Picking the right outfit for your headshot session can make or break the photo. In this post, we’ll review some general advice for headshot attire, as well as some specific items to consider for your outfits, depending upon your occupation. Let’s dive into these tips.
General headshot advice
There are some rules of thumb for outfits for headshot outfits. Unless you are using your photo session for more than just these headshots, you don’t have to worry about what you are wearing from the shoulders down. That means no stressing about your pants or shoes. No one is going to see that since a headshot is only from the shoulders up. That is one less detail you have to concern yourself with.
General rules also tell you to avoid colors that could blend into your skin and disappear beneath a flash. You want to wear colors that will hold up to a powerful flash and compliment your hair and skin. When wearing color, stick to classics, and don’t choose colors that are too flashy. Blues, greens, purples, and maroons are strongly recommended for headshot pictures. Prints are not forbidden in these shots, but you should take caution when wearing a print that it could look too busy and take the attention away from you. Also, another point to consider with prints and certain colors is that these could date your photograph. With fashion, prints and colors are limited to a specific season or year. Wearing those in your photo tells everyone looking at it when you took that photo.
Accessories are key to completing your look, but take care not to go overboard. Once again, you do not want anything to distract from or take away from your face in these shots. Over-the-top accessories would do just that. Avoid oversized scarves and large necklaces and earrings. Understated stud earrings and simple chain necklaces will add just enough flair to your outfit. Take the same advice and apply that to hair and makeup, as well. You should style your hair since this is a photo you are having done for professional purposes. But this is not the time for wild styles, cuts or colors. Makeup follows the same rules. Wear just enough to enhance the photo. If your session is indoors, chances are your skin is going to be hit with some bright flashes that could wash your skin out or make it look sallow. The right amount of makeup will help keep you from looking washed out. But this is not the time to get too creative or bold with your makeup. Subtle and professional will work well for this type of photograph.
It should go without saying that whatever you are wearing, it should be clean and pressed. There should be no visible stains or dirt on your clothing. There should also be no wrinkles. Seeing any of these is an unprofessional look.
Headshots for acting and modeling
Unlike other professions that need a professional headshot, actors don’t have to dress up. They have to look polished and keep the focus on their faces. Prints are discouraged in acting headshots. Also, avoid wearing the color white and any other colors that are close to it. They won’t pop off the backdrop and can wash you out. Bring a few outfit options with you and play with what combination will work best. Layers are also great for acting headshots. As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to look so formal in these shots. A layered look helps you look related and like an everyday person.
Headshots for creatives (writers, artists, etc.)
If you are in a creative profession, you want your personality to shine through. So you have a little bit more wiggle room than other professions when it comes to headshots. But you don’t want to push the envelope so far that no one takes you seriously.
The general tips above are great advice to follow in terms of picking colors and staying away from wild accessories. But the nice thing is you aren’t restricted to layers or suit jackets. If you want to wear single layers or sweaters, you can. You also aren’t as constrained with colors either. You don’t need to stick to the strict rules of mid-range colors. Just make sure you don’t wear anything that clashes with your skin, take the focus away from you in the picture, or will date the photo too much. You could also probably sneak in some timeless prints that won’t lock your shot down to a specific time period.
You can even have a little more fun with your accessories. Just like with colors, don’t go too far and take the focus off of your face. But you don’t need to stick with such simple earrings and necklaces.
Those who fall into this group will need the most formal and serious-looking versions of headshots. As much as we want people in these professions to be humans, these are serious jobs, and we want to know that the person we have hired in this role is a very serious person. Doctors have it the easiest in this group. Their headshot will include the doctor’s lab coat over anything they are wearing. Men should wear a tie, and women should have a mid-range colored button-up shirt.
Others that fall into this category should wear business suits. That is what we like to see out of people in these fields, so that is what you should have on during your headshot. Keep everything fairly plain for your shoot, as well. Suiting should be either gray, navy blue, or black. Only incorporate stripes if they are thin stripes. Bold stripes will take away from you during the photo session. The shirting underneath your suiting should be subtle pops of color, but absolutely nothing too bright or too bold. It just doesn’t fit these professions. Apply the same rules to your tie. It should serve as a compliment, not a distraction.
Anyone else needing a headshot
This category is almost like a catch-all for anyone else who wants to add a headshot to their social media profiles or websites. You may not fit into one of the groupings above, but you still need to make sure you are putting your best foot forward.
You want to make sure you present a pulled-together image, but you don’t want to look too formal. A great way to achieve that would be to wear a blazer with a t-shirt underneath. The blazer will give you a look of authority, but not a formality. You can push the limits just a bit on the t-shirt in terms of color, but not too much. You want just a slight pop of color. Women can follow these rules also and add just a little more style with a necklace or earrings. Instead of a classic chain, a woman could have a longer necklace with beads and hoops or long earrings instead of simple studs. You still look pulled together, but not too formal, not too casual.
I hope this article was helpful to you. No two headshots will be the same. And every person participating in one of these sessions will want to add some type of fun flair to it. These are not hard and fast rules. These are just useful tips to follow that will help the session run smoother and fall in line with industry standards. Always ask your photographer for his/her suggestions and feedback. Bring multiple outfits to a shot just to be on the safe side and to give both of you an array of options.
Jose Soriano is a photographer, visual content creator and blog writer with over 10 years of experience. He is working with start-up businesses, top commercial brands, and other amazing people, helping them to achieve their visual goals.