A note here: this article refers to women’s attire as it relates to commercial portraits. Not for dating websites or less formal settings like Facebook. Also, we realize that any gender may choose to wear what is traditionally referred to as women’s attire.
Coordinate Women’s Attire to the background
Find out what your background will be before you pick your clothing. If the background is white or light? Consider medium to dark colors and tones for more contrast. If the background is black or very dark, you can wear light or vivid colors. I really like red on a black background. I usually recommend against white clothing because the eye is drawn to the lightest thing in the photo. We photograph using both black and white backgrounds in our 30 minute session but can accommodate other colors.
Are You Wearing a Business Jacket or Blazer in your Portrait?
You may opt for a more formal look like a suit or blazer. It won’t be evident in your headshot whether you are wearing a pants suit or one with a skirt. Since we focus on the upper body, you want to think about the fit and color of the jacket. We prefer medium to dark tones for the jacket such as medium to dark grey, blue or navy. Red jackets photograph well. Stay away from white. Black jackets can work, but make sure you bring some lighter options. You may find that black really doesn’t add much to the photo
Add a little pop of color by picking a collarless blouse or camisole with a jewel or crew neck (see neckline guide below). Try some options other than white on the blouse. Colors that work well are medium grey or medium colors like blue, red and even non traditional colors like jewel tones.
Pick a color that complements the jacket. Some shirt-jacket combos we like are a blue blazer with red blouse or a light blue shirt under a grey jacket. Stay away from big patterns that can distract.
Collared shirts can work too. Think about putting the collar outside of the jacket collar.
Another option that can look sharp is to not have a shirt under the jacket. Just make sure the jacket is not open too low. Maintain a clean professional look.
Try a Shirt or Blouse Only
For women’s shirts in headshots there is a real opportunity to introduce pops of color. If you are shooting on a white or light background, think contrast. Stay away from white or light colors. Consider jewel tones like emerald or sapphire blue. Purple, green, red or orange can work well too. If you want something more neutral, a medium to dark grey can work.
Solid colors play much better than patterns. Consider texture if you want something besides a solid consider texture. If you have to have some kind of print pattern, keep it small or low contrast. Keep the viewer focus on your face, not your wardrobe.
There are so many neck styles. Do you want a more formal look with a collar? Or do you want a collarless look. Both work. Just think about how low the neckline will be. Draped collars look great in person but may be too low for the headshot. If you want a v-neck, scoop or lower neckline, maybe consider a slightly wider crop or vertical photo. See the neckline chart below.
Dresses Look Great as Headshot Attire
Often a dress possesses a great color or fabric texture that translates well. Heavier fabrics than a standard blouse or shirt look very nice. If you feel it is appropriate for your business and audience, a sleeveless dress that shows shoulders can look vibrant. Also, try a few photos with a blazer over the dress. Keep in mind necklines. A lower neckline may end up cropped out of the photo. Avoid that by picking a higher neckline like a jewel that falls at or above the collar bone. A scoop neckline should not be too deep. Square necklines tend to be too deep. V necks work well, but consider that the bottom of the V probably won’t be in the photo. See more on necklines below.
Some businesses prefer that arms and shoulders do not show. Make sure to check with your company before your session. We always ask this of our clients before we send out guidelines.
When picking color, use the same guidelines as the shirt section above.
Jewelry As an Accent in Your Headshot
Necklace and earrings can be great as an accent or splash of color. If you have a signature necklace that you always wear, by all means, get it in your headshot. In a headshot, anything that goes below your sternum may be cropped out of the final shot. Consider clipping the necklace behind your neck to shorten it. Doubling your necklace is another good strategy. Make sure any pendant is centered. When it comes to jewelry, you really can benefit from a photographer that shoots tethered to a computer so you can see the photo large enough to decide if you like how the items look.
Often, less is more on jewelry. Simplicity looks classic and stunning. But here again, stay with your personality and consider your audience. If you are in a creative field and wear big jewelry then have at it! Also, we have had some beautiful necklaces that were plastic. Stones and minerals add a nice pop of color to a photo. Big necklaces can really work. Just remember the length.
For earrings a lot depends on your hair style as to whether they will even show. Simple studs or pearls look great with short hair. Longer earrings can work well too. Have the makeup or hair stylist adjust longer hair or tilt your head a little to show one side. Also, consider putting longer hair on one side for a few photos and see how it looks.
Necklines in Your Headshot Attire
A classic headshot is cropped at or above the sternum. So the bottom of the neckline needs to be at that level if you want it in the headshot. Here are some necklines and our opinions on which work best in a headshot.
Glasses for your Headshot
If you normally wear glasses, wear them in your headshot. If you have multiple frames, particularly colorful frames, bring them. Try to coordinate with the rest of your wardrobe. Make sure the glasses are clean and in good repair. If your glasses tend to slip down, make sure the photographer reminds you to push them up.
Scarves can really add a pop of color. If you wear them frequently, get a few photos with a scarf. I usually like to see some of the garments underneath so it doesn’t seem like you aren’t wearing anything but a scarf. Practice tying your scarf, keeping in mind that only the upper part in the front will be showing in your headshot.
Half and Full Body Portraits
Many of these same guidelines can work in a full body portrait. Just keep in mind that the bottom and the top should work together. Consider your hands will be in the portrait, so get that manicure before your appointment. Consider your body type and wear clothing that is flattering and comfortable. Shine the shoes if it is a full-body portrait.
Your Clothing Should be Clean and Well Pressed for Your Photo Session
Send your wardrobe to the cleaners before your headshot session. Keep the clothing looking great by bringing them in a garment bag. Do not stuff your clothing in a shoulder bag and expect them to look great when you pull them out.
Now Book Your Headshot Session
Now you know what to wear. If you need a headshot, we would love to help you out. You can visit our Book Now page to schedule a session.
We also have a guide for men’s attire.
Note: This article appeared in an earlier version with different photos on LinkedIn.