Glamour Shots vs Headshots: What's the Difference?

It's hard to tell the difference between headshots and glamour shots. They're both shot vertically and the framing is very similar in that the face is the most prominent part of the photo. But, if you type 'glamour shots' and 'head shots' in Google Images, you will notice some very subtle differences.

Glamour Shots

Glamour shots are meant to look sexy and appealing. If the subject is a woman, then she is usually wearing a revealing dress and a lot of make up. The subject's pose is meant to be sexy and mysterious. Most glamour shots are tight, capturing the subject's head and shoulders. Sometimes the subject's entire body is revealed in a sexy pose.

Head Shots

Head shots look similar to most glamour shots, but they're not designed to be sexy. They're meant to be a calling card for actors and models--a true representation of what they look like. The subject wears minimal make up and does minimal poses because he/she is trying to sell themselves for what they really look like.


Glamour shots typically take advantage of soft, flat, frontal lighting along with strong back light. This achieves a very artificial and shadow free look. If there are shadows in the photo, then they were created to be there in order to make the image look sexy and mysterious.

Head shots, on the other hand, are lit to look more natural. The three point Key, Fill, Back Light strategy is used to create some contrast on the person's face. 


A glamour shot can take advantage of a background to enhance the image and make it more interesting. Sometimes they shoot out doors too. They need to be careful though because they do not want a background that is too busy because it will take attention away from the subject.

Headshots use a plain color background because the goal is to put all attention on the subject. After all, the subject is going to use the headshot to sell themselves to casting directors.

Wardrobe and Props

Glamour photos tend to have a sexy, revealing wardrobe--like a bikini. And if you're shooting this at the beach, then its acceptable to give your subject a beach ball to hold as a prop.

While a bikini can be used for glamour shots, it is unacceptable to have your subject in one for a head shot. You want your subject to be wearing clothes they look good in that are not too flashy. Props are also not to be used in head shots or your subject will be remembered by casting directors for giving them a good laugh.

So what is the difference between glamour shots and headshots? In glamour shots, you can use some tricks to enhance the appeal of the subject while in headshots the subject is selling themselves for who they truly are, with minimal photography tricks.

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