Advice & Tips0Jargon to know when booking a headshot

From headshot and branding to digital image and image files, here’s your essential glossary of photography terms.

Booking a headshot can be a confusing and stressful process. Standing in front of the camera, for most of us, is one of the biggest fears (next to climbing heights). So when it comes to booking a photographer the pressure is on us to make the right decision for our business.

Reading a photographer’s website with confusing and ambiguous language can make an already stressful process more daunting and overwhelming, especially if you’ve never been photographed professionally before.

We’ll cover:

  • The difference between a portrait and a headshot
  • Other terms for ‘photograph’
  • Whether a sitting fee is different from a retainer

Do I need a headshot, lifestyle, or branding package?

In recent times the good old-fashioned portrait has been modernized. Let’s take a look at these examples. A headshot is a close-up photograph that is a true likeness of yourself (on a good day). These are often used as avatars on social media or ‘about’ pages on websites.

Branding photographer is much broader and has a storytelling narrative that shows the values, mission statements, and founder stories of your business. They will include people, products, and assets linked to the company.  Here I photographed Nic from the Floral Boutique to showcase her new studio and the brief was the produce photographs that were organic, natural, and comforting.

Lifestyle is broader still and could include families, dating websites as in this photo and are often taken outside or in a place of businesses, such as a leather maker’s studio.

If in doubt, use these questions and ask the photographer to guide you. I often complete an expresso headshot session and ask if they’d like a more relaxed portrait by the window for a loved one. And the answer is almost always, ‘yes’.


What do I get – a photograph or a digital file?

There are 2 questions I get asked the most:

  1. I just need a small photo for my avatar, is it the same price?
  2. What is a digital file, I need a photograph.

Photographers used different terms interchangeably. This is to avoid confusion between purchasing a photograph as a digital file and a print that may be framed or presented in an album.

My best advice is to check with your photographer when you ask for their pricing guide.


Am I paying a sitting fee or a deposit?

Every photographer’s website is unique and so is their pricing plan. You might hear all of these terms: sitting fee, session fee, retainer, deposit, booking fee, and more!

Regardless of the terms, be mindful that:

  • Your session is booked when the photographer has been paid, often there is a 3 days grace period before the dates are offered to someone else.
  • The fee pays for the booking or session and is often not refunded.

Sometimes images are included in the price. Sometimes you are offered a ‘print credit’. And sometimes everything is a la carte. No wonder we’re confused!

Again, this is something you’ll want to discuss with your photographer so no misunderstandings occur.


So, 3 things, really simple:

  • ask for a portrait session and let the photographer guide you
  • double-check if you need to pay extra for prints
  • check the client contract to avoid disappointment

I hope you find these tips useful. Until next time. Remember. If you need to make some important decisions in your business and you aren’t sure which direction to go in. Drop me a message. Let me help.

More from this series:


Please contact the Isle of Wight Studio on +44 (0)1983 617383 or Mandy on +44 (0)7719316609 

email [email protected] or use the contact form below

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