Headshot Photography: Ultimate Guide to Decide What to Wear for a Headshots Session

In many industries, it is a good idea to have a professional headshot so that you can portray a good image to the people that you will be connecting with. A good headshot might be the difference to help you land a job or an acting/modeling gig, and you need to make sure that your headshot sends the right message.

The most important clothing item is the shirt or blouse that you are wearing, because it will be easily seen in the photo. You should consider bringing multiple shirts to choose from, and your photographer can help you to select the right style and color for your photos. Many photographers will allow you to change your clothes throughout the shoot so that you have several styles to choose from in your photos.

General Clothing Guidelines for a Headshot Session

Choosing your outfit for your headshot photography session can make a big impact on the way the photos turn out, and you want to make sure to select clothing that will be comfortable and attractive at the same time. The goal with the headshot is to make you appear confident, and emphasize your face and your eyes instead of the clothing.

Sometimes, people get too caught up by choosing cute and trendy clothing, and it causes the picture to look unprofessional or amateur because of the clothing choices. Making poor clothing choices can actually detract from your face, and have a negative impact on the effectiveness of your headshot photo. So, it is a good idea to read through these guidelines before you choose your clothing for the photo shoot, and also talk with your photographer to select the best outfit for your session.

With any headshot photo shoot, you want to make sure that the clothes are clean and wrinkle free before you begin. Also, pay attention to the way your clothing fits, because the wrong fit can look funny in the photo. One of the most common fitting problems happens when people wear clothing that is too small. So, if you have an older outfit that you love, you might need to choose different clothing if you have recently gained weight.

Avoid wrinkled or bulky clothing, because it can look unprofessional in the photo. When you are wearing overly bulky sweaters or clothing, they can look rumpled and make you look fatter than you are in reality. You may be tempted to choose a chic, trendy outfit, but try to stay away from funky or styles that can become quickly outdated. It is better to choose classic clothes instead of a modern trend, because the classic styles are usually more appropriate for most professions.

Choosing the Right Colors for Your Skin Tone

In terms of color, it is important to stay away from patterns on the fabric, because the patterns can detract from your face. So, don’t choose a shirt with floral print, checkers, polka dots, stripes, or any other type of pattern on the fabric. These patterns will make the photo too “busy” and they can be very distracting.

Stick with darker colors instead of lighter colors, because the darker or mid-tone colors tend to put more emphasis on your eyes and smile, instead of the clothing. Always avoid lighter colors that are too similar to your skin tone, because they can make you appear washed out.

It is best to wear colors that are contrasting to your skin, so if you have medium or darker colored skin tones, then you should avoid the earthy colors that are very similar to the color of your skin.

You may consider selecting a color that can help to bring out the colors in your eyes. For example, if you have blue eyes, then you may consider a blue or grey shirt. Or, if you have brown or green eyes, then earthy tones can be very complimentary to your eye color.

Clothing Choices that You Don’t Need to Worry About

The most important clothing selection should be the shirt or blouse that you choose, because the other clothing options won’t likely be shown in the picture. For example, don’t worry too much about your pants, because they probably won’t be seen in the photos. The goal with a headshot is to highlight your face and eyes, so headshots usually only focus on the top half of your body. If you are on a budget, then spend your money on the top and don’t spend a lot of money on the pants.

With shoes, it is better to choose a pair of shoes for comfort instead of style if you are shooting on location, because you might be doing a lot of walking as you are moving around for the photo shoot. Most likely, your feet will not be visible in the picture. If you are concerned that your shoes don’t match your outfit quite right, then you may consider bringing an extra pair of shoes that can be slipped on when you are walking, and quickly changed out for the nicer shoes when the photo shoot begins.

Specific Clothing Guidelines for Certain Industries

You should consider the industry that you are working in to help you make your clothing selections. Keep in mind that a corporate headshot should have a different feel and appearance than a modeling headshot, and you need to make your clothing choices accordingly.

It is a good idea to look through headshots of other people in your industry, in order to get a feel for the types of clothing that they wear in their photos. For example, you might look at the company website to see the clothing choices of some of the leaders and managers in your company, and choose your clothing to match that same style.

Here are some guidelines for specific industries, as well as tips for both men and women in each industry:

What to Wear for Business/Corporate Headshots

If you are working in a corporate environment, then it is important that you are wearing the right type of clothing that is common in an office. Many corporations have conservative dress codes, and you want to be sure that the clothing in your picture is the type of clothing that you could wear when you are going to work each day.

As a general tip for both men and women, it is best to wear long sleeves in a corporate headshot, because the bare arms are often distracting. Many people consider bare arms to be inappropriate in a corporate headshot.

For women: Make sure that your clothing is modest, because it is a bad idea to reveal too much skin in the picture. Choose a classy corporate style which shows that you are serious about your career. For example, you might choose a nice blouse or a collared shirt, paired with a suit coat and slacks or a skirt. Also, make sure that you choose jewelry to match your outfit. The jewelry should add a nice accent to the outfit, without detracting from the overall appearance of your photo. Too much jewelry can send the wrong impression, and having the photo taken sans jewelry can appear too plain.

For men:Always wear a collared dress shirt, and you might also consider a suit jacket. If you want to add individual style to the photo, then you may consider options such as v-neck sweaters over your dress shirt, or a tie that makes a statement.

What to Wear for Actor Headshots

When you are choosing an outfit for actor headshots, a good guideline to follow is to consider the type of outfit that you would wear to an audition. Some actors are tempted to make a statement with their clothing options, by dressing in costume in their headshot. But, it is better to wear regular clothing so that you appear as a regular person instead of a character.

For actor headshots, you don’t need to worry about wearing professional, corporate style clothing, unless those are the types of roles that you prefer. Instead, select a nice outfit that falls within the general guidelines that were discussed at the beginning of this article.

For women: For an actor headshot session, it is always a good idea to avoid low cut tops, because they make it difficult to crop close. Also, make sure that your shirt or blouse has long sleeves, because tank tops and short-sleeved shirts can be distracting. Generally, you don’t want to have bare arms in the photos.

For men: Good clothing styles to consider are solid colored shirts or sweaters that have some type of a texture, such as ribbing or chain stitching. Long sleeves are usually best, and you might consider wearing a collar if it matches your personality. Crew neck style shirts can be unflattering, and should be avoided.

What to Wear for Model Headshots

As a model, your goal is to show the canvas of your face in the headshot, and if someone comments about your clothing then it means that you have failed with your clothing selection. You want to sell yourself, not the clothing that you are wearing!

As a model, it is especially important that your clothing fits correctly, because you want to show a realistic image of your shape and size. You may consider wearing different layers of clothing, and the top layers can be removed for some of the pictures.

For women: If you do a lot of beauty or skin product modeling, then you may consider natural photos that show more skin than regular headshot photos. Even though it is generally advised to keep your shoulders and arms covered in headshot photos, it can be advantageous to have modeling photos that show a little more skin. In some of the photos, you may consider wearing a spaghetti strap tank top or a tube top to show off the lines on your neck and shoulders.

For men: As a model, you generally want to stay away from corporate clothing that looks too professional. If you plan to wear a collared shirt, you may consider making it a little more casual by leaving the top button open and not wearing a tie. Or, you can choose another style of shirt if you don’t want to wear a collar. It is a good idea to stay away from crew neck or v-neck shirts, because it is difficult to make those shirts look good in a headshot photo.

Talk With Your Photographer and Go With Your Gut

There are many opinions about the types of clothing that you should wear for a headshot photo session, and it is important to talk with your photographer before making your decision. Sharing details about the purpose of the session can help your photographer to create the right types of photos, and they can advise you on the clothing choices that you should bring with you.

Keep in mind that you may encounter specific situations where you may want to “break” one of the rules for headshots. You may find situations where a funky style headshot can be more beneficial than a basic headshot, so it is nice to have several options available to choose from. In most situations, these guidelines should be followed, but there are occasional situations where it might make sense to change some of your clothing choices in order to accommodate a specific job that you are applying for.

Also, be sure to choose professional headshot photographer who has experience in your particular industry. If you are putting together a modeling portfolio, then you will be better off working with a photographer who is familiar with the modeling industry, instead of selecting someone who typically does corporate headshots.

By choosing the photographer and bringing the right clothing to the photo session, you will be able to create a portfolio of photos that can be used in many different situations. Having a good headshot is an important tool to help you advance your career and land the jobs that you want.


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