WHAT DO I WEAR FOR MY HEADSHOTS?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a headshot is worth a thousand more. When
getting headshots done, you’re tasked with the responsibility of getting the perfect, professional
shot that leaves the right first impression and reflects your personality. If you’re an actor, you
also need to give the casting director a sense for what roles you can play, how old you can
appear, and how your demeanor reads on camera. Headshots are a stressful process, no
doubt; many things about your appearance are out of your control. However, one thing you have
plenty of control over is your outfit choice (or ideally, choices) for that prized photo. It’s hard to
know where to start, but luckily, these tried and true tips from industry professionals can be your
1. REFLECT YOUR INDUSTRY
Suppose you’re at the doctor’s office. It’s the first time at a new specialist, and you’re on
edge waiting to hear the results of that recent exam you needed. You hear a knock at the door -
and in comes some dude in a V-neck. You’d be at least a little confused, right? So, if your
headshots are meant to be a first impression, the same principles apply. Dress the way you
would for an important day at work. You can always take inspiration from your colleagues; for
example, if you’re a new professor, check your school’s website for the faculty page. Often the
professors have headshots online, and you can get a feel for what’s acceptable in your industry.
Of course, this also means you need to try not to be overdressed for your headshots. If you’re
an actor, you want to try and capture how you appear in your day to day life, so you probably
don’t need to bring out the tux.
You should always arrive to your headshot session with more than one look to choose
from. Take it from Samantha Clifford, a professional actress currently playing the role of Eleven
at the Stranger Things Experience in Atlanta. “It’s important to bring a plethora of options. You
never know how things will read on camera, or how you will feel about something the next day,”
she says. Make sure these choices are different enough that you aren’t just bringing several
shades of the same color, but keep it cohesive. Remember that you are going to be working
with a professional photographer who’s done this before, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask
what you should bring. They just might have the exact answer for you!
3. ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS
It’s hard to know what to wear when you don’t know what to look for. You should think of
key questions to ask yourself regarding certain articles of clothing as you look for them. “I
always ask myself: would I feel comfortable wearing this? Am I going to look comfortable in this?
I like to look for good basics because you’re not drawing too much attention to the articles of
clothing; rather, you’re enhancing yourself,” Samantha tells us.
4. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Bold patterns and prints are largely discouraged. While these are a great way to spruce
up your wardrobe and garner a few compliments, you want the focus here to be on you. Your
clothing choices should accentuate the traits you want to highlight with these photos. Once the
patterns start getting too crazy, that’s where our eyes are going to go. Plus, it’s hard to know
how a certain print will look on camera. Keep the experimentation to things like layers and
necklines, which can provide more dimensions to your photo. You can also play around with
different textures in clothing, such as opting for subtle stripes in a shade that is very close to the
main color of the shirt just to add something a bit more interesting.
The grey-toned stripes here are simple enough that they do not distract.
Picking the right colors for your outfit could be the most important part of the whole
ordeal. As a rule of thumb, don’t wear green. Many headshot sessions involve a greenscreen,
and the last thing you need is to become a floating head. One common route is to pick colors
that compliment your skin’s undertones. Look at the wrists on the back of your forearm; do they
appear green, blue, or somewhere in between? Green means you’ve got warm undertones so
you could stick to warm colors, and blue means cool undertones that you could accentuate with
cool colors. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Even if you’re expected to wear a dress shirt, you
don’t have to go with plain white. Wearing something like red, yellow, or whatever else you
choose can make you appear extroverted, and hint that you’re an out-of-the-box thinker.
Sticking to more neutral tones can make you look more mature, and show that you mean
business. Actors can use color to show off what roles they’re looking to go for. A black shirt can
make you look edgier, while soft pastel colors can give you that “girl next door” look. There’s no
specific answer regarding what colors to wear at a headshot session. Once you understand the
basic guidelines, don’t be afraid to trust your instinct. That being said, try to keep away from
neon colors, only because they require specific lighting choices to photograph properly.
The combination of the grey sweater over a blue shirt adds a pop of color.
6. YOU ARE YOUR HAIR
Alright, maybe it isn’t that dramatic, but your hairstyle is definitely very important. Your
hair is a great way to show us who you are without using words. Regardless of the style you
choose, you want it to look its absolute best. Be confident that you’re prepared beforehand. If
you’re prone to frizz, make sure you use whatever products you need to control it in your daily
life, or even consider wearing something to protect your hair while you sleep the night before.
Your hair needs to be clean, too. Avoid anything that could make it look oily. If you dye your hair,
now would be a good time for a touch up, if you need one. Blonde hair with dark roots (or vice
versa) can be distracting, and might make you look unkempt. Beyond that, though, feel free to
have fun. A slicked back look or a simple, straight middle part can show that you are orderly and
neat. Soft waves can tell what a free-spirit you are. Trendy styles like curtain bangs make you
look modern and fashionable. Remember that you shouldn’t force your hair to do something you
don’t want it to for the sake of appearing professional. Any texture of hair or hairstyle should be
acceptable in a welcoming and inclusive workplace; if that is a dealbreaker for whoever is
seeing these headshots, you’ve probably dodged a bullet.
7. ACCESSORIZE... A BIT
Like we learned before, prints and patterns on your clothes are often too much for a
headshot. However, jewelry and other accessories are a great alternative to show off personal
style without entering distracting territory. Most photographers probably wouldn’t recommend
wearing your boldest nose ring, but a smaller stud could add just a pop of shimmer to your face
and give you a bit of edge. You should probably leave your biggest hoops at home, but more
subtle earrings could help frame your face and make you appear more elegant. A simple
necklace paired with a low neckline can make your outfit far more interesting without drawing
too much attention away from your face. If your industry also calls for you to wear a tie in your
headshots, you can take a bit of creativity in your approach. Choosing a tie color that
compliments your shirt while still providing contrast can be a great way to show that you’re
daring and extroverted. Keep in mind the rules regarding patterns, though; the polka dots are
best left aside.
The coordinated pearl earrings and necklace add personality.
8. LOOK TIDY
Your clothes should look crisp and clean! Iron everything the night before, and make
sure there aren’t any stains. While this may seem self explanatory, it’s extremely important to be
positive that your clothes look neat, or else the camera will pick up every last wrinkle and make
you seem lazy.
9. SELL IT!
At the end of the day, any outfit is what you make of it. Regardless of your choice, be
confident in the way you look - it’ll reflect on camera. Headshots should be a reflection of you
and your best self, and that goes far deeper than just the clothing you chose for the occasion.
In all, a headshot session can be an exciting step forward in a professional career. For
this reason, it’s not uncommon to be stressed about how to prepare for the big day. Following
this advice is a great way for a newcomer to ease their nerves about the process, and make
sure you feel good about the photos you get back.