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6 Tips on What to Wear for a Professional Headshot

6 Tips on What to Wear for a Professional Headshot

By: Christopher Todd

Award-winning Orange County photographer specializing in people with 20+ years of experience

By: Christopher Todd

Award-winning Orange County photographer specializing in people with 20+ years of experience

What to Wear for a Professional Headshot

The goal of every headshot we photograph is to capture the absolute best image of our subject that communicates their personality, approachability, and expertise. Getting a headshot taken is not only important for any aspiring actor but also for every professional in the business world including medical residency headshots.

These are basic tips I have compiled after photographing thousands of people's headshots over the last 20 years.  In this article, you will also get some gender-specific tips for women and men to help ensure that you are making the best first impression.

Whether you're planning to hire a headshot photographer or DIY your headshot at home you need to learn how to choose the best outfit. So continue reading our top 6 tips on what to wear to make sure you get the most out of your time with your photographer.

Table Of Contents
    Best outfit for professional headshot

    1. Wear clothes that fit

    Nothing says success more than a beautifully tailored outfit. Clothes that don't fit make you look unkept and ill-prepared.  With a traditional headshot i.e. just your head in the photo, your outfit will have less of an impact on the final image, however, most of the people I photograph in our studio typically end up needing an image with more than just their head. In this case, the way your clothing fits will be a more important factor for your headshots and should be considered when deciding what to wear. 

    A couple of other things to keep in mind when deciding on outfits to wear for headshots: 

    • Be careful when wearing older clothing from your closet. Sometimes our favorite outfits start looking shabby. Watch for fading colors, threadbare ends, and stained collars.
    • Recently gained or lost weight. This is the most common situation I see with my headshot clients. An extra 10 lbs. can change the look of an outfit. 
    • Check your neck.  Collars need to be buttoned if you want to wear a tie. Make sure your collar fits without squeezing your neck too tight.

    PRO TIP: Sometimes it's better to start from scratch. Buy a new outfit and visit your favorite tailor before getting a headshot. 

    2. Choose the right color palette

    Choosing your color palette begins with your skin tone and eye color. Everyone has a different skin tone and knowing which colors look best on you is important. The goal is to choose a color palette that contrasts your skin with the outfit and the background. 

    What is the best color to wear for a professional headshot?

    • Opt for neutral colors-  black, grey, or navy blue are all safe and go well with most skin tones.
    • Choose colors that won't blend into the background.
    • Pick accent colors that match your eyes.
    • Tans and greens are other options. 
    • Avoid colors that are too similar to your skin tone. They will make you look washed out.

    PRO TIP: Choose outfits for your headshots that are significantly lighter or darker than your skin tone.

    Headshot examples of what to wear 

    What to wear for professional headshots
    wear solid colors instead of patters for a professional headshot

    3. Wear solid colors instead of patterns

    When selecting what to wear for your professional headshot, it's a good idea to choose solid colors rather than loud busy patterns or plaids. 

    What's wrong with wearing plaid?

    Nothing, but plaids and other busy patterns don't have mass appeal. Some people love them and others wouldn't be caught dead in a plaid or pinstriped suit. It's better to wear something less aggressive and more appealing to a general audience. 

    Busy patterns are also distracting from your face. You don't want someone looking at your photo thinking what an ugly outfit, instead of "Wow that guy looks confident and intelligent". 

    4. Wear the appropriate attire

    Business attire 101. Consider what type of work you want to be doing and ask yourself the question, "How would my boss dress at work?"

    Dress for the position or job you want not the job you currently have, while considering your industry standards. If this means wearing a tie or suit be sure to wear that in your photo. 

    PRO TIP: Keep it professional.

    Women: Be aware of undergarments like bra straps. Avoid low-cut tops that distract from your face. 

    Men: Choose a tie that is not distracting. Subtle patterns provide a nice contrast. Be sure to button your collar.

    Branding headshot examples for business.
    black suit on white background creates contract

    5. Wear an outfit that pops off the background

    My favorite headshots all have outfits that really contrast the backdrop of the photo. This example of the man above in the dark suit with a pure white background pops off the background forcing you to take notice of him. Most people never consider the background of their headshot and miss the opportunity to coordinate an image that grabs attention.

    PRO TIP: Preplan your outfit and background to create contrast with each other so your image will stand out.

    ugly accessories that won't look good in a business headshot

    6. Accessorize appropriately

    Add subtle accessories

    Adding subtle accessories can take your look up one notch when done judiciously. It is wise to stick with subtle items that won't distract from the face like minimal jewelry, color-coordinated scarves, and ties for men. Make sure these elements don't overpower what you're wearing or draw too much attention away from your face.

    Be Sure To Avoid these distractions

      • Loud busy patterns and plaids
      • Bright colors like red, yellow, pink, and orange
      • Flashy jewelry
      • Wrinkled clothing
      • Warn out, stained clothes

    PRO TIP: Less is more when considering accessories for your headshots.

    Professional example of male headshot

    Bottom Line

    Your headshot photo should show you looking professional, confident, friendly, and approachable. This all starts with choosing the right outfit. This includes picking the perfect color, style, and size for your headshot attire. When you look and feel good you will smile more comfortably and confidently. This will show up in your photos.

    BONUS TIP 1.  Make sure your clothes are pressed

    There is no better way to defeat the goal of your portrait, than having wrinkled clothes. I can't count how many times I've had people rushing into my studio pulling wrinkled clothes out of the trunk of their car. Don't do this.

    PRO TIP:  Have all your outfits dry cleaned and pressed before your shoot. Leave them in the plastic and always hang them. Never lay them down before your shoot. 

    man posing in a dark colored wrinkled suit for a headshot on a white background in a photo studio
    two distinct looks in one photo session

    BONUS TIP 2. Bring multiple outfits to your photo shoot

    • Bring a few of your favorite outfits to your photo session. You never know what might end up looking great on you and it's awesome to have choices at the end of the day. I've photographed many people that bring an outfit they didn't expect to work and end up loving it the most.

    Pro tip:  If you don't have multiple outfits you can change your look by changing just your blouse, tie or jacket.

    what-not-to-wear-for-a-headshot

    BONUS TIP 3.  What should you not wear for a professional headshot?

    The number one rule is to ditch the casual look.

    • No jeans, t-shirts, or even polo shirts
    • No Tuxedos or formal gowns
    • No Flashy jewelry 
    • No logos on shirts

    What color should you avoid for a headshot?

    • Loud or bold colors such as hot pinks, purples, reds, or yellow.
    • In addition, avoid colors that you know will blend into the background preventing you from standing out.

    PRO TIP:  When in doubt consult with your photographer before your session to get assistance planning your outfits

    FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about appropriate attire for a professional headshot session.

    Have more questions? Get in touch with us to start planning your headshot session today.

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    Meet Your Headshot Photographer

    Call Me Chris

    I won't bore you with too many details, but I will say that I consider myself to be the luckiest guy in the world and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to merge my passion and career.

    A couple of quick things about me personally. I was born and raised in Orange County. I currently live with my family near Huntington Beach where I love to surf or be in the ocean with my boys.

    My passions include art, traveling, and of course photography.

    Male photographer holding camera.

    Meet Your Headshot Photographer

    Male photographer holding camera.

    Call Me Chris

    I won't bore you with too many details, but I will say that I consider myself to be the luckiest guy in the world and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to merge my passion and career.

    A couple of quick things about me personally. I was born and raised in Orange County. I currently live with my family near Huntington Beach where I love to surf or be in the ocean with my boys.

    My passions include art, traveling, and of course photography.

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