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How to Prepare for a Headshot Photo Session

Updated: Feb 7


You know that saying "first impressions matter?" Well for better or worse, your headshot gives the first impression of you to your network. As you grow in your career, that headshot photo should grow up along with you! I recommend refreshing corporate headshots every 2-3 years. Trust me, little tweaks in fashion, style, hair and your very vibe accumulate quickly enough to make photos feel outdated. Plus keeping your look on trend with a bright, artful photo aligned to who you are today help you stand out. We all want to avoid that sinking feeling when we see an embarrassing headshot of ourselves on the BIG screen at a corporate event for everyone to see.


Outdoor Headshot by wall with vines of a professional woman

Most people dread preparing for their headshot photo session, but it doesn't have to be that hard. With the right approach and the right headshot photographer, you can actually enjoy your session and leave knowing you're walking away with photos you'll be proud to share. Here are a few tips to help get you ready.


Professional Headshot of a man in jacket at the Wallace Bowl in Wilmette

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.



For a professional look with men, it's worth it to get a well fitted jacket .If you're opting for a less formal feel to your photos then a tailored shirt, slim t-shirt or pullover work well. Avoid logos and shirts with small, repeating patterns which can create a "moire" effect in photographs. Consider a classic watch for a timeless look to your photo. If you're shooting outdoors then stay away from transitional glasses. 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.


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.


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.



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 nicole@nicolejonesphotography.com . I'd love to work with you.










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