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How to Choose What to Wear for Headshots

Updated on March 27, 2015

Headshots are the calling cards for actors, artists, and those who are routinely in the public eye. They are the first impression an agent or the general public might form, and unless you are naturally photogenic, headshots require a bit of preparation. Read on to learn about the intricacies about how to choose what to wear for headshots and have it complement your facial physique.

Krystle Helmersen
Krystle Helmersen | Source

Your Face, the Focal Point

As the name implies, your face is the focal point of any headshots taken.

Clothing and accessories should underscore the mood you are trying to set and the personality you seek to convey.

At the same time, they must be complimenting your features. Although it sounds like a tall order, remember that headshots also serve to help you stand out among the competition.

If anything takes away from your face, it needs to be closely scrutinized and potentially shed.

Selecting a Top

Choose a top that is made of a plain material, such as silk. It should be solid, without stripes or patterns, and it should be a very plain piece of clothing. Eschew overly large lapels, buttons, shoulder pads, zippers, or anything else that draws the eye’s attention away from your face. Remember, you face is the focal point and your top should complement it.

You may be surprised to learn that in some cases this might actually mean wearing a very basic top that is currently considered out of style. In the alternative, it may be the top you wear underneath a jacket or generously cut garment for the sake of modesty, but one which you might not consider wearing outside this purpose.

It is a good idea to bring a number of tops with you, especially if you are having headshots taken at a photography studio you have never worked with. You may not know the background colors that are available and coming prepared with a number of appropriate tops that would work against different backgrounds is a big plus. The old adage to just wear white is still a good standby—unless the only background color available is white.

Seasoned professionals find a top that works for them with respect to complimenting skin tone and facial features, and then buy the same top in a wide array of colors. This minimizes the headaches about what to wear for future headshots.


A Word of Caution about the Neckline

Decide on a top that offers a flattering neckline. If you are fortunate enough to have a beautifully sculpted neck, show it off with a v-neck. Even if you are only wishing for magnificently sculpted neck, a v-neck can help give the visual impression of a lengthened neck--as long as you remember to keep your shoulders down.

Avoid any show of cleavage. A skilled photographer will work with you on positioning yourself in such a way that your face is in the perfect focus, but if your choice of top is too revealing, the viewer’s attention will be diverted. If your chest area is generously endowed, consider a high neckline instead of a v-neck cut.

Wearing the Right Kind of Makeup

Do not wear makeup for the headshots, unless you usually wear it on a day to day basis. This is not the time to experiment with a new foundation, eye shadow, lip liner, or lip gloss. Instead, focus on covering any skin blemishes, pimples, and other irregularities that take away from your features.

The less makeup you wear, the more of your personality comes through on the headshots. For example, unless you have a day to day personality and vibe about you that is reminiscent of Elvira, then your headshots are not the time to overdo the heavy eye makeup.

In the same way, if you favor muted or darker shades of lipstick for the majority of the time, your headshot is not the time for a bright red lipstick. Unless you are working on radically overhauling your image, the makeup you wear during your headshots should be on the minimalist side.

Match your Necklace with your neckline
Match your Necklace with your neckline | Source

Avoiding the Wrong Kind of Jewelry

Resist the temptation to wear your “good earrings” or heirloom necklace. Once again the minimalist mindset prevails. A thin gold or silver chain necklace with a crucifix is fine, if this is part and parcel of your daily look. Small post earrings are sometimes a great way of drawing attention to the curvature of the neck, if they are indeed small enough to not attract too much attention themselves. In case of a doubt, do not wear any jewelry at all.

Common Mistakes You Can Avoid When Taking Headshots

Preparing for the headshot as though it were taken in black and white

In the past this was the preferred means of taking headshots, and if you look back on some of the actors’ and actresses’ headshots from the 1940s and 1950s, you will see that they are predominantly done in black and white. Today, the tide has turned and headshots are done principally in color. Do not prepare for the headshot as though it were taken in black and white, but instead visit the studio knowing that it is most likely a color picture.

Wearing too much jewelry that obscures the neckline

Necklaces are the premier way of detracting the attention of the viewer from the face to the neck. Even if in everyday life you love the necklace and you look good with it, for the sake of a headshot, it would be better to not wear it.

Wearing oversized earrings that detract attention from the face

The same holds true for earrings. In some cases the size or the color of the earrings is overwhelming and you will find that the finished headshots do not show of your facial features but instead redirect the attention to your earrings.

Using hair products that change your personality

If you are a professional actress and for your headshots choose to wear your hair in a 1950s style do, you run the risk of being typecast. Agents and casting directors may—falsely—think of you as the type of 1950s perky teen or twen, when you are really more in line with the mature roles. Avoid this potential pitfall by not using hair products that change your personality.

Leading casting directors astray

Probably the most common mistake made by first timers having their headshots taken is to mistake the experience for a session at the glamour shot studio. If you are not naturally sultry, this is not the time to portray a seductive look. In the same way, if you are not naturally given to having a big smile, do not put one on for the headshot. Casting directors call actors and actresses in to audition based on the look and vibe from their headshots, and if it turns out that you misrepresented who you are, the odds are good that you will not get called back.

This is the reason why experienced actors and actresses have their headshots retaken when their look changes and also as they mature.

© 2015 Discover the World


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