What to wear for professional headshots

New headshots can be stressful. Know what to wear for yours and feel more confident.

I’ve taken a lot of personal and professional headshots over the years, and guess what – pretty much everyone comes in with the same nerves. Even the veteran actors I’ve photographed have mentioned needing a “warm-up period.” There’s just something about “picture day” that makes us feel like we’re 13 and awkward all over again. Thankfully, there are a few tips ranging from your wardrobe, to hair and make-up, to mindset to consider when preparing for your session that can make a big difference to your photoshoot.

First things first: WARDROBE, which is the focus of this blog as it’s the number one question business professionals ask me. What should I wear for my professional headshots? So get ready to get dressed, and remember to sign-up for my newsletters so you can keep an eye out for future posts that will address other areas of business photography prep.

      1. Keep your outfit classic.

        As much as I love a good trend, avoid fashion’s hottest looks for your professional headshot. The goal here is longevity. Keeping your wardrobe pieces classic will help you look timeless so your profile will hold up in 2, 3, even 4 years from now (e.g., the image below was taken in 2014).

        what to wear professional headshots-

        2. Go neutral.

        There’s a reason some of the most successful (and busiest) decision-makers in the world wear the same colors every day. When Barrack Obama was president, he said, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” If you’re struggling with your choices, go with neutrals–black, gray, navy, beige. These shades are flattering on everyone. If you do want to incorporate color, consider your undertones, (i.e., the natural color beneath your skin), which can be most simply divided into warm, neutral, or cool. Different color shades will look better depending on your undertones.  Professional headshot wardrobe example of neutral colors.

        Professional headshot wardrobe example of color appropriate for warm undertones.

        what to wear for professional headshots warm tones


        Professional headshot wardrobe example of color appropriate for cool undertones.what to wear for professional cool tonesal headshots

        3. Tailor your clothing when possible.

         If you were to go behind the scenes of any fashion photoshoot, you’re guaranteed to see models with clips pinching and tucking clothing to look effortlessly perfect on their frame. The truth is, clothing off the rack isn’t a perfect fit for most people. But, the secret to transforming a ‘meh’ top or bottom is in the tailoring. Darting a shirt or hemming a skirt can do wonders on how something falls. I know a few people who buy items from Old Navy or Gap and then take them to a tailor, transforming their bargain finds into what looks like high-end fashion. While it may cost you a bit extra, consider the extra measure an investment in your overall image. You’ll be amazed at how a custom-tailored item can make you feel like a whole new person by following YOUR frame in just the right way. Professional all the way.

        4. Keep patterns subtle.

        You’ve probably heard it before, but there’s a reason why stylists recommend avoiding horizontal stripes (they can make you look wider).  Additionally, certain patterns on camera can be distracting to the eye, or worse, more–an effect where odd shapes or stripes appear in an image with a busy, fine pattern. To play on the safe side for your professional headshot photo session, choose solid fabrics with larger details like in the dress below. If you want to take the risk, try classic patterns like twill, herringbone, or plaid in a muted neutral so as not to call too much attention away from the real subject of the image – your lovely face.

        what to wear for professional headshots-subtle patterns

        5. Find the right cut. When it comes to tops, watch out for turtlenecks, which can swallow you up and make you appear like a floating head. Instead, opt for a crew, v-neck, scoop, or boat neckline. These are all professional and flattering for every woman. As far as sleeveless, it depends on your audience. For many traditional workplaces like schools, governmental offices, law firms, etc., it’s standard practice to wear attire with sleeves. In less formal settings, sleeveless tops are more accepted.what to wear for professional headshots

    6. Button-downs.

    Iconic and classic, you cannot go wrong bringing a button-down shirt for your professional headshot session. Just keep in mind that the color of your business shirt matters as white will wash out on a white background. Instead, opt for a navy or black button-down. You’ll also want to make sure you’re careful about how the shirt is falling if you’re sitting. Watch out for billowing in areas you don’t want it to hug, such as your waist and arms. Form is a key factor in photography, so you don’t want to lose yours with the wrong pose for what you’re wearing.what to wear professional headshots button downs

    6. Don’t worry too much about what’s on the bottom.

    Unless you’re planning on full length or three-quarter headshots, it’s what’s on top that really matters. Take the path of least resistance and opt for classic pants or a pencil skirt in a neutral color.

    7. Keep jewelry simple and classic.

    Again, unless you really want to make a statement and have the right intended audience for one (a creative director at an Ad firm or a music executive), stay minimal. Studs or short drop earrings, simple pendant, pearl or chain necklace, an elegant bracelet or watch are all good options – enough to add a little sparkle but not call too much attention away from your face.what to wear for professional headshots simple jewelry

    8. Wear your personality.

    I’m not gonna do that thing where I say you should smile. If that’s not who you are, then don’t force it. But letting your warmth and presence come through in your expression is the best thing you could ever wear. What you show through your eyes is more powerful than any item of clothing you could ever wear.

    what to wear professional headshots-0009

  1. Check back soon for more helpful tips on getting the most out of your professional headshots. Want to see more from the blog? Check out these posts below:
    Actor Portraits of Brendan Carney
    Portrait Photography InfoInterested in taking your own headshot photos? Contact me today here, call 402-304-4057 or email maggie@rifeponcephotography.com. I’d love to hear from you!