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What to Wear for Headshots: A Complete Guide

One of the most common questions I get from my headshot clients is, "what should I wear to the session?". While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to headshots, there are some guidelines that we can use to capture you in the best light. Here's my guide on what to wear for headshots:


Table of Contents

  1. What is a Headshot?

  2. Types of Headshots

  3. Headshot Clothing Basics

  4. What Colors to wear for Headshots

  5. Fashion Tips for Headshots

  6. Fashion Tips to AVOID for Headshots

  7. Headshot Examples

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What is a Headshot?

Let's start by defining what a headshot is. A headshot is most commonly recognized as a high quality, close-up image featuring your face, captured typically just below the shoulders. A headshot is your calling card - it's your way of speaking to an audience without saying a word. There's a few different kinds of headshots, which I'll list below:


Types of Headshots

Headshots are quite common. Here's a look at all the different industries and professions that require or use them:

  • Acting Headshots

  • Modeling Headshots

  • Business/Corporate Headshots

  • Commercial Headshots

  • Professional/Career Headshots

Each headshot type has it's own unique style, but they all follow similar guidelines when it comes to outfits. Let's talk about what they are.


Headshot Clothing Basics

Your clothing choice will almost always be influenced by the industry you work in and your unique brand. With that said, there's a few basics to be aware of when choosing your headshot outfit.


Fit

When getting your headshots done, opt for more closely-fitted attire. It will look cleaner and more professional than baggy or loose clothing. Additionally, loose clothing often photographs less-flatteringly than tighter fits, due to loose clothes making you appear larger than you actually are.

Fabric

The fabric you choose for your headshot session will also have an impact on your headshot. Typically, I recommend avoiding fabrics like nylon and silk which have a tendency to reflect and bounce light, and instead choose materials like cotton and linen, which will look clean and bright in your image.

Necklines

Necklines are important to consider for your headshot. If your session includes multiple looks, I recommend mixing it up with a variety of necklines. V-necks are very flattering on men and women, and women also have the choice of wearing a scoop or bateau neckline. Be aware that headshots typically crop just below the shoulders, so outfits with lower necklines may appear more provocative than intended. If you're aiming for a business or professional headshot, higher necklines should be preferred.

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Sleeves

Ladies have a good degree of sleeve choice when it comes to headshot outfits outside of the traditional blazer or suit. If you have toned arms, a sleeveless dress or shirt will look quite flattering on you. Or, you could go with the classic 3/4 sleeves, which typically look good on just about anybody. I like to advise my clients to avoid cap sleeves as they tend to make the shoulders look wider. As always, choose sleeves that are form-fitting and not loose or puffy for best results.

Jewelry & Accessories

When it comes to jewelry such as necklaces or earrings, the best advice is to keep it simple. These pieces are meant to accent your look and not distract from the subject of the headshot: you! If you do wear a necklace, make sure that the pendant is visible above the crop. Earring should be either a simple metallic or gemstone stud. It's advised to avoid dangling or hoop earrings, as these have a tendency to get caught in hair and become distracting in the photo.


What Colors to wear for Headshots

Choosing the right colors can be challenging. I frequently advise my clients to bring a few different colors to their session so we can see what looks best on them in camera. When you're choosing your outfit colors, remember these 3 principles:

  1. Wear Solid Colors - solid colors and subtle patterns are your best bet for a good headshot. Outfits that have busy patterns generally distract from your face, which is what we want to avoid.

  2. Contrast with Skin Tone - Another general principle to follow is to contrast your outfit with your skin tone. Your outfit should be significantly darker or lighter than your skin color so you don't appear to 'blend in' with your attire.

  3. Contrast with Backdrop - Lastly, choose outfit colors that contrast with your backdrop so you stand out.

This is kind of an additional point, but beware the white shirt. If you are going to wear a white shirt, make sure you have a jacket to put over it. The reason why is because white reflects a lot of light and can easily become the brightest part of your image, when your face should be the brightest part. So be aware of this when choosing your wardrobe colors.


Keep Color Psychology in Mind

When choosing wardrobe colors for your headshot, be aware of the psychology behind colors. Color psychology is the study of hues as a way to understand, predict, and influence human behavior. In marketing and branding, color is often used to persuade or influence us. You can use color psychology when deciding the color of your tie, for example, or other outfit pieces to accent your appearance or reinforce your brand. Let's take a look at what feelings and emotions some colors are associated with:

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Some additional guidelines for outfit colors include:


Dark Colors - dark colors will make the wearer appear more dominant and authoritative.

Light Colors - light colors are will make the wearer appear more friendly and approachable.

Bright Colors - bright colors typically convey confidence and high-energy.

Muted Colors - muted colors will make the wearer appear more conservative and neutral.

High Contrast - high contrast colors, such as a dark sports coat over light shirt will convey authority and power.


Fashion Tips for Headshots

Here's a few rule of thumb fashion tips that will help for any type of headshot:

  • Style according to your industry.