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You Got This: A Guide to Headshot Expressions and Their Meanings

Headshots hold a unique place in photography. These specialized portraits are more than just a close-up of a person’s face—they tell a story. That story could be of a seasoned executive, a budding actor, a determined entrepreneur, or a child on her first birthday. The key to telling your story effectively lies in your expression. Expressions during a headshot session can powerfully communicate your character and personality, setting the tone for how others perceive you.

Let’s delve into the different types of expressions, their meanings, and how to practice them for your next headshot session.

1. Neutral Expression

Neutral is often the default expression during professional headshots. It conveys a calm and composed demeanor, which is ideal for corporate professionals, lawyers, or business executives.

To practice a neutral expression, start by relaxing all your facial muscles. Your eyes should be open and alert, but not overly wide. Your mouth should be closed but not tight—imagine a slight smile without showing your teeth.

2. Smiling Expression

A smiling expression is common in casual headshots and conveys approachability, warmth, and friendliness. This is an excellent choice for roles in customer service, hospitality, or any profession where likability is a key attribute.

When practicing a smiling expression, focus on making it genuine. A forced smile can seem insincere and awkward. Think of something joyful to bring a natural smile to your face.

3. Serious Expression

A serious expression conveys authority, determination, and power, making it ideal for leadership roles, police or military personnel, or individuals in high-stakes professions.

To practice a serious expression, let your face relax completely. Then, lower your eyebrows slightly without furrowing them. Maintain eye contact with the camera to show confidence and poise.

4. Approachable Expression

An approachable expression is a blend of a neutral and smiling expression. It’s not overly serious but still professional. It conveys friendliness, approachability, and openness. This is ideal for roles in sales, public relations, or any profession where building relationships is key.

To achieve an approachable expression, aim for a neutral expression, but add a slight, warm smile. The smile should be subtle, not overly enthusiastic.

5. Confident Expression

A confident expression communicates self-assurance, capability, and trustworthiness. It’s often used by entrepreneurs, business owners, or anyone who wants to project a confident image.

To practice a confident expression, hold your head high and maintain steady eye contact with the camera. Keep your face relaxed, but engage your eyes – think about squinting ever so slightly.

6. Creative Expression

Creative expressions are usually used by artists, musicians, or designers. These expressions are often more playful or unconventional, showcasing a unique personality or a non-traditional career path.

To practice creative expressions, start by experimenting. Try a variety of facial expressions, from curious to thoughtful to animated. The goal is to capture the spirit of creativity and originality.

7. Intense Expression

An intense expression conveys determination, focus, and intensity. It’s a popular choice among athletes, performers, or anyone with a strong and passionate character.

To practice an intense expression, think about something you’re deeply passionate about and channel that energy into your eyes. Keep the rest of your face relatively neutral to keep the focus on your eyes.


When preparing for your headshot session, practice these expressions in front of a mirror, on a video camera, or with a friend who can give you feedback.

Keep in mind that every person’s face is unique, and so, their expressions will be too. Expressions should never feel forced, but should communicate your authentic personality and professional image.

In the end, the most effective expression is one that feels true to who you are and aligns with the message you want to convey through your headshot. Remember, it’s not just about looking good on camera—it’s about making a lasting impression.

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