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How Can I Prepare for my Headshot Photo Shoot?

Updated: May 3

You know that saying "first impressions matter?" Well for better or worse, your headshot gives the first impression of you to your network. Sometimes it's a speaking engagement or new job, but whatever the reason you've finally decided it's time to get a headshot update (or a professional photo for the first time) and now you're wondering what to do. You might have questions about what to wear, or you're a little nervous with the idea of getting behind the camera. If you haven't already, choose a photographer that you feel comfortable with and understands the overall image you're looking to project. Beyond that, preparing ahead of time goes a long way to ensuring you arrive to your session looking and feeling like the confident person you want to show the world. Below are some great tips I share with my clients to help them prepare for their headshot photo shoot.

Woman in blue jacket standing in front of vines

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR TO MY HEADSHOT PHOTO SESSION? This is the most common question that I'm asked. The most important thing I tell people is to wear something you feel confident in and reflects the image, position and tone you want the photo to convey. For both men and women, a tailored fit will make you look slimmer and more polished, so leave the boxy jackets, oversized sweaters and cargo pants at home regardless of whether you want a casual or formal look.

While a well fitted jacket with a shirt and tie is still the most universal look for a formal professional headshot, the trend is definitely shifting towards a no-tie, shirt and jacket polished image. Knowing your industry, company culture and position can help you decide what's appropriate for you. Pay close attention to the shirt that you choose for your photos. Shirts with small repeating patterns should be avoided because they can create a "moire" effect in photographs. If you're opting for a less formal feel to your photos then a tailored shirt, slim t-shirt or pullover can also work well. Consider a classic watch for a timeless look to your photo. If you're shooting outdoors then stay away from transitional glasses and remove all items from your pockets (keys, phones etc) before your session starts. If you're looking for a waist up photo then those items can show in photos. Lastly, don't forget about your skin- moisturize your face and lips. Chapped lips in the winter can be a real problem for photos.

WHAT TO WEAR FOR WOMEN'S HEADSHOTS - Clothing choices for women vary widely with many great options. Suit jackets, dresses and blouses can all work well in photographs as long as they are fitted at the waist or tucked in. If your industry is more informal, but you still want that polished look, then dark washed jeans with a tucked blouse or fitted sweater work well too. No need to stick to black, grey or navy, jewel tone colors are beautiful in photographs and help you stand out. Whatever you do, choose an outfit you're going to feel great in! Nothing looks better in pictures than a confident smile and a strong pose.

Here are some do's and don't for your photos.

  • Avoid sheer blouses or overly baggy shirts that can fall in unflattering lines

  • If you like an all black look, opt for an interesting neckline or add a necklace for visual interest.

  • Unless you love your arms, 3/4 length or long sleeves look best on camera.

  • Dresses look great but should come in at the waist.

  • If you're thinking of pants, dark wash jeans, black or navy trousers are most flattering.

Professional Woman in jacket looking at the camera

Beyond what to wear, hair, make-up and jewelry are a big part of your personal presentation. Here are some tips on hair and make up to help you get ready.

  •  If you color your hair, make sure roots are touched up.

  • Whether you wear make-up or not, plan to wear make up for your photos -- the camera washes you out. No need for heavy theatrical make-up or a professional artist, just think added color to the lips, cheeks and eyes to bring you to the forefront.

  •  If you'd like to get your hair or make up done and you're not sure where to go, then ask your photographer. They usually have great recommendations and will sometimes have discounts with local shops. I take headshots in Wilmette, Winnetka and the Chicago North Shore, so I have my local favorites that I know will do a good job.

  •  Keep in mind that nails will show in photos, so choose a color, finish and style that fits with the image you'd like to reflect --neutral colors are always a safe bet.


  • Shoulders up, waist up, horizontal or vertical photo orientation? Different photo dimensions and orientations can effect your photographer's lens choice and shooting perspective. Some companies have very specific requirements for their employees headshot photos. Knowing ahead of time what you need, avoids being disappointed in the cases where you request a close up Linkedin style headshot, but your company needs a rectangular waist up perspective.

  • In general, different photo orientations are better suited to different situations. Here's a quick run down on popular photo formats and their uses.

    • Square Close up - Linkedin and some company websites. This closer-up format works well when you're trying to quickly connect a face with a person and you're searching on your mobile device. A closer up images allows you to be easily recognizable.

    • Vertical waist up - Popular format for many business websites.

    • Horizontal Waist Up - Great format for presentations or websites when you want to include added text or information with your image.

Horizontal photo of many sitting on steps in suit

LASTLY, GET TO KNOW YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER & WHAT'S INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE - It goes without saying that you need to make sure you check out your photographer's website or instagram to get a sense for their style, but don't stop there. The hidden truth behind every successful headshot photo session is the photographer's rapport with their clients. If you're nervous behind a camera, then working with a photographer who can make you relax is essential to getting your best images. Make sure you check out your photographer's reviews to hear what others have experienced, or hop on a call and speak to them in person. Do they get the vibe you want to achieve? Beyond that, make sure you know what's included in the package. Is post production editing extra? How many photos will I get? Will you choose the final images or does the photographer choose them? What framing do you need (shoulder's up, close headshot, wide angle horizontal?). Avoid costly surprises by knowing what you are signing up for upfront.

Man with suit standing in a garden

Once you've taken the time to prepare, then it's time to sit back and relax. Remember it's a process and an experienced photographer will take a range of photos to help you settle into the images that bring you to life. When it comes to choosing the photos you want to purchase, pick images that have the best expressions and posing. Don't worry about small details that can be edited out in post production. Want to learn more about how you can get the DREAM photos that you're proud to share? Reach out to me at . I'd love to work with you.


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