It’s bound to happen. Friday afternoon rolls around and just as you’re beginning to daydream about your relaxing weekend, your boss drops some news on you that the office is having new professional business headshots done on Monday morning starting at 9 o’clock. In alphabetical order. Your last name is ‘Aaron.’

For some, you begin worrying about makeup and hair. Others might cancel beach plans because having lobster-red skin isn’t exactly the definition of being “sun-kissed.” You might even fret about what jewelry to wear (quick tip: don’t). But what about your clothing options?

The most important component in a professional headshot is your face. Your face is what connects you with your audience. After all, it’s the visual brand we’ve carried around since we were born. So why are threads such an important thing in a headshot?

Clothing Complements Your Look

The best professional headshots happen when clothing doesn’t steal the show. When your audience views you, you want their attention to go straight to your eyes; you want them to become drawn in with your expression; you want them to feel a connection. But you also want to pair your fantastic expression with a top choice that’s appropriate for the situation, and in the case of this blog post we’re talking about business environments:

  1. Are suits and ties “just the way it is”?
  2. Are you surrounded by people who draw fashion inspiration from Mark Zuckerberg? (Confession: I keep threatening to go jeans and gray t-shirts exclusively).
  3. Do you regularly interface with clients or customers in person or virtually? What is the expected attire for such interactions?
  4. Will this be a professional headshot for your LinkedIn profile? Or might they be used for your company’s About Us page or directory?
  5. Are you an industry thought leader who speaks at conferences and events, or who writes articles, blogs and books? Are you a podcaster?

The list can go on for miles. Just remember to think about all of the possible places you will be using your headshot, knowingly or unknowingly.

Rule #1 of 1: Be Comfortable in Whatever You Choose

There is nothing else to be said here. Always fidgeting and fumbling with a shirt, top or suit jacket will make you appear agitated and uncomfortable in your business headshot. Opt for comfort and clothing will be one less thing to worry about during your headshot session.

Timeless vs. On-Trend

The timeliness of your wardrobe selection should be an easy decision, but it’s not. It’s an area that requires you to be a bit realistic while dusting off your crystal ball. Instead of opting for shirts and tops that are trendy to the current times, you’ll want to take a step back and think about what will hold up over time. A couple of quick reasons why:

  • With a few exceptions, whatever business you’re in you will want to ensure your headshot stays as current as possible until you get it updated (usually every 2-3 years);
  • An updated headshot doesn’t necessarily update across the Internet. Depending on where your headshot appears, it could live on until the end of Internet time. Think Google Images. Or that guest blog post you wrote. Or all of those keynotes you gave at conferences.

By and large, suits have been somewhat standard in fit and function for well over a century. We don’t wear them to baseball games anymore, but they are still an essential piece in the business world. Pay mind to your shirt color and choice of ties. Together they can become dated about as quickly as your fun holiday sweater that’s actually not fun at all.

DID YOU KNOW:¬†Abraham Lincoln was a regular visitor to Brooks Brothers because of the 6’4″ chief executive’s need for custom tailoring.

Source: http://magazine.brooksbrothers.com/dressing-presidents/>

For tops or blouses, you’ll want to keep an eye on your necklines and collars (nothing large and in charge), sleeve types (nothing puffy or weirdly shaped) and straps. Spaghetti straps look nice, but bra straps in headshots do not. For business, you will most likely want to go with something slightly wider on the shoulder. Spaghetti straps can work, just make sure their sneaky counterparts don’t see the light of day. Also, don’t wear anything that might shine in front of lights such as silk. More importantly, make sure you don’t wear something that might become see-through with flash photography. That might be *most* important.

business-headshots-clothing-choices-ian-johns-photography

Teresa chose a top that’s simple and will remain in style beyond next week. Franck (cover image at top) also went with a look that is professional and will work in a myriad of ways.

The Seasons

Now think shorter term. You will use your headshot throughout the year, so unless you are changing your headshot for every season (I do have a headshot package that offers this flexibility), you will want to try and wear something that works in all seasons.

For men, suits are all-season, and sweaters can be too as long as they are not too thick with large collars. Think minimal and complementary with a button-down shirt with or without a tie. For women, short-sleeve tops can work fine in all seasons, and you might even want to think about layering a light sweater to round out the look to provide a couple of options with little effort required.

Colors

Colors can play a big part with your new headshot look, as this is another area where timeless vs. on-trend comes into play — remember when teal was a big deal?

Since we’re talking business in this blog post, you’ll want to focus on colors that work in all seasons and have stood the test of time. Put. The. Teal. Down.

Colors such as black, shades of gray (heh), maroon, blues, reds, and darker purples are a good place to start. You can also layer darker colors on top of lighter ones. And some light, airy colors can work too depending on the style of the top — yellow, white and off-whites, darker pinks and greens are viable options.

A lot of this depends on your session, too. If this is an individual session, you’ll be instructed to bring 4-5 different tops or shirts so if you think a color might work, bring it! We can’t shoot it if you don’t bring it. If this is part of an office shoot in your building, you might want to bring a second clothing option just in case your first one doesn’t play well within the loose bounds of a professional headshot.

Remember: Wear Something Comfortable For Your Business Headshots!

So there you have it. I could probably write a 2,500-word piece about proper attire for a business headshot session, but the ultimate key to remember (besides wearing something comfortable) is keep it free, easy and straightforward. If you’re like me and enjoy learning visually, check out my website gallery for more examples of choices that are comfortable (at least they said they were), timeless, and versatile. Thinking about some of the above points will enable you to find a few options quickly so you can enjoy your weekend.

Oh, and One More Thing…

Here’s a fancy little infographic to help you remember the key points from this post!

business-headshot-clothing-infographic