The clothing you wear for your professional headshots can easily elevate or detract from your portrait. So, what to wear? “Should I wear my zebra-striped blazer, or should I wear my neon golf shirt with a popped collar?” Uh…….so glad you ran that one by me first! I get clothing questions all the time when booking sessions, so I wanted to create an extended blog post to really get into the details for professional headshots. I also wanted to give you some reasons from a photographer’s perspective why these choices make a difference.
In Portland, where I’m located, the whole idea of professional attire and fashion is a bit more casual than in many other parts of the country. I’m not going to assume you wear a suit to your job. I know I don’t. The following are some general guidelines that apply whether your style is formal or Portland-casual. So donate that zebra blazer to Goodwill and read on!
Wear Medium to Dark Colors
I’m sure you may have heard this tip before. But why is this true? It’s a general rule that the eyes are attracted to whatever is brightest in a photo. If you’re wearing a neon-colored golf shirt, the viewer will HAVE to look at this shirt. They don’t want to; they have to! This is no good. You want the viewer to look at your face in a professional headshot. Wear a medium to dark color, and the viewer will more easily connect with your eyes.
Take a look below at a professional headshot I recently did:
The subject is wearing a jacket that is a darker tone. This is a great clothing choice, if you ask me. Her face is the brightest (not counting the background), and there is nothing getting in the way of making “eye contact.”
Stick with Solids or Minimal Patterns
Busy patterns also demand attention just like bright colors do. Try this experiment: take a couple shirts out of your closet and put them on your bed. Aim for one solid colored shirt and one plaid shirt (I know you have a plaid shirt, people of Portland). Look away for a few seconds, then look back at the shirts. Which shirt do your eyes go to? Most likely, your eyes will go to the plaid shirt. (See below)
And for further proof, check out the same two shirts in black & white:
For professional headshots, you typically want your clothing to be the drums and bass, not the lead singer. Stick with solid colors or minimal patterns like pinstripes, and the focus will be all about you.
Wear Long Sleeves
Long sleeves are usually the most flattering for professional headshots. Normally, you will be photographed at a slight angle to the camera. Therefore, your arm closest to camera will appear wider. Long sleeves will help minimize attention to your arm. It also goes back to the idea that whatever is brightest in the photo attracts the eyes. Because the skin tone of your arm is similar to the skin tone of your face, the eyes will gravitate towards this. Unless you live at 24 Hour Fitness, I recommend wearing something with long sleeves.
Wrinkles in Clothing
Try your best to keep your clothing as wrinkle-free as possible before you arrive to your headshot session. I recommend transporting your shirts and jackets hung up and bringing them to the session that way. Avoid packing your clothes in a bag or backpack if possible. Wrinkles can possibly be retouched out of a photo, but they can easily be avoided if you iron and hang your clothes before arriving.
Simple jewelry is usually better when it comes to professional headshots. If the viewer is thinking…..“What kind of earrings is she wearing?” it’s probably too busy. But take this guidance with a grain of salt. Jewelry shows off your personality. Just remember that the eyes want to look at whatever is brightest in the photo, and jewelry sparkles.
Take a look at the photo below, from simple earrings to statement earrings. They’re all cool, but some may be attracting a little too much attention for a professional headshot. Which pairs of earrings are your eyes most attracted to?
With all this in mind, feel free to bring a few different jewelry options to the session, in case there’s any doubt.
How Many Looks to Bring to the Session
Some headshot photographers will charge you based on how many “looks” you want to achieve during a session. This isn’t the way I do pricing. I’ve had professional headshot sessions where the client wore a single button-down shirt the whole time, and I’ve had sessions where the client changed three times. It’s really up to you. However, the more time it takes to change, the less time I have to photograph you. I recommend 2 or maybe 3 different looks during an individual headshot session for a nice balance. By the way, an average session with me lasts about an hour.
I hope this post helps you decide what to wear for your professional headshots. Sometimes you have to know what not to wear in order to make the right choices. For professional headshots, unlike other types of portraiture, you typically want your clothing to be the backup and not the main attraction. But there are no rules with any of this, just guidelines. When in doubt, bring a couple extra options and we can decide during the session.