What to Wear for Your Professional Headshot

April 10, 2020 Leave a Comment

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After booking a session, the most frequently asked question I get is “what do I wear?”

While there isn’t one right answer for everyone, here are some universal tips in todays top trends to help you choose what to wear for your professional headshot…



Let’s talk about Color!

Solid colors

I highly suggest solid colors as opposed to patterns for headshots and portraits. Patterned shirts tend to be distracting and the focus needs to be on you. If you have a favorite patterned shirt that you feel especially comfortable with, you could pair it with a solid cardigan or jacket to tone it down and feel confidant at the same time.

Jewel Tones

Jewel tones and rich colors photograph very well and compliment all complexions. Look at the colors that will compliment your eyes. Pick a shirt color that contrasts against your skin color, instead of one that blends into your skin. This is the secret to making your headshots POP!
If you think you need help then feel free to bring a variety of options to your appointment and I would be happy to go over your wardrobe with you and pick an outfit that’s complimentary to your complexion and emphasizes your “style”.

Black and White

Black or White wardrobe choices are usually used for very distinct personal brands because they are such high contrast colors. It’s hard to pull details out of blacks in a photograph so I suggest using it as an undershirt or picking a shirt that has some texture to help bring out the definition. But, if it is your signature look then we will definitely rock that look!

Slimming Down

While not everyone worries about the slimming effects of clothing, for those of us that do, here are some good tips to keep in mind when choosing your colors.
– Dark colored clothing diminishes the appearance of whatever it’s covering, making it seem smaller. Light-colored clothing draws the eye, making the area it’s covering appear more prominent and gives the illusion of a larger frame.
– Solid colors and single colors are slimming. Generally, dressing head to toe in a single color will give you a trimmer look. People will view you as a straight vertical line that doesn’t emphasize any particular areas. Bold patterns will expose shape.
– Vertical lines draw the eye up and down, rather than side to side, giving you a taller and narrower look. As a rule, the closer the vertical lines are, the slimmer the look. Vertical lines are slimming; horizontal lines are not.

Color Psychology

Colors have an influential psychological effect on how people perceive us, as well as impacting our moods. Green and blue hues (cool colors) can help to achieve a sense of calm. Reds, oranges, and yellows (warm colors) can boost your mood. Each of these colors takes on a different meaning when separated into different shades. Light pastels are more calm and tranquil than bold energetic colors, and deep jewel tones lean towards regal and mature. You can use this when thinking about your personal and professional brand and what your headshot says about you. If you would like to look more into the psychology behind color and a full list of color descriptions, check out my post on Color Psychology in your Wardrobe.


Key Points to Remember

– Stay away from strong patterns and logos
– Choose a color that compliments your skin tone and eyes
– Darker colors are slimming, light colors are not as much



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Choosing the right Neckline, Style & Fit


Because headshots are cropped so tight, of course the neckline is a key element in your picture. Unfortunately, they usually aren’t considered until it’s time for your session. Knowing how much of your outfit will be shown in the shot will obviously influence your final outfit choice. Keep in mind that these guidelines for Headshots are more strict because of the cropping, whereas Portraits tend to show more body and you have more neckline options.

For WOMEN I suggest jewel, boat or narrow v-necks. These three necklines are always flattering and will always lay nicely. Most importantly you will be able to still see the neckline once the image is cropped. Avoid low scoops and plunging v-necks.

For MEN I suggest a well fitted button down shirt either by itself or paired with a form fitting jacket. Stay away from button down collars because they tend to pull the fabric of the shirt and don’t photograph as well because of that pull. For a more casual look either a crew neck or a v-neck that isn’t stretched out and fits well can work just fine.

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Style & Fit

There are three main styles of wardrobe in headshot photography: Casual, Business Casual and Executive. Regardless of which style you are going for, your clothing should always be well fitted. It’s better to lean towards too tight than too loose. Baggy clothes will make you look bulkier when zoomed in for a headshot. When choosing your outfit, ask yourself, “what do I want my image to say about me and how does this wardrobe reflect that message?”

With that being said, let’s discuss styles…


MENS casual consists of a button down shirt, open neck without a jacket or your t-shirt options of crew and v-necks. Avoid dingy whites and shirts with tired collars that don’t stand at attention. Polo style shirts have limp collars and are not ideal. A casual headshot should still look polished and professional.

WOMENS casual generally has more options because there are more options available in women’s fashion. Choose a simple top with a scoop, v or crew neckline. A turtleneck can be a good choice, especially if you your jawline isn’t as defined as you would like it to be. Sleeveless tops are also fine if you are comfortable wearing them, just keep in mind that they can draw attention to your shoulders and arms. If you are thinking of paring a cardigan over a shirt, the main concern is if it compliments your shoulders. Some are flattering and some round your shoulders so much that they make you look larger than you are.

Business Casual

The WOMENS business casual style is often identified with a collared shirt or jacket with a shell underneath for a headshot. This is a very polished and professional look. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to wear a jacket to look professional. Jackets on some women can make your shoulders look bulky so make sure it fits well and compliments your frame. Blouses that are solid and form fitting, with the right neckline, can look very striking and professionally strong. Remember, we are going for a clean professional look.

MENS business casual consists of a jacket and open-collar dress shirt, a jacket with a well fitted t-shirt or turtle neck, or dress shirt on its own. If your jacket has a pattern, choose a solid shirt so that they don’t clash. I suggest keeping the patterns non-distracting and very subtle. Don’t wear an under shirt under your dress shirt for your session. Most often they can be seen under your dress shirt and it takes away from your professional presence. Clothes should be neatly pressed and should look new or like new so bring them in on a hanger. Shirts with button down collars don’t photograph well when paired with a jacket. My favorite style right now is a good fitting t-shirt under a sports coat.

Key Points to Remember

– Your wardrobe choice is used to accentuate your personal brand
– Make sure your clothing is well fitted
– Bring your clothing in on hangers to keep them wrinkle free
– No button down or limp collars
– What you wear matters!



Let’s talk about Accessories!

Less is more. Keep jewelry to a minimum, unless it’s a part of your signature look!

Women’s Jewelry and Accessories

If you have jewelry that has special meaning for you and you wear it every day, by all means bring it along. Just keep in mind that in the end, we want all of the focus on your face not your clothes and jewelry.

Big jewelry draws attention away from you and can become distracting. If your signature brand is big jewelry, however, bring a few pieces along and we can take a look at them together to pick a piece that compliments your style yet doesn’t distract.

Stud earrings are best with simple pearls, diamonds or other gemstones to match your outfit.
Hoops and dangling earrings head into distracting territory.

Scarves are a beautiful way to compliment an outfit but in a tight headshot, they are oppressive. I like to open up your neckline when posing and adding in a scarf closes you off to your audience.

Men’s Accessories

The concern with a chain necklace worn under a shirt is that most of the time it will peak through when changing position, it looks distracting, unintentional and less professional.

Although a watch won’t show up in a headshot, they are a great addition when photographing ¾ or full body portraits. Keep the piece timeless with a style that compliments your brand.


If you normally wear glasses, plan to wear them for your picture. I say that if you wear glasses when meeting clients and employees then you should be wearing them in your headshot. It’s ideal if they have a non-glare coating, but if they don’t, consider borrowing a pair of glassless frames for your session; otherwise, we can remove the glass glare in post-production.



To learn more about headshot pricing and scheduling a session, check out this page.

Headshot of Lisa Christianson

About Castle Rock Headshots

I'm a professional Headshot and Portrait Photographer located in Castle Rock, CO. My headshot style is clean, modern and minimal. I urge professionals to showcase their branding with a professional headshot where the focus is on expression and image. With a background in graphic design, branding and marketing, I bring all these elements together to provide my clients a stellar headshot that supports their brand identity.

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