What to Wear for a Headshot or Business Portrait

black and white professional headshot in the East Bay
Filed in Tips: What to Wear for a Headshot / Business Portrait Photo Session, East Bay Area

Whether this is your first headshot or you're a seasoned veteran of business portrait sessions, you'll likely still find yourself staring into the closet at some point asking, "What should I wear?" If so, this post is for you.

Your headshot is very similar to a billboard advertisement: With just a brief moment to be in front of your target market, you want to be memorable—but for the right reasons. Here are some tips to help as you consider what to wear, and how else to prepare, for your headshot or business portrait photo shoot.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Especially for creatives, entrepreneurs, actors, and personal branding photo stories. My goal here is to help you land upon the just right look that will help us make business photos you love.

Your safest bets are to avoid wearing:

  • Whitest white or darkest black -- though charcoal gray is a great alternative
  • Complicated collars
  • BOLD patterns or stripes that command the eye’s attention
  • Unnatural, bright colors, which cast unfavorable color onto your skin
  • Shirts nearly the same color as your skin
  • Jackets or tops nearly the same color as your hair, if your hair is longer than chin-length
  • Tops that leave shoulders or arms bare (unless your profession is in fitness, sports, dance and you want to highlight these)
  • Shiny or sheer fabrics
  • Jewelry that’s dying to tell its own story.

Best bets for most headshots and business portraits:

  • Solid colors (or extremely subtle patterns)
  • Soft, neutral or pastel colors, or
  • Rich, classic colors (think jewel tones, burgundy, navy, forest green), or
  • A color that matches your eyes
  • Simple collar or neckline (a simple knit/jersey top with a flattering neck line can work well)
  • Timeless, simple jewelry or no jewelry at all

Chances are you have a gut instinct for which types of colors flatter you best. For some it will be rich colors, like burgundy or navy. For others it tends to be light, neutral or pastel shades.

Grooming—it matters!

Are you ready for your close up? Here are some pre-headshot grooming tips for both men and women:

  • Do a thorough inspection for any nasal hairs, stray chin or other facial hairs you DON’T want in your headshot (tip: take a side-light view of yourself you don't normally see in the bathroom mirror).
  • Treat yourself to a hydrating facial, which improves skin’s texture and can make you look better rested, if not younger.
  • Make sure your fingernails are neatly trimmed (clear polish or natural if you’re not freshly manicured).
  • Turn the clock back on your hands by treating them to a quick-and-easy olive oil and sugar scrub (see the how-to here).

Makeup and hair for your headshot or business portrait:

You don’t need to do anything out of the ordinary with your makeup for our photo session (no need for heavier or brighter makeup than you would wear to work or an interview).

Three things worthy of special attention though:

  • Make sure you have an even layer of mascara, free from “glops” (the camera sees these a mile away).
  • Bring your usual lipstick for a fresh coat to help define your lips.
  • If you decide to get your makeup done by a professional, be sure they know you want a clean, daytime look and not something special for a night out on the town -- unless you are going for a dramatic look for your photo for some other purpose.
  • Color-treated hair should have at least one week to “settle” before your headshot.

Better still, try and get a good night’s rest and, if you have a chance, do a hydrating facial at home the night before (and check those grooming tips!).

You might also like:

What to Wear for Your Family Photos

East Bay Area headshots and business portraits, serving the Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito and Emeryville areas.

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