These days we have so many clothing options available to us that it can feel daunting when deciding what to wear for female headshots. As a professional headshot photographer, this post is going to show you how I advise my clients to dress so that you get the best portraits possible from your upcoming photoshoot.
The truth is that choosing women’s headshot attire is actually pretty easy so long as you abide by a few basic guidelines.
- Stick to solid, neutral colors such as: charcoal, navy, blue, and gray.
- Avoid bold patterns or bright colors
- Dress professionally with fitted clothes. Remember fit matters more than fashion!
- Lightly accessorize to enhance your outfit. Too much will distract.
Don’t worry, if you don’t feel like your very good at styling, I’ll show you a few universal looks that look pretty good on just about everyone. These are the safe looks you’ll see a lot of CEO’s and politicians wearing. By the end of this post, you should know exactly how to recreate a polished, yet timeless outfit so you can look sharp and thus, get the best headshot possible from your upcoming session.
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What Should a Woman Wear For a Professional Headshot?
For professional headshots, most high level female CEO’s and politicians wear a jacket and long sleeve collared shirt. Therefore, for the most polished look, I recommend you invest in a bespoke (made specifically for your body) or made to measure women’s suit and shirt for the best headshots possible. For best results I suggest the following:
- For the most polished professional headshot, get a bespoke or made to measure jacket (also called blazer) with notched lapels, made of natural materials such as wool, cotton, linen, moleskin, etc.
- The easiest jackets to color coordinate are: charcoal, blue, navy and gray jackets. Solid white or light blue shirts are safe choices to pair with these jackets and these combinations will look good with just about all backgrounds.
- Bespoke or made to measure shirt with a collar made of 100% natural materials.
- A sprinkle of jewelry can enhance your portrait, too much can be distracting. The trick is to sprinkle in just a touch so you almost don’t notice it. Earrings and a tight necklace that doesn’t reach down further than your collarbone is best.
What To Wear For Business Casual Female Headshots
If bespoke is out of your budget, a business casual look can be achieved by finding an off the rack, long sleeve button up or blouse with a conservative neckline such as a turtleneck, shallow v-neck, jewel neckline etc. (more on necklines later).
As long as you get something that fits relatively well, you can then get your off the rack clothes altered by your tailor so they fit as good as possible. That said, it will often take more time to find a well fitting off the rack option and usually won’t look quite as nice as garments made specifically for you from scratch.
Know Your Audience When Deciding What To Wear
If you’re in management, personal finance, government or do business internationally (or on the east coast) I strongly recommend you not go for a business casual look. Instead, Invest in a well fitting blazer and shirt or dress to better connect with your audience.
What Not to Wear for a Headshot
Whatever you choose to wear, make sure it’s made from 100% natural materials and does not contain any synthetics. This is true even for business casual looks!
The reason synthetic materials are a bad choice for any headshot is because these materials can reflect light back at the camera in really distracting and off-putting ways. These reflections will compromise the quality of your headshot. Therefore, it’s best that you choose garments that do not contain any synthetic materials such as:
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
- Rayon (Viscose)
- Spandex (also known as lycra or elastane)
Where To Get A Jacket and Shirt For Headshots
If you’re short on time, you’ll probably need to shop for your clothes at a department store (which isn’t ideal). The downside of shopping at most department stores is that most only carry blazers made of questionable materials and construction.
That said, some higher end department stores also sometimes carry 100% wool or lightly blended jackets with a small percentage of synthetic material (usually elastane) in the cloth.
Although 100% natural fibers are always best, in a pinch you can cheat by going with the lightly blended 96% wool and 4% elastane jackets.
Off the Rack Jackets and Blazers
Note that it would be a good idea to check the labels until you develop a feel for good cloth. The following department stores are good places to check out if you need clothes quick for an upcoming headshot:
Bespoke & Made To Measure Suits For Women
If you have the time and resources, you’ll almost always get a better fitting jacket and shirt by having them custom made. Thus if you really want to look your best, bespoke (made for your body) is the way to go.
Additionally, if you choose to have something custom made, you get to choose all the details you want your tailor to build into your clothes so you don’t have to spend time shopping for the perfect style. You just tell them what you want and they make it!
If you don’t live near a bespoke tailor, the next best thing is a made to measure suit and shirt. The following are some examples of online made to measure companies you should look into if you don’t have a bespoke tailor near you.
What is The Best Color to Wear for Female Headshots?
When considering what colors to wear to your headshot, you should take into account: the color of your features, your skin tone and the color of the background you’ll be photographed on. The most versatile jackets that work for just about everyone and on most backgrounds are:
All of these jackets will easily pair with either a white or light blue shirt and all of these combinations will compliment just about every background. Tan and earthy browns and greens also tend to work well on a wide variety of women.
That said, I recommend you bring one outfit highlighted from the bullet points above before venturing to other color pallets. If you want another look that’s outside of these recommended colors, I suggest you bring them in addition to the standard colors just in case something unintentionally clashes. If you’d like to learn more about how to color coordinating outfits for photos you can check out this post.
What Colors Should You Not Wear for Female Headshots?
To state the obvious, any color can look good in the right circumstance. That said, saturated colors, white and black should be avoided for professional headshots.
In the case of black I advise against it because traditionally black is a formal color most commonly reserved for weddings, funerals and other formal evening events. If you like a darker aesthetic, I suggest you instead consider a charcoal jacket as it generally photographs better on more backgrounds.
I’d also suggest you avoid anything with loud or obvious patterns or aggressive texture unless it’s a second or third experimental outfit idea you’d like to try . Obviously, vibrant or saturated colors will naturally draw too much attention down and away from your face so I generally advise against overly bold colors for shirts and jackets. For professional headshots I’ve found that it’s best to select traditional colors to keep the attention up by your face where it belongs.
Best Necklines for Female Headshots
Choosing the right shirt is one of the most important things you can do leading up to your headshot. This is because headshots usually only include your face and shoulders in the photo when photographed in landscape orientation. Therefore, selecting the right neckline can literally make or break your headshot.
This means that for both professional and casual looks, the neckline should not be lower than about an inch below your collarbone. Additionally the neck line should not be excessively wide either as showing too much skin around the neck can make you appear naked.
Deep plunge necklines should also be avoided. This isn’t because they aren’t appropriate for the workplace so much as they can look very distracting if you can’t see the bottom of the neckline in the photo.
For similar reasons I also recommend you only choose long sleeve shirts for your headshot. This is true even for halter tops with high necklines. Even though the neckline might be high, the skin on the shoulders will draw the attention away from the face which isn’t ideal.
Should You Wear Jewelry in a Headshot?
I suggest you wear just a sprinkle of jewelry to compliment your outfit and skin tone. If you’re not a jewelry person, don’t feel obligated to wear any.
That said, those that really like a lot of bling should resist the urge to wear large or flashy pieces for their headshots. The reason is because too much flash can quickly overwhelm your profile photo and draw attention away from your eyes. For best results add a light dash of silver if you have cool skin tones or gold if you have warm skin tones.