Professional Headshots – What to Wear

Headshots are a great way to make a killer first impression. I’ve got the lighting and posing covered, all you need to think about is the clothing choices and makeup,

The wrong outfit could look out of place, or worse, make you look completely unprofessional. I’ve put together this guide to cover all the bases, so you can be confident in your clothing choices.

professional headshot clothes

Clothing for Professional Headshots – General Tips

Dress like you’re going to a job interview

A great rule of thumb is to dress as if you were going to a job interview. This means slightly smarter than usual, but without going completely over the top.

For a professional working in banking, a 3 piece suit might be the norm. However if you’re a startup founder, jeans and a t-shirt might be more acceptable.

Every industry is different, and different dress rules can apply. I’m sure you know your industry better than I do, so dress to fit those needs.

professional male headshot
male headshot
business headshot

Persona – who ya gonna be today?

You can also think about what kind of persona you want to put out into the world. Is it fun and friendly, or more serious and knowledgeable? If you’re unsure, think about where you’re planning to use the photos, and who your target audience is.

This will influence your outfit choice, and can make the difference between choosing a dress or a shirt.

Avoid brands and logos

Everyone has a different opinion on brands, one persons favourite might be someone else’s nightmare.

As such, I would recommend wearing no recognisable brands or logos. This will stop people pre-judging you based on what brands you go for.

Also, any logos can distract the viewers attention away from the most important thing in the photo.. which is you!

Patterns and textures

In short – the more patterns on clothing, the less formal it is. If you are trying to go for very smart, keep any patterns to a minimum.

I would also avoid any ‘busy’ patterns. That is – patterns which are very loud and draw the eye to them. Like I said earlier, the focus should all be on you.

Another quick rule of thumb – no two patterns should be the same size and scale. As an example, if you have a wide checker pattern on a suit jacket, you could go for a tight checker on the tie.

Choosing the right colour for your skin

Colour is one of the most important aspects to consider, and it will have a massive impact on how your photo looks. The wrong colour will distract the viewer and pull their eyes out of the photo, or even simply it will just feel ‘off’ to them.

Colour is a very indepth topic, and there are plenty of excellent pages already on the topic. Here is a great example: https://medium.com/@timdessaint/how-to-dress-for-your-skin-tone-part-1-know-your-skin-complexion-76bdc8288808

If you’re wearing a suit, do not wear black. Black is exclusively for black-tie events and funerals and will look strange in a headshot!

Bring the whole outfit

Even if it is just a headshot session, I would recommend bringing the whole outfit. For a suit that would include the matching trousers and shoes.

There are 2 reasons for this:

  1. You’ll subconciously feel better if the whole outfit matches.
  2. If we decide to capture any full length shots – you’ll have the correct outfit.

A while back I had a client say “I feel like a totally different person when I put on a suit”, and this might ring true with you. Feeling confident and smart will make you look confident in the photos.

Fit is king

Whenever possible, bring your best fitting clothes. Even in a headshot, badly fitting clothes can be obvious.

The fit should be there to flatter your body type, which is a topic that entire books could be wrote about.

However, I’ve found two great articles which simplify the process for you:

For women: https://gabriellearruda.com/how-to-dress-better-female-body-shape/

For men: https://www.realmenrealstyle.com/dress-for-body-type/

If you’re still struggling and want more help, I can recommend some personal stylists who can help you out.

suit for professional headshots

Bring multiple options

I would highly recommend bringing a few outfit options – depending on the session length there might be time to change mid-shoot, allowing you to get a different look in your images. For example a more formal headshot in a suit could work great for LinkedIn, and a more casual shot in a t-shirt might be best on facebook.

If you’re unsure about whether something will work or not, bring it along anyway. I can offer advice on the day and help you to choose the perfect outfit.

Bring clothes you feel great in

Quite simply, bring clothes that you feel great in!

If you feel awkward and unsure about the clothing options, it will show on your face and posture.

Say no to sleeveless

In general, I would recommend against wearing sleeveless tops. The colour of the skin on your shoulders can draw the eye away from your face, which gives your photo less impact.

Layering – quick way to change a style

Layering can be a quick and easy way to change up an outfit without much effort.

Throw a scarf over the top and it will give it more of a winter vibe. Remove a suit jacket and take a tie off, and you have a much more casual look.

Jewellery and Accessories

Jewellery can make or break a headshot. Wearing too much jewellery can overpower a headshot and confuse the viewer. They won’t know if its an advert for a necklace, or if they’re meant to be looking at your face.

That’s the last thing we want, so keep any jewellery to a minimum.

If you follow these short tips, you’ll have no issues.

Earrings

If you are wearing earrings, keep them to smaller, plain options. Stud earrings work great for this, and I would recommend avoiding anything long and dangly.

For an easy rule of thumb – keep earrings smaller than your fingernail.

headshot jewellery

Necklaces

Necklaces follow the same rules as earrings. Keep them small and unobtrusive.

In general I would avoid against wearing any necklace – as even a small one can still be distracting in a photo.

Watches

For a headshot photo, watches will never be visible. However if we are shooting portraits where more of your body is in the photo, then they can make a nice addition.

The watch choice should complement the outfit and look appropriate. For example, wearing a sports watch with a 3-piece suit would look strange.

Glasses

If you wear glasses day to day, then please do bring them along. Similar to watches, I would try to make sure that they match the rest of your outfit.

If you have glasses with anti-reflective coatings on, that would be perfect!

I’d also recommend bring a few pairs along if possible, it will give us the option to change it up and see what works best for your headshot.

If you normally wear glasses and plan on having a few shots without glasses – I would recommend having at least 20 minutes before the shoot without wearing glasses. They can leave marks on your nose, and can take a little while to settle down.

Tips for men

General outfit choice

As I mentioned earlier, the outfit choice will depend on what is appropriate in your industry, or for where you want to use the photos. A few go-to options would be:

  • Suit (grey/charcoal/navy  NOT black).
  • Shirt and trousers.
  • T-shirt and jeans.

Accessories:

Depending on what outfit you go for, there can be a few accessories that can make it stand out that extra bit.

Ties

The right coloured tie can either elevate or break an outfit. You want it to compliment the other colours going on in your outfit. Equally, the wrong shape tie can throw an outfit off.

In general I would recommend keeping it to simple colours, and avoiding any busy patterns. I do have a comprehensive selection of ties available in my studio, so you can always borrow one if needed.

I’ve also found another excellent article that covers ties, which you can find here: https://thedarkknot.com/pages/how-to-match-ties-to-suits-shirts

Pocketsquares

Similar to ties, the right pocketsquare can really bring an outfit to the next level. There a few different ways to wear them, but luckily I can show you these at the shoot.

This is one of the few areas where you can get away with something quite loud, as they just add that extra pop to a suit. It should compliment your shirt and tie, but not match.

If you want to read more, this article is excellent: https://www.rampleyandco.com/blogs/the-journal/16989644-pocket-square-etiquette

I do have a small selection of pocketsquares available to borrow in my studio.

pocksquare headshot

Tie bars

Tie bars are one of those final finishing touches to a suit. It should be worn 1/3 of the way down your tie, and be no wider than 75% of the tie.

Often they will come in a few colours, but I would either go for silver or gold.

Again, this is something I have a few of available in the studio for you to borrow.

Tips for women

General outfit choices

There are a lot of great outfit options for a women’s headshot, and how formal you go will depend on your job role. Remember – dress as though you were going to impress in a job interview.

A few go-to options that work well:

  • Suit with shirt
  • Blazer with a blouse
  • Shirt or blouse
  • Dresses

Necklines:

There are many different cuts of necklines in womens clothing, I would recommend to stick to one of the following:

  • Jewel
  • Boat
  • Crew
  • Peter pan
  • Collar
  • V-neck
  • Keyhole

Conclusion

Now you know the rules for what to wear for headshots, you should be really prepared for your next headshot session.

These rules aren’t all set in stone, it is possible to break some of them! However through my years of working as a professional photography, I’ve found that they tend to be best followed.

If you book in for a session with me and need further advice, I’m always happy to offer it.