What to Wear for Professional Headshots in 2023
If you’re preparing for your headshot, you’re likely starting to wonder what everyone wonders during this stage. What to wear for professional headshots? As a professional headshot photographer, I have the unique position of getting to watch my clients go through this process time and time again. After going through it all, I hear time and time again that the hardest part was not standing in front of a camera, it was choosing outfits and getting ready for the shoot.
I’ve created the following guide on what to wear for a professional headshot session to help you prepare. I’ve photographed thousands of headshots at this point, and if you read through this guide, you’ll be sure to choose great outfits for your photoshoot.
What is the purpose of your business headshot?
First, before we dive into all the nitty gritty details to help you prepare, I want to first ask you to consider what you’re creating this for. Many companies require a professional headshot from their employees, but you may also be doing it on your own. I want you to consider what your hoping to achieve with these images.
Keep that in mind as you make all of the decisions moving forward so that everything you choose will help you strengthen the goals you have for yourself. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, professional headshots are typically the first impression that people have of you, and nailing this part can make a huge different in how you are perceived in your life and in the professional world.
What to wear for professional headshots and professional headshot tips
Now onto the fun part. There are so many options when it comes to what to wear for your professional headshots that it can be truly overwhelming. Should you choose black or white, should you go sleeveless or not, what about glasses, and how do they photograph. I’m about to cover all of the details, but I’ve also created a downloadable preparation guide for anyone that wants to make sure they are covering all of their bases.
You can download the headshot preparation guide here. This is a guide that I share with my own clients to help them to prepare for our headshots sessions, and it was created based on questions I get asked on a regular basis.
How should I dress for a professional headshot?
Style according to your Industry
How you should dress for a professional headshot isn’t going to be an easy one size fits all answer. That’s why photographers can’t simply tell everyone to wear a black blazer. In fact, for some industries and some people, wearing a black blazer is the worst decision.
If you’re working in a startup industry or you’re getting in to an acting career, the look of a blazer can be too corporate and come off the wrong way. But in other industries, it’s the gold standard. So, I want you to instead consider the industry that you’re in, and the parameters around the types of clothing that your industry tends to wear. You don’t always have to fit that mold if you’re a big personality, but keep it in mind.
Think About How You Would Dress In A Meeting With The Person You Want To View Your Headshot.
Now that you’ve thought about the industry that you’re in and the types of clothing that people wear in your industry, I want you to now really start thinking about who these headshots are for? Are you getting these headshots to stand out in your own company? Who is the decision maker when you’re being considered for a promotion? Are you creating these images for a casting director? If so, what types of roles are you typically aiming for? Do you run your own business, and have clientele that fits a certain mold or a target audience that you want your headshot to resonate with?
Now that you’ve answered that question, I am going to give you the best tip for narrowing in on what you should wear while still staying true to who you are. Think about what you would wear with the type of person that you’re creating your headshot for. What would you wear to a meeting with them? What would you wear if you took them out for coffee? What would you wear if you took them out for drinks? Whatever came to mind for you just then, is the type of clothing that you should aim to wear in your professional headshots.
Business Headshot And Professional Headshot Clothing Options
Here are some examples of the types of clothing that different industries tend to wear, and the people that did an amazing job of choosing their outfits.
Clothing Tips For A Professional Headshot
Now that you’ve got some semblance of an idea for what you should wear in your professional headshot, or at least the type of clothing that you should wear, let’s get into some clothing tips for your headshots.
Bring Multiple Outfits
First, don’t feel like you have to nail it with just one outfit. There are some occasions where photographers will limit you to just one, but most headshot photographers will let you wear multiple outfits to your shoot to ensure that you get something you like. I will say that I advise people to bring multiple outfits because sometimes, the thing you thought you loved the most doesn’t photograph as well as you thought. It’s a good idea to have a backup option.
Use Rent The Runway
I am well aware that if you have a shoot coming up, and you don’t already have the outfits you need in your closet, this probably is starting to feel a little overwhelming. My suggestion to you is to try out a clothing rental service like Rent the Runway before you go out on a shopping spree. Rent the Runway has been used by my clients over and over through the years for a few really great reasons.
Rent the Runway is easy to sort through clothes by your size, you get them shipped to you for the shoot really quickly, and you can send them right back after your shoot. In addition to that, some of the clothes on there cost around $2000, but you get to wear them for free with your membership. Whether you’re trying to make a statement with your outfit or just wear something nice, renting your outfits can save you all the stress.
I do not get paid to recommend them, but I have this discount code to share from my personal account to help you and my clients save 40% (the steepest discount available) if you are still needing something for your shoot.
Rent the Runway can save you a ton of stress and make you look like a million bucks without the commitment of actually buying clothing. Now onto more of what works.
How Clothing Should Fit
Don’t wear clothing that fits poorly
It is a trend these days to wear baggy clothing, and as much as I love the style, it just doesn’t photograph as well as you might imagine. Here’s why, when you’re wearing flowey clothing in the real world, the movements you make still imply that you have a shape. The problem with wearing those same outfits on camera is that they are frozen in time, and something that looks like a box when you’re standing still, will look like a box in the finished image.
I am all about body positivity and will shout from the rooftops that there is not one perfect size or shape, but I am bringing this up because after years of photographing women, I get to see what they like and don’t like in the finished images. Women do not like images of themselves in big flowey clothes, unless they are in a very flattering model-like pose, which isn’t always possible in a headshot.
So when in doubt, wear fitted clothing, or at least wear clothing that gives you the shape you want to see when you’re standing still facing a mirror.
Headshot Clothing Basics
Necklines, I think people tend to overthink this part of the wardrobe planning. The things to consider with a neckline is what it’s communicating to your viewer. A very low cut top could communicate that you’re comfortable with yourself, your position and your body, but it could also be too much for some people. Wearing something like a turtleneck, can make your headshot look seasonal and it may feel a bit out of place during the summer.
For the most part though, your neckline should be determined based on what you want to communicate, and what you feel is flattering to yourself. For someone with broader shoulders like myself, I tend to prefer a v neck or something that breaks up my torso lines. So consider what makes you feel most confident, and aim to wear that.
Sleeves Or No Sleeves
Another question I get asked on a regular basis is whether or not someone should wear sleeves or sleeveless. Again, the answer completely depends on your industry and what you’re going for in your images. There are people out there that see sleeveless and perceive it to be more casual than something with sleeves.
That said, if you are wearing a luxury sleeveless dress, you can still pull off the more professional look even without sleeves. If you are unsure of what is acceptable in your own industry, I would err on the side of caution and stick with sleeves.
What Is The Best Color To Wear For A Professional Headshot?
There are different strategies that can me achieved by wearing different colors in your headshots. Typically my aim as I am creating headshots is to make sure that the viewers eyes go straight to your eyes and your smile. Wearing bright bold colors can draw attention away when people should be looking at your face. The flip side of this, is that wearing those bright crayon colors is a great way to get people to see your photo in the first place when you’re being found somewhere like LinkedIn.
Consider bold colors if you’re looking for attention, and stick with neutrals and calmer tones if you want people to connect with you and your personality. Think about the colors that you look best in, no one is going to know the colors that you look best in better than you do. If you’re drawn to a certain color, or if something really compliments your skin tone there’s a reason why. If there’s a color that bring out your eyes, it’s a win win because people will be even more drawn to your expression.
What Should I Avoid Wearing For Business Headshots?
Avoid Anything That Looks Too Dressed Down
Again, going back to the question of what people wear in your industry. We all want you too look comfortable in your images, but down wear anything that looks too dressed down. Think about your headshot as what you’d look like on your best day.
Avoid Heavy Patterns And Prints
Always aim for solid colors in your headshots unless you’ve in fashion, or you’re known for a really flamboyant look. You’ll hear every photographer out there say that a solid color look best in you photo.
Avoid Wearing Logo Or Pictures On Your Clothing
Wearing logos or pictures on your clothing can also draw attention away from your face and make you look unprofessional. Again, we don’t want people looking at your clothing or what is on your shirt instead of connecting with you.
Wearing Accessories Or Anything Too Distracting
When it comes to accessories and jewelry in your images, it’s best to keep it minimal. I will say it again and again but it’s important that we keep in mind that your eyes and smile are the star of the show. Anything that distracts from that, should be excluded.
Avoid Clothing That Looks Too Shiny
It is possible to bring clothing that is too reflective for your photo. There are some tops that shine just a little too bright and it pulls the viewers eyes away from you as the focus.
Style Tips For Professional Headshots
Hair And Makeup Tips
Hairstyles For Headshots
When it comes to styling yourself for your headshots, the best thing to do is keep it real. If you’ve got curly hair, don’t straighten it. If you have short hair, don’t go get extensions put in for the photos. You’ll never feel confident showing off your images if they don’t actually look like you in real life. Remember, the goal should be to capture who you are on the best day, not someone else.
A quick little tip for women is that you should wear your hair down when possible or make sure that any ponytails or undos that you choose show off what your hair really looks like. The camera angles are only able to capture you from the front, so a ponytail in the back can disappear and make it look like you have no hair at all.
Makeup For Headshots
Another one of the main questions I get, is whether or not my clients should book a makeup artist. I do not agree with most photographers that professional makeup is essential for headshots. If you never wear makeup, you should not be wearing makeup in your photos. It can be a wonderful addition, but only if you’re comfortable in makeup. Stay true to who you are, because you’ll feel more authentic as you’re using your headshots professionally.
Avoiding Red Blood Shot Eyes
A detail that many people don’t take into consideration is the whites of their eyes. It can make or break your image if you’ve got red eyes and your photographer can’t edit it out. My go-to solution is a specific brand of eye drops called Lumify that not only whiten the whites of your eyes for the shoot, but they also lighten the red areas of skin around your eyes. Sounds crazy, but I use this for my own shoots all the time.
It actually makes your eyes look incredibly clear (“paper-white” is a great description), and because it lightens redness around your eyes, it allows your eyes to look much bigger.
Getting Rid Of Flyaways
As a photographer, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to save myself a ton of time after the session editing things that I could have avoided by making changes during the shoot. If you have dark hair or really light hair, there’s a fair chance that your hair will have flyaways in your pictures.
Fortunately there is a very cheap little trick that will save you. There are very few photographers that know how to edit out all of your flyaways out of an images, so to avoid that, buy this clear eyebrow gel.
The trick here is just to lightly run the eyebrow gel over your flyaways and it pushes them down without weighing them down. You only need to do it once, right before you step in front of the camera, and you will have zero flyaways in your images.
The eyebrow gel doesn’t weigh down your hair, it truly just pushes the flyaways down so that you don’t look like you’ve put your finger in an electric socket in your photos. Hairspray can help, but it isn’t quite as effective.
You only need to do it once, right before you step in front of the camera, and you will have zero flyaways in your images.
Again, here is the link to that eyebrow gel if you’re interested.
As with many of the tips that I give, nail polish should be chosen or not based on the fact that it can pull your viewers eyes away from connecting with you in an image. The best colors for nail polish are neutrals, skin tones, or nothing at all. Most headshots will crop out fingernails, but if they make it in, make sure it’s not a bright color.
Should I Wear Glasses In My Headshots?
Yes, you should wear your glasses in your headshots if you wear glasses all the time. If people are used to seeing you in glasses, it can be strange to view your headshot without them. The only time I ask clients not to wear glasses in their headshots is if their glasses are extremely reflective, which can happen with blue light glasses, or if their glasses are transition lenses that go dark in the bright lighting that’s essential for headshots.
There is a little trick you can do, which is to push your
If you’ve ever done portraits before, you know the hardest part aside from choosing outfits, is the moments before you step in front of the camera. We can be our own worst critics at times and it really comes out before a photoshoot. Have grace with yourself and remind yourself why you’re doing this.
Preparing your clothing in advance well before your session. Coming to the shoot sweating because you’ve chosen to wait until the last minute to try on your outfits will not help you feel relaxed. So try everything on in advance and have it ironed and ready to go well before the day of your shoot.
There’s a lot of information here to help you to prepare as you’re deciding what to wear for professional headshots, download our guide to keep it with you.
As I mentioned previously, I don’t get paid to recommend Rent the Runway, but I can share my personal promo code with you. If you click here to sign up for a 8, 12, or 16 outfit a month membership you get 40% off of one month (their biggest discount available).
That means that with my promo code you could rent your entire wardrobe and wear designer clothing for your shoot for $86.40 (the 8 outfit membership) if you wanted to!
They ship four outfits at a time, so you’d even have an extra round of clothes for fun for the month after your shoot.