience ensuring my clients are comfortable, well taken care of and completely happy with their makeup application. (If my clients aren’t happy with their makeup, they won’t be happy with their portraits.)

Below is an example of a client who decided to have a professional makeup application before her photo shoot. It’s a natural to medium application with lashes. Filters and AI have the ability to do a ‘quick glam’ of your image. However, clients who have tried it have expressed to me that it looked too artificial and that they wanted to capture a flattering headshot that still looks like them. By using makeup artists, you get to enjoy some pampering and even learn a few makeup tips. You can also plan a day or night out afterwards and continue enjoying and maximizing your makeup look. 😉

iphone headshot vs professional

Location of Shoot – Studio vs. Outdoors

Some photographers only shoot outdoors, some only in studio and some shoot in both environments. Perhaps your business is related to the outdoors or maybe you’re looking to create some diverse photos for your dating profile. During your consultation you can discuss your goals and style that you’re looking for and then decide together what works best for you.

Understanding and using light effectively is crucial with photography. Typically, outdoor shoots take place during golden hour. This is the two hour period before sunset or after sunrise when the light is soft, diffused and full of color (see the very artsy use of golden hour in the image below). Depending on location, you may also have to consider crowds and activities ensuring that it does not disrupt your session. Finally, outdoor shoots are dependent on weather. Therefore, you may need to consider back up plans or alternative dates if it rains or if it’s too cold etc.

The images below are just more examples of outdoor headshots that can be taken. These were taken on my block around my studio.

Studio sessions on the other hand are often more ideal for photographers. You are in a climate controlled and intimate space not having to worry about strangers watching you get photographed. There is often a bathroom or change room where you can change outfits. If you’d like professional makeup application, it can be conducted at the studio right before your shoot. Finally, and for me most importantly, photographers have complete control of light in their studio.

Guidance, Direction & Posing

Clients always tell me “I’m not photogenic!” or “I don’t know what to do in front of the camera!” I always reassure them that not feeling photogenic is not a gene that you’re missing, it’s just comfortability in front of the camera and that’s completely the photographer’s responsibility(!)

Here’s a photo of this client again with another iPhone headshot. Along with beautiful lighting, posing is just as equally important. Whenever people think of poses, they assume it won’t look natural. However, as you can see below, it’s the complete opposite. Posing is so essential that I often introduce myself as a ‘Professional Poser’ to clients 😂. For the professional image below, I guided and posed her torso, shoulders, elbows, knees, chin, hair and face expression. With my skilled direction and fast camera, I was able to capture a flattering and natural headshot.

iphone vs professional headshot

Photographers love mixing up posing as well. Different poses and face expressions can exude different vibes. Photographers always aim to create different looks for their clients so that they can have options for various purposes. Here’s an example below. (To see some more images and styles please check out my instagram or website).

womens headshot photographer

Photoshop & Editing

There are a lot of misunderstandings when it comes to photoshop and editing. Every photographer has their own style of editing just as they have their own style of photography. However, especially with headshots, photographers generally edit responsibly. With unflattering skin tones e.g. dark circles, the key for me is ‘dodging and burning’, aka the lightening and darkening of shadows without affecting texture. One of my clients highlighted this in her google review:

Have clients asked for additional ‘help’ in sensitive areas? Yes. Do I always honor those editing requests? No. I’m very honest and will always share my do’s and don’ts. Those clients have always understood and ended up agreeing with me in the end. After all, you don’t want an image to ‘look’ edited like those filters and AI apps. For our personal social media, those apps are fun to use and our viewers know that we’re using them. However, for professional purposes, we want to make the best first impression and have our headshots look like the best version of ourselves, like how we would present ourself if we were going to an interview.

Let’s Wrap This Up…

This was definitely one of my longest blogs so thanks for sticking with me till the end! Hopefully it was insightful and gave you a better understanding of what professional photographers provide. Most of my headshot clients come to me after they’ve been advised by others to find a professional photographer. If you think that this blog is helpful and you know someone who could use some assistance with their headshot, I would really appreciate you sharing this post. It would also help my photography industry in educating people how photographers do so much more than just clicking a shutter button 😉.