What to Wear for Head Shots_

What to Wear for Head Shots, Professional Photos, or Back to School

Advice Career What to Wear

Head shot photos are taken for professional social networking sites like LinkedIn, digital marketing and business materials, affiliate websites, printed material, even professional security badges.  These can all surface those dreaded Back to School picture day nightmares.  Often the photographer is in a hurry and just wants to yell “next”.  The results can be horrible!

Ladies Career Fashion - What to Wear for Linked In and other professional photo head shots

Skip the Busy Prints or Logos

Skip the busy prints and writing on shirts (unless you are working for NIKE, do not wear it on your shirt).  Wild animal prints and detailed patterns will draw the eye away from your face, which defects the whole purpose of the head shots.  The reason most modeling photos are a simple white or black shirt, is to remove distraction.

Keep the focus on YOU with a simple pattern or solid color.

Busy prints - avoid these in head shots
Avoid busy prints like these in head shots

Create a Continuous Line

Wear a shirt (or dress) with sleeves to create a continuous line from neck down.  Sleeveless tops and short cap sleeves exaggerate a color break between skin and your outfit. That creates a visual band that can look awkward in head shots.

Vee neck
Avoid cap sleeve or sleeveless

Minimize Layers

Avoid too many layers, much like a busy pattern too many layers can be distracting.  Shirt and jacket are appropriate for formal pictures, while multiple sweater layers can create bulk and look more casual.

Professional photo head shots should be slightly more formal than regular work clothes.  Casual Friday attire may be too dressed down for school or professional photos.  Look at what other people in your profession (or school) wear to get more ideas of what looks good to you, and what you definitely want to avoid.

Square neck
Square neck

Colors to Compliment You!

Select color(s) that will compliment your hair and skin tone.  Avoid colors that blend into your skin tone or match your hair resulting in a bland, washed out photo.  Create contrast between your natural coloring and your shirt to draw attention to you face for a memorable head shot.

Suggested colors to compliment hair and skin tone:

  • Fair to medium skin brunettes: Light & medium blues, olive to medium greens, teals and blue-greens, medium to dark reds, light to medium purples
  • Fair to medium skin blondes: Medium to dark blues, grays, medium to dark reds, medium to dark greens, medium to dark purples
  • Medium to dark skin brunettes: Yellows, light browns & gold, whites & ivory,  light to medium pink, light to medium blues, light to medium greens, light to medium purples
  • Red heads: Medium to dark greens, browns, gold, medium blues, grays


Men should wear a shirt with collar, polo style or button down shirts (with or without tie).  Women have more variety and can wear collar shirts, round neck (my favorite), square neck, and vee neck.

Dark blue, dark red, and gray shirts
Dark blue, dark red, and gray shirts – round neck

Take Test Photos

Cher from the movie Clueless took Polaroid photos of each of her outfits.  Great idea!  

Test photos are an easy way to compare different shades of blue, or to determine if a textured fabric will look good in pictures, or even if the shirt buttons are too reflective with a flash.  Double check undergarments to make sure undershirts or bras are not visible.  Try out different jewelry, and keep it simple.

Bonus Tips: Back to School

Back to School photos (especially high school) should follow these same guidelines.  Wild prints and big hair bows should be left behind for kindergarten, try a headband or simple hair clip.  Experiment with bright colors and simple patterns to keep the school photos youthful.

Collar shirts
Bright Collar shirts
6 Tips What to Wearfor Head Shots

Ready, set, SMILE!

A nice smile is a fantastic accessory to a great outfit.

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