Why I Decided To Become A Headshot Photographer

I spend a fair amount of time preaching the importance of my clients telling their stories. Their stories are unique and it’s arguably the best way of describing what makes each of them stand out from their competitors. Nobody falls for the whole “we are customer focused and specialise in…” spiel anymore because everyone says it. Telling people why they decided to do what they do gives them a much better chance of being remembered.

This blog isn’t about the stories of my clients however, this post is about my story. I get asked a lot about why I decided to become a headshot photographer so here’s the truth.

I do a lot of things ass backwards and becoming a headshot photographer has been no different. I studied media and film at college and left wanting to be a sports journalist. That didn’t work out so well and somehow I ended up in various retail jobs for nearly fifteen years. It wasn’t so bad when I was in my early twenties but once that turned into early thirties I got more and more aware that nobody gave a crap about how many TV’s I sold and when I got to 85 I needed to look back at my life and feel like I did something that mattered. For the longest time I had no idea what this would be.

Most professional photographers start off by being amateur photographers, getting pretty good at it and deciding to make it a career. In somewhat stereotypical fashion, I did it the other way round. I literally decided one day that I was going to be a professional photographer without even owning a camera outside of my iPhone. I still don’t know why I made this decision. Without sounding overly dramatic, it felt almost like a calling. Even though I had zero experience at that point, I knew 100% that this was it. I’d found my thing. It wasn’t the same as wanting to start going to the gym but knowing full well that you won’t follow through. This was very different.

Obviously, I knew that I needed to know my stuff before I started to think about getting clients so I did what most photographers do when they start and shot everything under (and including) the sun with the exception, interestingly, of people. It took me a long time before I started shooting people. However, when I did, I knew I had found my niche. It made sense to me, artistically. I can ‘see’ headshot photography, I have a natural eye for it. The details and the expressions. That wasn’t the case with everything else I shot, they usually felt like a drag. Headshot photography energises me.

From a business point of view, I knew it was critically important to be known as “that guy that does that one thing”. When my market research started it became obvious there were far too many jack of all trades photographers on the local corporate scene. In the geographical area that I wanted to operate in, there was literally nobody that was exclusively shooting headshots and doing a really good job of it. Therefore, people were using smartphone snapshots to promote themselves which wasn’t doing them any justice at all. I knew I could help them improve how they were perceived and to get more business.

I felt lucky at that point. There was a hole in the market for the one thing that I was really good at. Then I got a bit anxious. What if the hole was there for a reason? What if nobody needed or valued headshots? It sounds silly to say now considering the huge rise in social media and personal branding but at the time I really wondered. My first clients gave me the confidence that I had made the correct decision. I asked a lot of questions. I wanted to know why they hadn’t gotten their headshot before and if they had what the experience was like. I wanted to know why they chose me over anyone else. This helped me to mould my service hugely. I will always remember one of those early clients telling me “we’ve been waiting for someone like you to come along” What they meant was what I already knew. There was a ton of generalists but nobody focusing on headshots alone. There’s a lot of reasons why doing this is essential, too many to go into here. I did write another blog on what makes a headshot photographer stand out over a generalist here. You can check it out if you like, it will open in a new tab.

When I started I was shooting the odd person here and there, it was pretty sporadic. My first ever paid headshot job was this young lady here. She was an aspiring actress and needed the photos for her Spotlight application. It was shot natural light only in the local park. Her mum held a shoot through umbrella above her head to diffuse the harsh sunlight. The image was retouched, by me, although you could never tell. Notice also, how it’s shot in portrait orientation which I haven’t done in years. They were really pleased however and that was success in my book.


As time went on and I became more known, I started to shoot larger companies. Although I still shoot individuals and certainly enjoy doing so, the majority of what I do now is for corporate clients who need entire teams photographed for their websites or social media presence. This image grid is from two recent shoots, one for a local firm of solicitors and the other for a strategic resourcing business.


I always feel like I’m halfway up the first rung of a never-ending ladder or at the first truck stop on a never ending road but to be honest I hope I always feel like it. It’s both a blessing and a curse but it drives me everyday. There’s many more people to be photographed anyway, I don’t have time to sit still.