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What to Wear for Professional Headshots

The saying “clothes make the man” holds true. Research suggests that our attire reveals our identity and influences how others perceive us, both professionally and personally. How we dress reflects our influence, intelligence, and financial status, shaping the trust and reliability we inspire in hiring managers, coworkers, and clients. We can showcase these things with professional headshots.

A crucial aspect of establishing a professional identity within your network is your wardrobe choice in headshots. Since most people encounter your professional headshot before meeting you in person, it plays a vital role in creating a lasting first impression.

If you’re contemplating updating your headshots, you may wonder about the appropriate attire for a professional headshot. When getting ready for your headshot session, take into account these valuable suggestions for your outfit selection. These tips and tricks will guarantee outstanding results, capturing your best self.

Furthermore, if you want to update your professional headshot without visiting a studio, our article on capturing a professional headshot at home is worth exploring. With just a smartphone, we can assist you in obtaining an impressive headshot.

Style Tips for Professional Headshots

Professional headshots

Dress Like Your Boss

Appropriate workplace attire varies significantly across industries. Professionals in fields like law and medicine often adhere to formal and conservative dressing norms, while those in technical or creative roles may seem out of place in suits and ties.

When unsure, observe your boss or respected industry leaders. Their attire typically sets the standard for what’s suitable, allowing you to project confidence without seeming overly deliberate.

Avoid Overly-Casual Clothing

Even in industries with a casual dress code, opting for more formal attire for your headshots can enhance your confidence and authority. Research suggests that simply wearing formal clothing can promote a sense of power and control, affecting your posture and presence in photos. Your emotions and comfort behind the camera translate into how you appear in your headshots, so it’s advisable to choose formal clothing options that make you feel genuinely confident. Consider classic options such as suits, ties, and formal blouses to give yourself an added boost.

Feature Multiple Outfits

When interacting throughout the workday, it’s essential to reflect on the people you encounter and the appropriate attire for each setting. Do you tend to wear the same outfits regardless of who you’re engaging with? Or do you adapt your clothing choices to accommodate your audience?

For those who frequently engage with diverse individuals during their day, such as entrepreneurs, consultants, and salespeople, it’s crucial to have headshots that align with each specific audience. Rather than attempting to fit all possible professional scenarios into a single outfit for your headshots, opt for multiple photos capturing various attires. This approach ensures that you’re consistently dressed appropriately in your professional portraits.

Opt for Suit-Inspired Silhouettes

Clothing traditionally associated with masculinity, such as trousers, blazers, and dark-colored suit jackets, can significantly influence how intelligence and ability are perceived in managerial and leadership roles. A study exploring the connection between clothing style and hiring recommendations found that wearing blazers and trousers conveyed a more robust and more influential image than other clothing types. Similarly, suits and darker-colored trousers were more likely to receive favorable recommendations for leadership and management positions. 

Avoid Older, Worn-Out Clothing

We all have that one favorite piece of clothing we love repeatedly wearing. However, even the finest blouses and shirts eventually show signs of wear and tear. This is particularly noticeable in brightly-colored garments or knitted fabrics, which may fade or develop pills after each wash. To maintain a polished and put-together appearance, consider investing in newer clothing or choose items labeled as “dry clean only” to avoid these unmistakable signs of wear.

Stick with Simple Jewelry

It’s essential to enhance your natural features for professional headshots without drawing too much attention away from them. That’s why it’s best to opt for simple jewelry, especially if the headshot will focus closely on your face (which is usually the case). 

When it comes to jewelry, think of it as the “finishing touch” to your overall look. If you wear a necklace, ensure the pendant is visible above the photo’s crop. Stick to elegant metallic or gemstone studs for earrings, and be cautious when opting for dangling earrings. Hoop earrings and anything dangling are more likely to get caught in your hair and may not come through in the photo.

Ditch the Undershirt and “Floppy Collar”

Regarding professional headshots, the area beneath your face holds significant importance. These tightly-cropped photos are commonly used for LinkedIn profiles and other professional platforms. So, before anything else, consider your undershirt and collar.

Unless you’re aiming for a casual appearance with an unbuttoned Oxford shirt, it’s advisable to avoid wearing an undershirt in your headshot. While some men wear undershirts to prevent sweat build-up throughout the day, a white, black, or grey undershirt can distract from a formal professional headshot. Why invite people to contemplate your perspiration?

Additionally, pay attention to the stiffness of your collar, especially if you’re not wearing a tie. A “floppy collar” can lend a sense of sloppiness to your headshot, even if the rest of your attire is impeccably chosen.

What Colors To Wear for Professional Headshots 

Professional headshots

Consider Color Theory

Color theory encompasses the scientific understanding of how specific colors can impact our moods, thoughts, and behaviors. Furthermore, it delves into how certain wardrobe hues can shape others’ perceptions of us. For example, red exudes confidence and vitality, while navy blue and black evoke a sense of dominance and authority. When considering professional headshots, contemplate the message you wish to convey and choose your colors accordingly.

  • Dark colors are often associated with formality, dominance, and authority, making them a powerful choice in various contexts.
  • Light colors enhance the wearer’s friendliness and approachability, creating a welcoming and inviting impression.
  • Bright colors exude confidence and vitality.
  • Muted colors exude a sense of restraint and evoke a less imposing presence.
  • Combining high-contrast elements, such as a dark jacket and light shirt, can create a compelling visual that exudes influence and authority.

Stick with Solid Colors

No matter your portrait style and setting, opting for simple colors and subtle patterns usually yields the most flattering results for everyone. Avoid bold or busy patterns, as they can divert attention from your face and potentially create moire, an unwelcome visual effect caused by repeating patterns.

Contrast with Your Backdrop

When selecting colors for your professional headshots, it is essential to consider your portrait’s backdrop. Unless you are opting for a company-branded headshot, it is advisable to choose wardrobe colors that create a contrast with the background, allowing you to stand out. This becomes even more crucial if you plan on having black and white headshots, as wearing a dark top against a dark background may give the appearance of a floating head.

Contrast with Your Skin Tone

For optimal professional portraits, it’s generally recommended to have contrasting skin tones, clothing, and backdrop. To avoid the illusion of being naked from a distance, it is important to choose colors noticeably darker or lighter than your skin tone when selecting an outfit. This will enhance your appearance and make a stylish statement. Additionally, consider creating a captivating monochromatic headshot. Ensure that you convey your preferences to your photographer ahead of time so that they can guide the optimal choices available to you.

Avoid Wearing Outfits that are Commonly Associated With Other Professions.

Regarding headshots, there are a couple of common mistakes to avoid. Firstly, avoid dressing in a way that resembles a doctor’s. Wearing a white blazer can be misleading, as it may give the impression of a medical coat in the final headshot, especially if you’re using a studio backdrop.

Secondly, be cautious not to dress like a waiter. Avoid combining a white button-down shirt, black tie, and black suit. This ensemble can give off a waiter-like appearance.

To ensure your headshot captures your unique personality and professionalism, choose your attire wisely, considering these suggestions.

How Clothing Should Fit For Professional Headshots

Wear a Higher Neckline

When selecting a headshot for a corporate website, it’s essential to consider that headshots are typically closely cropped around your head and face. As a result, even if you choose work-appropriate tops with lower necklines, they may unintentionally appear more provocative. 

For men opting for button-up shirts, ensure the buttons won’t be visible below the cropped area of the photo. Conversely, women should be aware that clothing perceived as provocative or revealing may lead to a perception of decreased competence. Therefore, women should choose blouses and tops with higher necklines.

Opt for Tailored Clothing (Use tailored fits)

Choose well-fitting attire with a clean and polished look for formal or business-casual photos. If you wear a blazer or suit jacket, ensure it fits snugly around the shoulders and arms, even if it means it’s slightly tight. No worries about the waistline, as most headshots are taken with jackets and blazers unbuttoned to avoid creases along the ribs, which tend to show at the photo’s bottom border.

The same principle applies to collared shirts and blouses. If you want a buttoned-up look, ensure the collar fits snugly around your neck. Ill-fitting collars with gaps draw attention away from your features.

Are you looking for studios to take your professional headshot? Trust Zen Studios LA and have the best professional headshot. Contact us today!


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