Professional portrait photography of a group of academics at the University of Cambridge.

What to Wear to a Headshot Photoshoot: Tips for a Professional Look

As a professional photographer, I know great headshots can make a lasting impression.  Whether for your LinkedIn profile, business website, conference appearances, or a press story, an authentic look is crucial in creating a polished and professional headshot. In this blog post, I delve into the do’s and don’ts of dressing for a headshot photoshoot.

1. Know Your Audience and Purpose

Consider the context of your headshots. Are you a corporate executive, an artist, or a fitness trainer?  Tailor your outfit options to match your profession, the expectations of your clients and the intended use of the final images. But avoid being overly stereotypical!  Dress as formally as you do in real life.  If you meet your clients in jeans and an open collar shirt, don’t be suited and booted for your headshots.

2. Colors and Neutrals

Choose colors wisely. Stick to neutral tones like black, gray, navy, or white. These colors convey professionalism and won’t distract from your face. Avoid neon hues or busy patterns—they can steal the spotlight and detract from your features.

Men: A charcoal gray suit with various light coloured shirt options.  Blue/grey/black blazers paired with khaki trousers and a t-shirt works well for a more informal look.

Women: A tailored black dress, a cream-colored blouse with a blazer, or a simple white shirt can create a clean and elegant look.

3. Fit Matters

Ill-fitting clothes can ruin an otherwise perfect headshot. Ensure that your outfit fits well:

Jackets and Blazers: They should hug your shoulders without pulling or bunching up. Sleeves should end at your wrist bone.

Shirts and Blouses: Avoid anything too tight or too loose. A well-fitted shirt enhances your silhouette.

4. Avoid Busy Patterns and Logos

Large logos, intricate patterns, or bold prints can distract from your face. Stick to solid colors or subtle textures. Remember, the focus should be on you, not your clothing.

5. Grooming

  • Hair: Get a fresh haircut a few days before the shoot. Neatly styled hair looks professional.
  • Makeup: Keep it natural. Conceal minor blemishes, but avoid heavy makeup.
  • Jewelry: Less is more. A simple necklace or stud earrings are fine, but skip chunky accessories.  Watches can add depth to professional images.

6. Bring options

A headshot shoot with me lasts up to 45 minutes.  We’ll shoot a range of looks, outfits and backgrounds.  Bring outfit options in a few colour schemes.  Bring outfits that can be dressed up and dressed down.  Shirt, tie and jacket combinations, jeans and a t-shirt for men, formal and informal dresses, trouser suits and favourite everyday outfits for women.

7. Shooting for variety

I’ll also shoot a variety of expressions and levels of formality.  It’s always best to have options to cover various industry use cases. Your line of work and personality might suit certain photography moods better than others too. For example:

  • Being Informal: Open collar shirts or t-shirt and blazer combinations work well for friendly business websites, no matter your industry.
  • Being mean and moody:  Serious expressions convey confidence and knowledge.  If being an authority in your chosen area of business impresses your clients, moody faces are the way to go.  Lawyers, accountants and surgeons come to mind.
  • Fun and smiley: Big smiles convey approachability and friendliness.  If you are very customer focussed, or see your clients face to face as part of your business activities, coming across as approachable is the way to go.  Creatives, marketing directors and HR managers come to mind.
  • Being professional:  Typically, something halfway between too serious and too smiley is the way to go for most professional headshots.  You want to come across as an approachable professional, not arrogant and know it all, but also not silly and unreliable.

8. Footwear

Although your shoes won’t be prominently featured, wear something comfortable and appropriate. Elegant heels are safe choices for women, but only if they are comfortable.  If your feet hurt, your face will show it!

9. Practice Posing in Your Outfit

Try on your chosen outfit and practice different poses in front of a mirror. Ensure that it doesn’t bunch up or wrinkle awkwardly.

10. Confidence Is Key

Lastly, wear your outfits with confidence. When you feel good, it shows in your expression and body language.  This is mostly my job as a photographer and certainly nothing to stress over, but it’s worth coming with the right attitude (especially if it’s your boss who has booked the session on your behalf)!

Your headshots represent you professionally and I hope these tips will help you step in front of the camera for headshots that exude confidence and competence.