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What to Wear for Professional Headshots

By Brienne Kenlock


What is a Headshot?

Think of a headshot as an image of your best self. Headshots are a good thing to have if you are looking to join the workforce in any capacity. Whether you’re looking to work for a corporate office, writing for a print publication or applying for an contract/internship role, a headshot is definitely needed to put yourself out there to fellow professionals. 


What Are Headshots Used For?

Professional headshots are used for a lot of things that involve professional photographers taking photos that fulfill certain standards for individual clients and businesses. The main purpose of a professional headshot is to provide visual identification to a person’s name and credentials. 

Places/Situations Where a Professional Headshot is Required 

  1. Driver’s/Non-Drivers License 

  2. City Agency Employment (i.e Department of Transportation)

  3. Government Agency (i.e. Federal Agent, Census Taker)

  4. Applying for a job (profile picture on a job application site such as Linkedin or Indeed along with a list of your work experience and a short summary of yourself)

  5. Job fair (photo is printed on your resume at the top, not too big, fits with name, job title/occupation, phone number, email address. Links to portfolio and pieces if applying for positions that involve writing and content pieces.)

  6. Entertainment industry (i.e. actors’ headshot) 

  7. Attracting clients (financial, law, media)


Why Would I Need a Professional Headshot? I Could Just Send Any Picture I Have On Me.

You can’t have just any photo to display in a professional setting-people will get the impression you’re not serious and give you an unprofessional vibe. 


Remember the old saying: First impressions count. Very rarely are we given a second chance to start over. 


A professional headshot is sized differently, normally it’s sized as 8’’ x10’’ (8 inches in length and 10 inches in height). When you do a professional headshot, your face must be fully visible for the camera, indicating neatness and compactness with no distractions. 



(Photos 1 and 2: These are some pictures I have taken of myself, both have my head and shoulders shown. But neither are professional shots. Can you list some of the reasons why they do not qualify as professional headshots?)


I Made An Appointment to Have a Photographer Take Some Professional Photos. What Do I Wear? 

Good question. When you set out into getting a professional headshot, remember one thing: this is something you are preparing for to get your foot in the door in applying for potential work. So you have to present yourself saying, ‘Hi, my name is ___ and I am someone looking for work in (this area) and ready to apply my experience.’ 


Attire for Professional Headshots (Women)


  1. Wear long sleeve suit jackets if you want

  2. Long sleeve button-up shirts are good, skin is covered

  3. Wear toned down colors (black, gray, blue)

  4. Dress for the job you want (are you into broadcasting, office work?)

  5. Wear clothes fitting your body like suit pants and knee high skirts 

  6. If you wear glasses, make sure lenses are clean

  7. Apply makeup as desired, evenly applied to all areas of the face



  1. No loose fitting clothing (jeans, sweatpants, shorts are a non-no!)

  2. Messy/frizzled hair, face must be seen in full

  3. Flashy colors and patterns 

  4. No flashy, huge jewelry pieces 

  5. Avoid colors that will blend with your skin tone like peaches and beiges, your face is the only focus here

  6. No wrinkled or stained clothing 



(Photo 3: Here is an example of a professional headshot for women.)


Attire for Professional Headshots (Men)


  1. Be well-groomed for the shoot, get a clean shave or neat trim to get rid of stray hairs

  2. Wear dress shirts, preferably one with a collar (your face is the focus)

  3. If you need to wear a tie in a traditional setting, get one that is a solid color (black, blue, or red)

  4. You can wear glasses if that is what you wear daily

  5. If you’re going to wear a suit, wear darker colors like black or navy blue

  6. If you’re applying for a business casual setting, wear a dress shirt and a jacket 

  7. Wear clothing lighter or darker than your skin tone



(Creative Commons Photo 1: An example of a man’s professional headshot.)



  1. No unkempt beards or stray hairs

  2. Stained or wrinkled shirts 

  3. Dressing down (khaki shorts, jeans, cargo pants)

  4. No busy patterns on shirts or jackets 

  5. No short shirts (skin is not the focus

  6. No baggy or tight fitting clothing

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