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How Much Editing Is Too Much For A Headshot?

Edit Or Not To Edit A Headshot

Editing a headshot is one of those questions that has been going around since headshot photography started (whenever that was). Editing is also the main difference between headshot photography and portrait photography.

Let’s face it a selfie, that’s all you need for a headshot? How long is that going to take? All you have to do is point the camera at yourself and press click. Sounds good in theory, but you know that first shot won’t quite be right, or even the second. Before you know it you are on attempt number 50 before you get that halfway decent shot (that is of course unless you are an Instagram professional).

With your selfie ready it’s now time to go through the filters and editing options.

Rankin - Selfie Harm Project

Selfie Harm

More and more we are becoming obsessed with the way that we look in headshots and portraits that we post to social media and are turning to online editing software or mobile phone apps.

I was shocked when I saw an article by the renown photographer Rankin which was entitled ‘Selfie Harm‘.

During the project Rankin took 15 portraits of teenagers and asked them to edit the portraits themselves to make them ready to be posted to social media. The worrying result was that, although the portraits had been taken by one of the countries top photographers, none of the teenagers left their portraits untouched. 

The most common adjustments were enhanced eyes, thinner noses and smoother skin which left some of the teenagers almost unrecognisable against the original portrait.

Is It Wrong To Edit A Headshot?

If you asked this question in a room full of headshot photographers this question would really get everyone going. There will be some that say that you should not edit a headshot and who would actively encourage it. That arguments from both camps would be bouncing off the walls for hours.

Where do I stand? For me this is the fundamental difference between a headshot and a portrait. With a headshot it should be an accurate representation on the person in the photo. With a portrait though more creative licence can be used to get the artistic vision that the photographer can see.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that a headshot should not have any retouching done to it at all. A light retouch will always help to create the best version of you and that is after all why you would use a professional headshot photographer. 

The issue comes when an image is retouched to the extent that it no longer looks like you.

Imagine you client, potential employer or casting director looking through a host of images, They find a face that they can work with and have confidence in. Then when they meet you it’s only when you introduce yourself that they know who you are. It’s not going to get you off on the right foot if you are misleading them even before you have met them.

Being Authentic

You want a headshot that will make you look your best. That is why you have decided to use a professional headshot photographer after all. You already know that a photo taken using the bathroom mirror (yes we have all seen those on social media) isn’t going to do you any favours.

Here is the thing though. Your headshot need to be authentic. It needs to show who you really are along with the impression that you want to give out.

Being authentic means including warts, wrinkles and everything else that makes you who you are. It’s these things that make you the person that people can relate to and make you more approachable.

How Far Do You Go With Editing A Headshot?

There is a difference between a facial feature and something that isn’t.

As a basic rule of thumb I go down the route of if it won’t be there in two weeks it’s okay to edit. 

What does that mean? It means don’t worry about spots or stay strands of hair. These I will look at and edit out if they will enhance your headshot. Scars or other facial features will stay.

In some cases though it may even be a good idea to keep some of these features as well, especially for acting purposes. There is no point me editing out your spots if the role you are going for is a spotty teenager.

A Good Headshot Will Express Your Personality

For a good headshot your personality is more important than any editing. The main aim for a headshot is to create an image of you that people want to engage with.

A good headshot is all about your personality. It needs to express who you are. Your headshot needs to answer the questions of those who will look at it.

  •  Who is this person?
  •  Will I like this person?
  •  How easy is this person to work with?
  •  Can I trust this person?


How can you do that in a headshot? Well the good thing is that is the part that you don’t need to worry about. That’s my job.

It’s my job to make you feel comfortable and relaxed in front of the camera . It’s down to me to work out what lighting will work best for you.

We will work together to create a series of images the provide a range of different shots that show the aspects of you that you want to deliver.

Then it’s down to me to create the final image using just the right amount of editing.


Has This Got You Thinking You Need A Headshot?

If reading this article has got you thinking about having a professional headshot (or perhaps you were already considering having a headshot done) why not pop over to my headshot page to see what I have to offer.

Or if you prefer you could could contact me with your questions via or call me on 07534 075091.

Are You Looking For A Headshot Photographer

If you are in the process of trying to find a headshot photographer or would like to find out more about the headshot & portrait photography packages that I offer please feel free to have a look around my website.

If there is anything else you would like to know please feel free to email me at

If You Found This Interesting Please Let Me Know

It would be great if you could let me know if you found this article interesting.

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If you would like to know more about my photography please visit my website

One Response

  1. Great article Chris, totally get where you are coming from. We find it so painful when we hand over properly edited images and a client drops a filter on top! All the best, Alex

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