You can think of a headshot as a visual story and your wardrobe is a vital part of that narrative. You need to have thought and planned these aspects of the shoot well before you step in front of the camera to have the best chance of creating the kinds of images you are looking for. In this post I’m going to take you through the dos and don’ts of wardrobe selection so that you can crush your next photo session.
1 - Know your Why
To begin with, you need to have a clear idea of how you intend to use your headshots and who your target audience is going to be. Actors, for example, often come along with a definite idea about what kind of roles they’re hoping to win. They have an age range that they want to target and character types they want to communicate so they choose a look that helps to convey that message. This doesn’t mean they dress up as a doctor or a Bond villain (!) But they will make choices that hint at a particular kind of casting.
And even if you’re not a performer, your headshot is still going to be portraying a particular version of yourself. Whether you’re looking to update your social media profile, your website’s ‘About’ page or your CV, it’s worth spending a little time to jot down the impression you want to make and then use those keywords and qualities to help determine your style choices. A sharp suit and Windsor knot says something very different from three-day stubble, an open grey neck T-shirt and a leather jacket. Both can look great and both may be faithful to who and what you are, but only you know which will serve you best.
Don’t worry if I just opened a can of ‘wardrobe worms’ for you; most clients bring along several changes precisely because they may want to achieve more than one kind of look and that’s a good thing. The point is, each of those styles is a choice. It’s not a good idea to just turn up on the day with one outfit that happens to be what was on the top of your laundry pile that morning! So let’s take a look at some of the options you could consider.
2 - Mind the Crop
It’s important to think about the way that head shots are typically cropped and scaled. Usually the image is going to include only your head, neck and the upper part of your shoulders. It’s also likely these days that it will be viewed online using mobile devices and so your wardrobe and styling needs to work on a relatively small scale as well as on a PC or Mac.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to avoid off-the-shoulder items or narrow spaghetti tops which can end up making it look like you’re naked which is rarely a good idea! Also avoid clothes with fine detailing, busy patterns or ornamentation which can be lost when the images viewed on a smaller scale.
3 - A Rainbow of Possibilities
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to go with single, solid coloured tops. Neutral tones such as charcoal grey, black, earthy blues, greens and browns can work well. Dark tones tend to bring the focus to your face and can lend drama to the image, while lighter tones create a fresh and youthful appearance. This doesn’t mean that bold, vibrant colours are ‘out’, but you don’t want to have to compete with your clothing for attention. Your wardrobe should complement your hair colour, eyes and skin tone but not steal top billing from your face!
4 - Stick your Neck Out
Bring along a few different neckline choices so we can see which work best for you. Some cuts like the v-neck can bring emphasis to the shape of your jaw while round necks often soften facial features. Items that show the collarbone and neckline can be flattering, particularly if you are athletically built.
5 - Once More With Feeling
Also consider bringing along a range of different textured items, which can really enhance a headshot. Denim and leather, lace, T-shirts with a distinct grain, rough cotton, ribbed wool and other textures can work really nicely.
6 - Pick & Mix
Then you can think about layering, too. While a single item brings simplicity to an image, sometimes a shirt or blouse with a complementary jacket can add interest.
7 - PPPPPP
In terms of style, think simple and timeless, well-fitted and good quality. Worn, favourite tops can work because you’re likely to feel comfortable in them, but you probably want to avoid tired, stretched or faded items. It’s likewise, never a good idea to wear an out-of-the-box shirt or blouse because they tend to look starchy and haven’t yet formed to your shape.
You should also make sure you’ve washed and ironed your clothes and have a way of transporting them so that they arrive un-crumpled or wrinkled. We can always take care of the odd crease during retouching but it’s important that you look and feel good on the day of the shoot - it will do wonders to your confidence and that will be reflected in your expressions once in front of the camera. Proper Preparation and Planning Prevents a Poor Performance!
8 - Brand YOU
As a general rule, distinct brands, clothes with bold logos, graphics and fashion items should be avoided. They’ll date over time and can distract from your face as the focus of the image. You’ll probably have noticed a recurring theme by now - if someone looks at your headshots and notices your wardrobe, rather than your gorgeous face, we got something wrong! You should choose clothes that are classy but understated, so we can notice the only brand that really matters - you!
9 - Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
It’s worthwhile going on to Pinterest, Google and other sites which curate headshot images (sites like my website and those of other photographers could be a good place to start). Create a mood board of those looks that you think would suit you and then, once you’ve been inspired, bring along anything you own that will help you replicate those same style choices. By all means bring your mood board with you so that I can see what has you fired up, and will use that as a starting point for your shoot.
10 - The Golden Formula
If you’re still struggling to figure out how to narrow down your choices, then this last tip might help you to come up with a wardrobe choice that hits the sweet spot. A memorable headshot usually communicates two things - confidence and approachability; look through your wardrobe and pick out some choices that you feel make you feel confident and approachable.
If you follow these guidelines and come along with a range of options which you’ve thought about ahead of time, you will be in a great position to make the best of the shoot. I look forward to working with you soon!
Now, why don’t you check out our post on ‘Styling Tips for Successful Headshots’ to learn about how to choose the right hair style, make-up, jewellery, and grooming?