Styling and Outfit Tips for Your Headshot Session

A professional headshot session differs quite a bit from an outdoor portrait session. Headshots are traditionally done using studio lighting against a backdrop, and thus, the details will be more noticeable.

  • A headshot session is typically a formal affair; meaning, you will want to elevate your style from your everyday or casual look. Consider where and how this portrait will potentially be used.
  • Ask the photographer about the color and style of backdrop that will be used. Many photographers will provide a neutral-colored backdrop, such as gray, tan, or black. Choose a top in a color that will stand out from the backdrop.
  • Choose a top that has long sleeves, ¾ length sleeves, or is sleeveless. Short sleeves do not work well for headshots, as often just a small part of your arms will be awkwardly visible. If you are concerned with the size of your arms, it is safer to wear long sleeves. Layers such as cardigans, blazers, or jackets are great to cover up the arms if your top doesn’t already have the type of sleeves that will work well for a headshot.
  • Wear a top that is tailored or form-fitting. Loose or draping tops look good when your entire body is visible, but tend to look sloppy in a headshot. Of course, don’t wear something that is too tight that it creates unsightly bulges.
  • Avoid wearing anything with graphics, patterns, or logos, as these can be quite distracting in a portrait. Plain and simple, with a little bit of texture, is recommended instead.
  • Avoid wearing very bright colors as they will look overpowering and can cause unwanted color casts on your skin.
  • Make sure that clothing will not reveal undergarment straps and that it is not sheer or transparent.
  • Clothing should be free of wrinkles, pet hair, pilling, hanger bumps, stains, loose threads, or holes. Due to the lighting and sharp focus, these problems will be very noticeable in a headshot and cannot be edited out. If you need to drive to the headshot location, it may be best to hang your clothing item in your vehicle on the way and then change into it for the session so that it doesn’t get wrinkled from wearing. Bring a lint roller if you have pets at home, just in case.
  • Coordinate your jewelry and makeup colors to your clothing. Small details and differences in color tones will be noticeable.
  • Arrive with freshly cleaned and styled hair. Studio lighting will accentuate the look of unclean or unkempt hair. If hair is colored and roots are in need of a touch-up, this should be done a few days prior to the session to avoid any noticeable outgrowth. A trim is also recommended if you have split ends.
  • For women, wearing makeup such as foundation, eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss/lipstick is recommended. Light coverage is best; there is no need to apply makeup heavily to cover wrinkles or blemishes. Heavy makeup will create an unnatural texture. (Wrinkles can be lightly softened and blemishes can be retouched in editing.) Foundation or loose powder is important because it will help reduce shine. Avoid using highlighting makeup because it can cause a shimmer effect under studio lighting. Be extra attentive to how you apply your makeup so that it isn’t smudged or flaking.
  • For men, facial hair should be neatly trimmed or groomed.
  • Avoid sunburns or tan lines so that your skin looks even and natural. Spray tans and self-tanner are not recommended due to the unnaturally orange undertones and blotching.
  • Be sure to get enough rest and drink plenty of fluids before your session so that you don’t look tired, have puffy eyes, or have dull skin.
  • Practice smiling naturally in front of a mirror. Most people feel uncomfortable when having photos taken and tend to give unnatural smiles at first. The best smiles are captured when you aren’t thinking, and when you are laughing or imagining something that makes you happy.


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Roxanne is a professional photographer in Fond du Lac, WI providing headshot photography and branding photography, as well as senior portraits, family portraits, and couples portraits.

See more branding and headshot images HERE.


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