Choosing what to hear for headshots can be an overwhelming task within itself. I have compiled some information that will help you sort through the jungle of headshot clothing options.
1. Consider your character type. This, I think, is the most important. You really want to be sure that your wardrobe choices compliment your character type. Knowing your market is key to getting a successful headshot. For example, what is your age range? Are you aiming your headshot at blue-collar or upper-class roles? Are you playing sexy roles or are you more of the girl/boy next door? I have had guys bring three-piece suits yet tell me that their marketing is more the college slacker type. I’ve also had women only bring sexy dresses with plunging necklines only to tell me that their agent wants something that could help them land salesperson-type commercial auditions. Watch the characters you would play on TV or film and take note of their wardrobe as inspiration.
2. Do not wear costumes. Getting too specific with wardrobe can be limiting. For instance, you can imply doctor without wearing a white coat and a stethoscope in your headshot. It looks cheesy. Some sort of a sports jacket and a nice shirt without a tie, for example, could be just as convincing. And now, you can also use that headshot for lawyer, detective, business owner, etc. There are exceptions, like if you have a specific skill that you are marketing and need to showcase it. Even then, I would suggest making the shot less specific and working with your photographer to show what you’re trying to show implicitly.
3. Your headshot is not a fashion show. Of course you want to look your best, but if your amazing Prada shirt that you saw Emma Stone wearing at her last appearance is getting more attention…it’s taking away from you! When picking out clothes, look for items that compliment your body type. You don’t want clothes that don’t fit. For the most part, avoid ruffles, logos, and busy patterns; they are distracting in a headshot. If you want to use subtle pattern to add some quirkiness or character to a shot, make sure your eye doesn’t jump to the shirt first. Also, make sure you can’t see through your clothing. If an item of clothing is sheer, wear something underneath that is non-distracting. Your wardrobe should highlight your personality, not scream over it.
4. Capture your personality, but don’t be too eccentric. Again, you don’t want to be limiting. In commercials, film and on television, you will see characters to whom some large group of people can relate on some level. If your wardrobe is “unique” or “different” and you don’t see that character type being cast at the moment, you might find your headshot to be less effective. Your agents and casting directors may love your spirit and energy but not know what to do with you. Make sure that whatever you are selling is being bought. There are always ways to show your unique personality, without your wardrobe screaming, “Look at me and how different I am!”
5. Bring options. Don’t just bring multiple color variations of the same shirt to your headshot session. For each wardrobe change that you do, bring two or three options. Each wardrobe change should tell a different story, otherwise you have wasted your money on multiple shots that look the same except for the color of your shirt. Your photographer will collaborate on looking at what you brought, deciding what is most complimentary and what best satisfies your marketing.
6. Buy and return. In a headshot, faded, wrinkled clothing with stains and holes only reflects on your professionalism. Finances should not be a reason you show up to your session with clothing that shows you don’t take yourself, your headshots, or your career seriously. Most stores have a 30-day return policy. It might be a good idea to keep the items you wind up using in your headshot session so that you have something for auditions. Another option is to call your best friends with the clean, new shirts and borrow something for the day. Just remember to treat their wardrobe better than you would your own.
Business Head Shots:
When choosing clothing for your professional headshot: think classic. Pick your favorite suit that fits you well and is preferably a classic dark color like navy blue or gray. Choose a suit that doesn't bunch up when you button it or if you sit down, and a shirt and tie that match each other and the suit.
Try to stay away from anything with bold, distracting patterns or colors. Clothing with really tight grids or a small herringbone pattern can have a moiré pattern effect on camera, so stay away from tight grid-like patterns. Thin stripes that are a little further apart are okay. Ties look best when their tone lands between the suit and the shirt-- so a light shirt, a dark suit, and a tie in a shade somewhere between them. Some ties are too shiny-- try to stay away from really reflective, shiny, silk ties.
If you don't wear a tie, choose a non-white shirt if possible: white shirts without a jacket and tie to break them up can lose detail in the color and folds. And if you wear a button-down shirt, it's best to wear a jacket or sweater of some kind to layer the look. If not, choose a darker color shirt or something with pockets or details to avoid it looking like a head floating on a blank, boxy shirt, and unbutton a button or two. And make sure we can't see your undershirt beneath the button-down shirt: wear a v-neck or no undershirt at all.
Choose a professional suit or business-oriented outfit that has a classic look: you shouldn’t be able to tell what decade it is in the photo. Don’t choose anything with bold, distracting patterns or colors, unless you can layer a plain blazer or sweater over it so not much of the pattern is showing and you get just a pop of color.
Clothing with tight grids or a small herringbone pattern can have a moiré pattern effect on camera, so stay away from grid-like patterns. Thin stripes are okay.
Try not to wear stark white unless it’s under something, such as a suit jacket, cardigan, or sweater. V-necks accentuate the neckline and generally look best on women. Just don’t choose something with too low of a neckline: no cleavage. And no turtlenecks: they tend to make people look like they have no neck at all in photos.
Try to stay away from short sleeves or tank tops: executive headshots tend to look better without bare arms, but if you'd like to try showing arms in a sleeveless blouse or shift dress, we could make it work. Just bring a blazer or sweater to put over it as an additional option.
For jewelry, go for something small, classic, and not very reflective or flashy. Earrings shouldn’t dangle more than an inch from your earlobe. Simpler is always better, so if we notice your jewelry before we notice your face, we may ask you to remove any excess jewelry.