Have you heard people compare headshots? You’ll hear words like, these are good headshots, and these ones are bad headshots. 

We’re going to discuss good headshots vs. bad headshots. From this post, you’ll know why good headshots are called “good” while bad headshots are called “bad.” Shouldn’t all headshots be the same? Unfortunately, all headshots aren’t equal. 

Read on to know the mistakes that make a headshot bad. 

What Makes Bad Headshots Bad?

What Makes Bad Headshots Bad

Bad headshots are poor-quality headshots in every sense of the word. They’re not bad because the person in the picture doesn’t look too good. Posture, lighting, background, and several factors determine whether a headshot is bad or good.

So, even if you don’t look your best or wear makeup, you can still take good headshots. 

Here are factors that make a bad headshot bad. 

1: Over-edited or over-retouched:

It is okay to edit or retouch your photos, but don’t overdo it. Always have at the back of your mind that an over-edited or retouched headshot is a bad headshot. 

What’s the point of publishing a headshot that people can’t identify? When you over-edit, you change the person’s natural look to the point where others may struggle even to recognize them. 

Over-editing and retouching will make your headshot appear unrealistic and artificial, which isn’t a good thing. 

The Solution: Photo editing or retouching is a technical process requiring a professional editor’s expertise. So let a professional photo editor retouch your headshots if you don’t have the technical knowledge to do it. 

At Designyep, we have professionals with tremendous experience in photo editing and retouching. When we handle your photos, you can rest assured that you will receive the best quality.

2: Poorly edited headshots:

Poorly editeda headshots

This headshot right here is bad. It has all the elements to be a great headshot, but the editing didn’t make it happen. 

Poor editing is the reason most headshots are bad. And as professional editors, we understand this because we edit tons of pictures now and then. 

As you can see from the example above, dark shadows in the background distract when you stir at the image.  

You’ll discover undefined backgrounds, shadows, and poorly chosen filters on other poor headshots. They look like pictures and not portraits, as expected. 

Poor headshots lack depth, and even when the person in the headshot smiles, you can easily tell that something isn’t right with the headshot.

3: Focus is missing:

You’ll discover a lack of focus when you stir at the individual in a bad headshot. The background is another easy way to identify a bad headshot. You’ll discover a lot going on in the background when you look at it. 

Another second problem peculiar to bad headshots is the eyes. The person in the picture doesn’t make enough eye contact. 

4: Poor lighting:

One sign of a bad headshot is poor lighting. On one side of the person’s face, you’ll discover the lighting on the front or one part of the face is dark. 

In most cases, this problem can result when the images are underexposed. But keep in mind that it can also occur due to poor editing

5: Poor expression:

Another issue is the expression. In bad headshots, the expression on the people’s faces often appears forced and unnatural. 

It is almost as if the person in the portrait is trying to force a smile, which makes the picture unappealing. 

A Handy Tip: Fake smiles are one of the common things you’ll notice on headshots. You can easily tell that the person was asked to smile or is faking the smile. 

This explains the reason why Professional photographers won’t ask you to smile. Instead, they may say things that’ll make you laugh before taking the picture. 

When you laugh, a natural smile appears on your face, which photographers are looking for. 

6: Looking away from the camera:

Looking away from the camera

Looking away from the camera is another way to identify a bad headshot. You’re supposed to look straight into the camera, not look away. 

You give people the room to assume you’re not trustworthy when you look away instead of stirring straight into the camera. 

What Makes Good Headshots Good?

Good headshots are headshots that stand out. These are professionally edited or retouched headshots with no errors. 

Several factors, such as lighting, background, eye contact, posture, and more, defines a headshot. And good headshots reflect all these qualities. 

So, when we say a headshot is great, it means the shot is error-free and looks professional.

Here are factors that make a headshot good.

1. Make eye contact:

Make eye contact

Humans have a way of communicating via their eyes. You can also establish trust via something as simple as eye contact. 

The beauty of eye contact is that it simulates eye cells in the amygdala, a certain section of the human brain responsible for processing social interactions and emotions. 

So, make eye contact when taking headshots, as it makes you appear sociable. You can look at the image used as an example, and you’ll understand what we’re trying to explain better. 

Eye contact makes you appear sociable and honest, reliable, warm, and confident. 

2: Avoid heavy makeup:

Most people apply heavy makeup for headshots or photos they plan to use on their social media profiles. For social media, wearing heavy makeup is bad,   

On the other hand, if you plan to use the headshot for something more professional, avoid wearing heavy makeup. 

You may discover that you don’t like the picture when you use heavy makeup. So, you should avoid it. 

I suggest you style your hair like you’re going for an audition and dress the way you normally look on your best day. 

Natural makeup is a good option too.

 3: Natural light or studio light?

This decision is for the photographer and probably the owner of the headshot to take. However, professional photographers know when to use natural light and when to go with studio light. 

Both lighting conditions can be mind-blowing when done properly. But then, shooting in the studio with a grey background will look more appealing. 

4: Classic clothing:

Your choice of clothing can make or mar your headshot. So, make your choice carefully. Adding fancy props or wearing fancy clothes won’t make your images better. 

Instead, keep your dress simple and classic. Dress in a way that makes you appear professional and calm, not desperate. 

A simple piece of advice is to avoid graphic or solid white T-shirts. 

5: No over-smiling:

No over-smiling

Your smile is another way to judge your headshot’s quality. You can smile in the shot, as it’s advisable. However, ensure your smile is natural and not looking forced. 

Avoid smiling too much, as it would appear over the top in the photo. It would seem like you’re trying to impress by faking a smile, and this isn’t good for your photo. 

Since it’s a professional photo, you must appear professional in it. Smile but don’t overdo it.    

6: Headshot by a professional photographer:

If you want to snap a good headshot, be prepared to invest some money. Use a professional photographer for your headshots. 

These professionals are trained and know what a good headshot should be. So, you’ll get good headshots that may set you apart in your professional career. 

7: Background:

You can tell if a headshot is good or bad via the background. In good headshots, the background is unrecognizable, causing the person in the photo to pop off the print.

You won’t notice any shadow or object in the background. Thus, the focus will be on the person in the photo. 

8: Smiling vs. serious:

Should you take smiling and serious shots? Yes, you should. However, ensure when you smile or look serious, it’s natural. In other words, you aren’t forcing anything. 

Smiling shots are called “commercial shots,” and they’re great for professionals seeking friendly or comedic roles or TV commercials. Serious shots are classified as “legit shots” and are great for submission for serious roles such as films and dramatic TV shows. 


This post is entirely about good headshots vs. bad headshots. We hope you now understand what both are and can take great headshots to take your career to another level. 

One of the ways you can identify a good headshot is through eye contact. You must make eye contact, showing you’re honest, trustworthy, confident, and friendly. 

The image’s background is another way you can identify a good headshot. It shouldn’t contain any distractions. Furthermore, you can smile or look serious in your headshots. 

Smiling and serious headshots are useful. However, don’t try to look unnatural or force anything. Just be yourself. In addition, don’t be scared that your teeth are slightly yellow when smiling. 

Designyep professional photo editors and retouchers will improve the quality of your photos and make them irresistible.