wardrobe tips for headshots

5 Wardrobe Tips for Your Professional Headshots

Last week makeup artist and educator Natalie Setareh guest blogged with her 5 Tips for Hair & Makeup during your professional headshots. Her first statement was, “Hair and makeup are more important than wardrobe,” and believe it or not, I agree with her!

I would even take it a step further. The first and most important decisions to make when preparing for your photoshoot have nothing to do with how you look, period.

Before you plan out your physical appearance for the shoot, ask yourself:

  1. What are you going to do with the photos?
    Hint: “post them on my website and social media” is not specific enough.
  2. Who do you want to reach?
    Hint: “my future employer/client/partner” is not specific enough. The more you know about your audience and what makes them tick, the better your chances of influencing them.
  3. How do you want your audience to react?
    Do you want them to hire you? Buy something from you? Ask you out on a date? Think you’re smart? Trust you? Envy you?

Once you’ve determined #1-3, you’re ready to think about what you’re going to wear.


Color is important, but contrast is queen. Contrast is the degree of difference between the lightest and darkest parts of a picture (Merriam-Webster). You create contrast against your background; your clothing creates contrast against your skin; and makeup adds contrast between your facial features. Without contrast, you look like a blob.

To test if your clothing and accessories provide enough contrast for your personal coloring (skin, hair and eyes are the top 3), snap a picture of yourself beforehand and add a black and white filter. What parts of you spring out? Are those the parts you want to emphasize?

Wear colors that are flattering to your skin tone. Having your colors professionally analyzed is an excellent investment (and something that’s included in all of my services). When you wear flattering colors, you glow. When you wear colors that don’t suit you, you look flat, or downright ill. NB: there are lots of color theories out there. I’m more of a practical gal and believe what my eyes tell me.

At the very least, determine if you have more cool (silver) or warm (gold) undertones to your skin and dress accordingly. How do you do that? Compare what effect the two have on your skin when you hold them separately under your chin. With the right colors, your skin will look calm. With the wrong colors, your skin will look uneven and unnaturally yellow, red, orange, or green.


I’m not implying you need to have photos made in a classic style, if that’s not your style. But I know very few people who love having their photos taken. If you don’t like being photographed, you’re going to do it as seldom as possible.

Therefore you want the photos you DO have taken to last as long as possible. Stay away from wearing clothing that’s too trendy, since it might look dated before you’re ready to (mentally or financially) invest in new photos. Printed clothing looks dated much faster than solid colors. If in doubt, leave the print out.

For headshots the focus will be on collars, jewelry and patterns (prints). Keep the scale of the different elements near your face in proportion to your facial features. If you have small, delicate facial features, wearing a trendy pilgrim collar will overwhelm your face, not to mention look out of date in six months (max).

Of course hairstyle, hair color, and facial hair will stand out even more than your clothing and jewelry, so resist the urge to try out those new asymmetrical bangs, handlebar mustache or ombre dye job you’ve been contemplating.


Personal branding has been a buzzword for years now (which is why I get a nervous twitch if I have to say or write it). Everyone has a personal brand, whether they know it (or want it) or not. We all judge each other based on what we see, hear, and all of the other senses.

Sight is the sense we use to judge photos — do we like what we see? Does your headshot make me want to get to know you better?

Let’s take a small business owner as an example. When they are dressed head-to-toe to match their logo, it gives me the impression they spend more time on their marketing than they do on their business. It feels forced and a little bit fake. I want to do business with someone who is genuine, easy to talk to, someone I can relate to.

Take it easy with the branding in your headshot. You don’t have to match your logo. Just make sure you don’t clash with it!


In your headshot, I want to see your head and be able to read your expression. That’s how I judge whether I have a connection with you. The background can give me a clue about your profession, skills, talents or hobbies, but a headshot is not the place to pull out all the stops with your visual creativity and distract me from your face. As for what you’re wearing, only the top counts, since a proper close-up will crop out the rest.

Even if you’re not selling a product or service, you’re selling yourself. I see a LOT of entrepreneurs, especially coaches with websites full of pictures of lattes with hearts on top; hands ticking away on laptops; and the ubiquitous shot of a beautiful journal and pen (usually next to the laptop and latte). I want to see YOU doing something that makes me feel connected to you, or at least something that makes you UNIQUE.

Your photos need to tell me about YOU. Why should I choose you over someone else? And how are you going to communicate that visually? Answering those questions will equal time better spent than ordering a new journal to take a picture of.


I discourage clients from buying a new wardrobe for a photo shoot, first of all, because I would rather see them spend the money on a great photographer (who should not be cheap!!), makeup artist and wardrobe stylist than on new clothes.

Yes, it’s possible to buy clothes for the shoot then return them afterwards, but unless you’re appearing in Vogue, this is not what the designer intended. Please support local designers and actually buy (and keep) their products. Also, why are you not investing in clothing that truly represents you and where you want to go? If you’re comfortable in your clothing and style, why would you only wear said outfit in a photo? You should wear it in real life too!

Some other options are to borrow clothes from others, but again, what is hanging in your closet? Why is it not appropriate for the shoot?

Renting is the new buying, and I fully support the idea of owning a basic wardrobe and renting the rest. But there’s another, very practical reason that I recommend renting at least some of the items you wear in your shoot.

The jacket I wore in my last proper photo shoot has been hanging in my closet collecting dust ever since. I don’t want to show up at an event wearing the same jacket that I’m wearing in my photo!

To start preparing for your shoot, please consider questions 1-3 above. If you have a question about your wardrobe, you can ask me! Click here to book a short video call.