Style Advice Q & A

What to Wear & How to Prepare for a Headshot

Hi Deborah,
I’m having some work photos done and am stressed just thinking about it. I hate to be photographed and feel very nervous about the entire process. Most of all, I don’t have a clue as to what I should wear for my headshot. HELP, I’m not feeling all that fabulous after 40 these days. Thanks, Carol H.

I am sitting here blurry-eyed and exhausted but I couldn’t feel more excited. I just got back from a brand photo shoot with Lesley Bohm Photography, where I spent 4 hours prepping and shooting to get a few new photos for this website. I’m tired because I worked so hard to ensure my outfit looked good before the shoot, and now I’m elated because I love how my photos turned out!

If you are going to get a new headshot done for business, or a special event, like a wedding or family reunion, it’s important you prepare ahead of time. I spent most of the day before the shoot strategically planning the three outfits I wanted to be photographed wearing so I would feel confident the day of the shoot.

Here are ten tips for how to prepare for a photoshoot.

1. Hire the Best Photographer You Can Afford

Do your homework and find a photographer who has a reputable business so you can view their work. Don’t use a friend who does it as a hobby.

2. Have Your Makeup and Hair Professionally Done

This is well worth the extra money. These people are pros and know how to get your makeup so you look your best without looking over-made up. See if you can pay the extra so they stay for the entire shoot. That way, they can touch you since the hot lights melt your makeup, making your hair look limp.

3. Wear Your Best Colors/Brand Colors

Your headshot needs to send a message about yourself and your business authentically and professionally. What you wear in your headshot is incredibly important. For non-business headshots, wear your best colors. If it is for your business, the color of your outfit should coordinate with your brand, meaning your website, business card colors, etc.

Solids colors are best, but patterns can work for full-body shots. Know that bold patterns signal creativity. If you are in serious business, you will want to avoid large prints. However, if you have a creative personality, you can express yourself with color and pattern.

4. Think about the Background

A white background in a studio is always professional and allows you to edit the background later if you want to change the color. Going outside and standing beside a tree says, amateur!

5. Know the Level of Formality You Want to Project

The fabrics and styles you choose will affect how people perceive you. If you are an executive coach, don’t have a picture of yourself in a cotton sundress at the beach. Wear a silk blouse and suit or a classy sheath dress and quality accessories.

6. Study Other Headshots

Print out the headshots you like and analyze them. What are the women being photographed wearing? How are they posed? What do you like about the photo, which ones do you dislike, and why?

7. Do Test Shots at home of 3-4 outfits

I did this and was surprised that after I took a few snapshots of what I thought would be the perfect outfit, it was not!  I had to go to the mall and buy a few new things.

8. Don’t go Overboard with Accessories

Your accessories should enhance, not distract. That all important test shoot if you have made the right choice. Less is more. You want the focus to be on your face.

9. Move and change positions during your shoot

Little things like leaning forward and keeping your chin down will help make your eyes look bigger. You’ll also look more friendly and more natural than sitting stick straight and stiff. Practice in the mirror gets the best angle. If you are standing, dance and move. It also helps to yawn or say “wow”  to loosen up your face and relax your muscles.

10. Retouch photos

Make sure that the photographer you hire can do “re-touching,”… which means they will slightly smooth out your photo so that it will look more professional. You want to look like yourself, but just a little better.

Have you taken a headshot lately? What tips can you share? Please comment below!  

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3 thoughts on “What to Wear & How to Prepare for a Headshot

  1. Hi Deb,
    I have specialized in makeup and wardrobe photography for approximately 15 years. Your information is right on.

    A couple more tips for headshots – Keep it simple. The focus should be on you, not your clothes and accessories. Solid 3-season fabrics, minimal accessories (unless you always wear a lot), and makeup was done to look natural, and the goal is to look like you.

  2. As a professional makeup artist, I thank you for giving us a shout-out. Too many women don’t realize just how much work, experience, and education it takes to get a beautiful shot. You look fabulous!

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