You’ve got a headshot photo session scheduled and are ready to have professional images taken.  The only problem is…you aren’t sure if what you’ve picked out to wear is acceptable.  

What Should You Not Wear for a Headshot?

Headshots are generally used as a professional representation of yourself.  You should not wear anything unprofessional or sloppy for your headshots, such as vulgar t-shirts, see-through tops, or wrinkled and dirty clothes.  Your clothes should reflect how you want your audience to perceive you as a person or professional.

There are a few other items of clothing photographers generally advise against:

  • Neon colors
  • Busy or very small patterns
  • Spaghetti straps or strapless dresses
  • Colors that match the background
  • Baggy clothes
  • Clothes You Don’t Normally Wear

Why do photographers want you to avoid these in a headshot?  Generally, these items just don’t photograph well.

Don’t Wear Neon Colors

Neon colors, or any fluorescent color, will reflect light back into your face.  So if you wear a neon pink t-shirt, for example, the shirt will reflect neon pink light up onto your face and you’ll sort of glow pink.  Ditto for neon green or yellow.  If you like the color, stick with pastel hues or jewel tones and leave the neon at home.

Avoid White and Almost White

Avoid using white as your outer layer.  White reflects light.  It can make you appear as if you’re glowing.  If you’re shooting outside, it can also pick up shades from the environment, so your white shirt might pick up greens from the trees or red from a brick wall.  The same goes for shades that are off-white.  Flesh-colored tones can also blend into your face or arms.

Avoid small patterns for headshots

No Busy Patterns or Small Patterns

You should be the focal point of your headshot, not the crazy loud shirt you’re wearing!  Choose simple patterns or solid colors instead.  Stay away from graphic tees or shirts with logos, unless it’s part of your business uniform.  It limits your cropping options!

Really small patterns can also be problematic to photograph.  They cause what us nerdy photographers call “moire.”  The small details in pattern can wreak havoc with the camera’s sensor and produces a strange, wavy pattern in your image.  That wonkiness is moire.  Herringbone, small checks, small stripes and dots can all cause moire.  Even some solid fabrics with a tight weave and sheen can cause it.  

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No Spaghetti straps or strapless tops

This one is for the women, specifically.  Choose a top with sleeves or wide straps for your headshot session.  Spaghetti straps can dig into your skin leaving unflattering indentations in your skin.  Skinny straps can also make you look wider across your shoulders than you really are.

Strapless tops and even off-the-shoulder blouses become problematic if your headshot is cropped too tightly.  If the bottom of your image is cut off, it can appear as if you’re topless.  Probably not the look your going for in a professional representation of yourself.

Avoid Colors That Match the Background

Check with your photographer about the color of background she plans to use.  Avoid colors that will blend into the background.

If the background is a dark charcoal gray, for example, avoid dark colors for your outer layer.  A black shirt or navy suit jacket will blend into the background.  This can make you look wider than you really are.  You also won’t pop in the image.  Similarly, you want to avoid a gray on gray, blue on blue, or pink on pink.

Leave the Baggy Clothes in the Closet

Baggy clothes just look sloppy.  They can also make you look heavier than you really are.  Your clothes don’t have to be skin-tight, but they should fit well and give you shape and structure.  

Clothing choices for headshots

Clothes You Don’t Normally Wear

When you’re choosing your clothing for your headshot, start with what’s already in your closet. First, you’ll look more authentic. Remember, your headshot is an extension of who you are as a professional. If you’re a photographer that wears tunics and leggings for every session but you wear a blazer and blouse for your headshots, that’s not a true representation of you, your personality, or even your business. Likewise, an architect that wears suits and ties all the time will project differently if he takes his headshot in a golf polo.

That disconnect can confuse clients because, based on your headshots, they expect someone different at your first meeting. And finally, you won’t look comfortable because you won’t feel comfortable.

So start with clothes you already own and wear, adding new items only to enhance your existing style.

Get Help From Your Photographer

Your photographer is there to make you look good and provide a good experience.  Don’t be afraid to ask him for help or guidance on what to wear.  You photographer should be prepared to give you advice on what to wear and what not to wear for a headshot session.


Headshots are all about using a single picture to show the world who you are as a person.  The emotion and energy conveyed in the picture should reflect how you want the viewer to feel about you.  Avoid these types of clothing, but more importantly, choose clothing that makes you look and feel your most confident and capable!

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