What should I wear to my headshot session?

So glad you’re coming in for a headshot session! Wardrobe is an essential element of your imagery and now’s the time to get it all prepared. Raid your closet for tops that meet these criteria:

  • Clothes that fit you well (we can pin some things to get them a little tighter but can’t easily overcome clothes that are too small).

  • Clothes that you love (that feeling will carry through your smile).

  • A variety of colors that work well with your hair, eyes, and skin.

  • An assortment of necklines and/or styles.

When in doubt, bring it to the studio as anything still on the rack can’t be photographed! Gently put at least 10 tops and preferably 20 on the list to bring, clean and pressed. (Insider tip: a quick shopping trip for some brand-new items is a great way to get a few more options; keep the tags on and return whatever you decide you don’t want long-term.) My fellow photographer Todd Dring sees two clients a month who arrive with “loaner clothes”, and I’m hoping to beat his numbers soon!

While you’re at it, if it’s relevant to your industry, think about combinations: jackets and vests can dress up some tops and provide a great selection of options within the same look. If you’re going to wear a tie, bring a bunch – it’s far trickier to quantify what makes the best tie a winner than just picking it from what you’ve brought.

Should I shave before my headshot session?

Timing is everything on this topic! I’m sure you’ve shaved plenty of times in your life, and you know your face best. If razor burn is a risk, let’s figure out how to stack the deck in your favor. How long does the redness take to fade, versus how long for the shadows to appear? Is there an aftershave that helps hold off the shadows or minimize the redness?

Remember that we’re both deeply invested in getting great headshots for you. A little planning can go a long way to presenting yourself with well-tamed facial hair and/or smooth skin. Our upcoming session might even be a great excuse to visit the barber for a little pampering, maybe even a visit to a spa for a great facial (just be sure to ask how far in advance makes the most sense for our session). My friend and fellow photographer Tom Jamison knows that as a photographer, he’s got to keep his image up to date, but he loves a little splurge to have the barber clean up his face shortly before he steps in front of the camera.

Just for reference, keep in mind that the art and science of photographic retouching is a lot easier when fixing some skin redness than it is trying to hide stubble. Let’s get ready to make some fantastic images at our upcoming session!

Do I need a makeup artist?

In a nutshell, yes, if makeup is a normal or semi-normal thing for you. My professional makeup artists have a refined eye for the level of detail that’s necessary for a top-notch headshot. Daily wear makeup is often not the best choice for the close-up nature of a headshot, with hard edges and other aspects intended for view from afar.

Technology reigns supreme in today’s photography studios, and all of my sessions are shot in a “tethered” manner, where the images are delivered instantly onto a computer. Large monitors display the images, and my makeup artists have an iPad where they can review any of the images and zoom in to check the finest of details. Having their eyes on the makeup details allows you and I to focus on expression and position, and that helps keep the session flowing smoother and faster. My good buddy across the pond, James Keates, knows all too well how his clients have benefited from having a makeup artist assist for their headshots.

If makeup isn’t a part of your routine whatsoever, now’s not the time to introduce it. I do have a large mirror and makeup light, so if you’re going to do your own makeup we do have a great facility for any last-minute touch-ups, and check out our other posts on how to do the best job possible. Nonetheless, we do highly recommend using one of our talented makeup specialists for your upcoming headshot session!

How to prepare for a headshot session

Hair: if a haircut is in the cards between now and your session, time it right. You want that style to settle in a bit, so plan it for 2-7 days before your session and don’t take any unnecessary risks (new style, new stylist, new color, etc.)

Wardrobe: bring at least 10 tops, 20 if you can.  Bring a variety of necklines and colors, and make sure you love every item. Go shopping and keep the tags on if you wish; I’ve done many sessions where my client got to see how their new finds really looked and committed to new pieces because of how it looked on-camera.

Makeup: use one of our talented and professional makeup artists, or come to the studio ready to make your makeup blend better than you’ve done in the past year! Seriously, any hard line is going to be magnified by the camera and studio lights, and the goal is to accentuate you, not make you look made-up. Use colors that truly work with your natural tones; attempting to create a tanned look won’t work unless it matches your neck and shoulders, for example. Keep the lips modest and not too bold, lest your audience spends all day looking at your lips and never notices your confident eyes.

Shaving: timing is everything, and so is preparation. We don’t want red razor burn, but we also don’t want stubble (it’s the worst thing for retouching, and probably won’t disappear no matter how hard we try).

Attitude: almost every client is nervous, and I wholeheartedly understand your concern. Put your trust in the system, and know that your headshot photographer has the skills, techniques, and tricks to be your mirror when you need it, your coach when you want it, and your leader from start to finish. I enjoy making a difference in your life all within what might only be a thirty minute session! A great friend in the Dallas area, Judy Babinski, knows all too well how magical this can be!

In the end, the most important thing to do is show up: we can fix your hair, we can raid the studio wardrobe for a few items, there’s a stash of basics in our makeup table, etc., but if you’re not there, none of the magic happens. Do the best you can to prepare, and let’s get some images captured today!

Should I wear jewelry to my headshot session?

When it comes to headshot, simplest is best. My advice since day one has been no jewelry, or at most, basic stud earrings. Our mutual goal is to help others form the best opinion of you, and part of that magic is to keep their eye on YOU, and not any distracting elements that send their gaze into some area of the photo that they’re not connecting with your eyes or smile. 

If you’d prefer, bring your jewelry to the studio and we’ll do some with/without shots and review them on the large-screen monitors. Although my retoucher can usually remove jewelry from finished images, there’s an added cost to do this, while the fifteen seconds to take the jewelry off in-studio is usually “time well spent”.

Remember that it’s likely you’ll be using your new headshots with various online profiles, from LinkedIn to corporate bios and staff collages. Many of these use cases involve an extremely small file, perhaps no bigger than 400x400 pixels. At those tiny sizes, no one’s going to be able to judge the quality of your jewelry anyway, and if you end up with a black&white conversion unexpectedly, no one’s even going to see the color of it. My friend and fellow headshot photographer Gary Barragan is a master at convincing his clients to take their jewelry off, along with lots of other friends at the HeadshotCrew.

Help me keep the focus where it’ll make the most difference, and let’s plan your next headshot session to be little to no jewelry!