There are lots of considerations when it comes to taking headshots.  There’s posing, lighting, skin tones, etc. One of the things you shouldn’t stress is how to hold the camera!

Can Headshots Be Horizontal?

Headshots can be shot in a horizontal orientation!  Traditionally, headshots were shot vertically, also known as portrait orientation.  But now either horizontal or vertical is acceptable.  It depends on the needs of your client!

Horizontal headshots are wider than they are tall. This orientation is also called landscape orientation. So why would you choose a horizontal orientation for headshots?  There are a few reasons and uses, as we will discuss below.

  • Advantages of horizontal headshots
  • Uses of horizontal headshots
Can headshots be horizontal

Advantages of Horizontal Headshots

Why are we getting away from vertical headshots?  Horizontal headshots give us a number of advantages.  In fact, many well-known headshot photographers, such as Peter Hurley of the Headshot Crew, shoot horizontal headshots as well as traditional vertical headshots.

We see the world in landscape orientation.  

Our television screens, laptop screens and even your car windshields give us a landscape view.  We watch movies on our phones and tablets horizontally.  Our eyes are simply used to seeing the world in a horizontal way.

Allows for Negative Space

Shooting headshots horizontally allows you to fill the frame from top to bottom while still having negative space to the right or left of your subject.  A vertical headshot doesn’t have the space for both.  This can be more visually interesting and allow for different creative layouts combining other graphics or print, such as in an ad.  It can also allow for more of the environment to be present in the image, if the environment is part of your image’s story.

Draw Focus to the Eyes

Humans connect to other humans via our eyes.  Horizontal headshots help us connect with our subject’s eyes more so than a vertical headshot.  That’s because we can more easily take advantage of the rule of thirds with a horizontal image, placing the eyes on the upper third line and drawing our viewer directly to them.

You can also shoot tighter in on the face and eyes with a horizontal image and not have it look awkward.  You can cut off the top of a head, for example, and it doesn’t look odd horizontally but it would vertically.

Looking for some editing tools that will make eyes pop and headshots stand out? Check out our Polished Preset Brush Collection!

More Flattering to Different Body Types

Sometimes different body types look better shot with a horizontal instead of a vertical orientation.

More Cropping Options

Most modern cameras provide us with images that are large enough to withstand some cropping.  Shooting a horizontal headshot with negative space around the subject allows us more ways to crop the photo and still see all the important parts of the subject.

shooting horizontal headshots

Uses of Horizontal Headshots

Always discuss how your client will use his headshot before the session.  That may help guide which orientation you use for the headshot.  But some common uses of horizontal headshots include:

  • Facebook posts
  • Instagram posts
  • Blog posts
  • Newspaper shots
  • Websites header images

Personal preference

There are some compelling reasons for photographing headshots horizontally, and a lot of uses where a horizontal image is preferred.  But it comes down to personal preference.  If you prefer vertical headshots, that’s what you should shoot and show on your own website and in your portfolio.  If your client requests vertical images, shoot those images vertically.

And there’s nothing saying you can’t provide your client with images shot both vertically and horizontally and see which she prefers.  


There are no longer any hard and fast rules for how to take a headshot.  Experiment with both orientations to see which you prefer and to give your client options.  Make sure you meet your clients needs and always deliver a quality product!

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