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What to Wear for Professional Headshots

Knowing what to wear for professional headshots can make all the difference in creating the right first impression with potential employers, clients, and others you want to win over. Your outfit will influence whether you come across as someone confident, experienced, and credible in your field or someone who, well, just isn’t.

This guide will walk you through how to dress appropriately in different scenarios and, just as importantly, what common wardrobe mistakes to avoid to ensure you present yourself favorably and convey the right image.

We’ll also touch on why professional AI headshots can help you achieve your best look while removing all the hassle, cost, and time typically involved in preparing for your headshot.

What Are You Striving To Achieve?

The first key to dressing successfully for headshots is to determine what it is you want to achieve. It’s important to be specific as your goals are likely not the same as everyone else’s and, therefore, what outfits will work best for you will also differ.

For example, an entrepreneur looking to build their online presence will almost certainly need to dress differently than a medical professional requiring headshots for their clinic website.

It’s also important to consider whether you need headshots for different purposes and whether each requires a different outfit. For instance, perhaps you need one headshot for social media, one for job applications, and one for dating!

Write down all of your goals and the different things you need your headshots for. This will help ensure you make outfit choices that align with your objectives.

10 Tips on What to Wear for Professional Headshots

Okay, now that you have a good idea of what your goals are, it’s time to dive into the do’s and don’ts of dressing for professional headshots.

1. Opt for Fitted Clothing

Fitted clothing is more flattering and has a slimming effect in headshots, whereas oversized clothing tends to do the opposite and make you look larger. Additionally, poses for photographs can get lost in loose, baggy clothing, which can also be distracting and draw attention away from your face.

You want to have that tailored look, so if you’re wearing a blazer or sweater, it should fit nicely around the shoulders and arms. Likewise, if you’re wearing a shirt and tie, ensure the neckline is the right size for you to avoid any bulging or sagging.

If you’re concerned about wearing form-fitting clothing, it’s worth remembering that headshots typically only include the head, neck, shoulders, and upper chest. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about areas that can look unflattering in tighter clothing, such as the waistline.

2. Consider Your Color Palette

In most cases, dark, neutral, or muted colors tend to work better than bright colors. Navy blue, light blue, black, white, burgundy, gray, tan, and dark green are all popular choices when it comes to headshot outfit colors.

Ideally, you want a color palette that contrasts with your skin tone and doesn’t blend in with the background, while simultaneously conveying a sense of professionalism. You should also consider what types of colors are the norm in your industry and not deviate too far from those.

Bright colors might be ok for some people, such as if they work in the creative industries or feel it matches their bold personality. However, for most people, bright colors are generally better avoided since they can be distracting and may look unprofessional. That said, a bright-colored tie or pocket square in an otherwise neutral outfit can sometimes work well.

3. Avoid Busy Patterns

Solid colors work better than busy patterns since the latter can distract from your face and dominate the shot. Tight patterns should be avoided since they can create a distracting, blurry moiré effect when viewed on screens. Tight patterns to avoid include:

  • Fine pinstripes
  • Small checks
  • Small polka dots
  • Houndstooth

If you do choose to wear a patterned item, ensure it’s not too aggressive or distracting. Remember, you are not modeling the clothes; you want to be the center of attention, not your outfit.

4. Assess Your Industry

If you’re planning to use your headshots for job applications, company websites, or networking platforms, you’ll want to ensure the way you dress is appropriate for your industry. The goal is to look like you belong in the industry, even if you’re still trying to establish yourself there.

Think about how industry leaders, or your boss or colleagues at work, dress. If they wear a suit and tie, perhaps you should too in your headshot. Here are some different industries and the attire typically considered the norm:

  • Financial Services, Law, and Corporate: These industries typically wear business suits, button-up shirts, and ties for men while women wear business suits or formal blouses, skirts, and dresses.  
  • Tech, Marketing, and Startups: These industries tend to dress smart casual or casual, wearing jeans, chinos, hoodies, t-shirts, polo shirts, button shirts, flannels, and sneakers.
  • Healthcare: People in the healthcare industry usually wear lab coats or well-fitting scrubs, perhaps with an accessory such as a stethoscope, as it conveys medical expertise to the audience.
  • Construction: Tradespeople and construction workers often wear hard hats, high-visibility vests, bib overalls, and branded t-shirts or polos.   
  • Food Service: Chefs and other workers in the food industry often wear chef’s whites, hats, aprons, and other kitchen and restaurant uniforms.

5. Ensure Clothes Are Washed and Pressed

It goes without saying that whichever outfits you decide to go with should be washed and pressed for a clean, polished look. The last thing you want is to rock up for a photo shoot only to realize your clothes are full of creases.

Even the best outfit can be ruined if it’s all wrinkled and bunched up. Plus, it will make you look unkempt and unprepared in your headshots.

6. Casual Clothing Is Now More Acceptable

Dressing casually at work is more acceptable nowadays in many industries, such as trendy startups and tech companies. Even in industries that traditionally encourage more formal dress, such as financial services or law, where they typically wear business suits, you’re seeing many drop the necktie for a modern, smart casual look.

However, it’s important to remember that casual doesn’t mean scruffy. If you’re wearing a casual or smart casual outfit, your clothing should still be clean, in good condition, and well-fitted.

7. Avoid Old, Worn-out Clothing

While we all have our favorite tee that we love to wear despite it having seen better days, it’s generally best to avoid old, worn-out clothing for headshots. That’s because worn-out clothing can look scruffy and unprofessional, making it a big no-no for job applications and networking sites like LinkedIn.

Although old, worn clothing can sometimes be fashionable in daily life, when it comes to headshots, it’s not worth the risk of creating the wrong impression. People may perceive it as a sign that you don’t care about your appearance.

8. Be Careful with Logos

You’ll want to avoid logos unless you’re associated with them since they’re distracting and irrelevant. For example, opt for an unbranded button-up shirt over one sporting the Ralph Lauren logo or a plain t-shirt over one with a slogan.

However, if branded clothes are part of your uniform, they can work well and quickly inform your audience about your profession. An example would be a construction worker with a branded high-visibility vest or a barista with a branded apron.

9. Avoid Fashion Trends

Fashion trends come and go so you don’t want to wear something that may look trendy now but will be out of fashion in a few months. Instead, opt for classic, timeless outfits that never go out of fashion.

In a business or corporate setting, this could be a navy suit jacket and white shirt for men, whereas for women it could be a dark blazer and a neutral-colored blouse or a sheath dress.

10. Don’t Overthink It

Our final important tip is not to overthink it. You want to come across as your genuine self rather than create a false image of who you are. Therefore, you should wear clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in while following the tips above to ensure your headshot outfit is well-fitting, clean, in good condition, pressed, and appropriate for the situation you plan to use it for.   

Tips for Hair and Makeup

Equally as important as what you wear is your hair and makeup, especially since headshots focus on your head and face. Here are some tips for men and women to get these things right.  

Getting Your Hair Right

The key to getting your hair right is to stick with your usual style, but make sure it looks its best.

You don’t want to be trying out a brand new haircut or style right before your shoot since there’s too much risk involved. What if you don’t like it but it’s too late to change? Plus, your headshot should be authentic and reflect how you normally look in the best light possible.

  • For men, you want to be well-groomed. That means having your facial hair shaved or neatly trimmed and your hair recently cut in your usual style. If you normally use a hair product like gel or wax, stick with it for the shoot.
  • For women, wear your hair how you normally do and avoid getting a haircut for at least one week before the shoot. This will ensure you’re familiar and confident with your hair and will know how to style it yourself.

Final tip: Remember to bring a brush, comb, and any hair products you normally use with you to the photoshoot!

Makeup Advice

Men generally don’t need to wear makeup for their headshot session, though some choose to use a small amount to even skin tone and reduce shine.

Women should keep their makeup natural, opting for a matte foundation that blends with their skin tone, a concealer to cover blemishes, neutral eyeshadow, and lipstick with a subtle shimmer.

Also, it’s generally best to keep the colors of your makeup natural rather than use bold or bright colors.

What About Glasses and Jewelry?

If you wear glasses, you’ll want to wear a pair that’s not reflective to minimize glare. Glasses with a blue light coating should also be avoided as they can also produce a glare in headshots. You may need to remove the lenses for the photoshoot if you don’t have a spare, non-reflective pair you can use.

Jewelry such as earrings and necklaces are fine to wear but they should be kept subtle and elegant so as not to distract from your face. Some people may be able to pull off larger or flashy jewelry if it matches their personality or is part of their signature look.

How to Prepare for Your Professional Headshot Photoshoot

Here are some final tips to keep in mind for the night before and the day leading up to your headshot session to ensure it goes as successfully as possible:

  • Get a restful night’s sleep to avoid eye bags and puffiness.
  • Drink enough water so you’re not dehydrated.
  • Men should be sure to use a razor with a fresh blade to avoid causing a rash. Also, shave several hours in advance of the shoot to give your skin time to recover.
  • If you use an electric shaver, you can reduce irritation by patting baby powder over the area before you begin shaving.
  • Women should avoid waxing their eyebrows or other major face treatments to avoid redness or other unwanted surprises.
  • Bring multiple outfits, but be careful they don’t get creased when transporting them.
  • Be careful not to burn your face in the sun.
  • Women should ensure their bra straps do not show through their shirts.

Understanding Outfits in AI-Generated Headshots

We’ve explained in this article why what you wear can have a big impact on the effectiveness of your headshots. However, if you decide to use an AI headshot service, things work a little differently because you don’t have to physically wear an outfit or makeup since the image is generated digitally.

Instead, you upload some images of yourself to the platform, along with a text prompt, and the AI will generate dozens of headshots for you in different outfits, poses, and backgrounds, and in your preferred style. You can use what you’ve learned from this guide to help you write a text prompt that’s more likely to deliver the headshots and outfits you need.

Here are the advantages of AI headshots over other services when it comes to getting your outfit right:

  • AI is trained on hundreds of thousands of headshot images and knows how to generate the most flattering outfits.
  • You don’t need to go out shopping for new expensive clothes.
  • You don’t need to spend time preparing and trying out different outfits.
  • You don’t need to worry about getting your hair and makeup right on the day.
  • You don’t need to worry about washing and pressing your clothes.
  • You can generate an outfit that is appropriate for your industry.
  • You aren’t limited to a few outfits. You can generate as many as you need until you find the perfect one.
  • You don’t need to worry about glare from your glasses or the moiré effect on clothing.

If you’re interested in trying AI headshots and would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out to our friendly AI researchers and staff here at Portrait Pal.

We believe in privacy first.

Any images you upload or any images that our AI generates are not saved. They are deleted immediately. We do not and will never sell your data. We do not train our AI using your uploaded or generated images.