What To Wear For Corporate Headshots

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Why You Need A Corporate Headshot

Also known as business or professional headshots, corporate headshots are necessary for anyone in the modern working world. Whether you’re working a typical 9 to 5 for a large company or as a freelancer on your own terms, a good headshot is everything for landing new work or a new job entirely. Your headshot reveals a lot about your personality and is one of the first glances your audience has into knowing who you are and what you’re about. You want to make a good first impression, and you want to look good in your corporate headshot. Several studies have determined that people who are deemed “attractive” get hired more often, get paid higher salaries, and get promoted over equivalent peers. And even if you have a great one, you may want to see if it’s time to update your headshot to stay current.

Alright, you get the point that you need a great corporate headshot. By hiring a great headshot photographer, you’ll have exceptional lighting and your personality shining through. But to seal the deal, you gotta know what to wear.

Style and Clothing Types for Corporate Headshots

Match Your Boss

Growing up, my dad always told me to “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” Do some research on the industry and the company you want to work for or with, and select clothing that matches. If they’re doing suits and ties all day, then you better suit up for your headshots. If you’re a programmer looking to work for the Silicon Valley types, then a collared shirt with a Patagonia sweater may be your outfit of choice. If you’re a freelance artist, well, maybe looking a little disheveled is the right move. Simply put, select outfits that match your target audience or company.

Favor A Suit Profile For Corporate Headshots

There’s a reason that suits are still part of today’s fashion after all these years. A suit profile, especially for guys, helps broaden the shoulders and narrow the waist, which makes you look better. A well-fitted suit is typically very clean, has an inherently professional look, and can slim your profile. All these factors help increase that attractiveness factor I mentioned earlier, which will help you land work. 

Avoid Overly Casual Clothing

I can hear freelance creatives collectively balking at this header. Don’t get me wrong; your brand may be about t-shirts, jeans, or a big floppy hat. That’s great! But only if that matches your industry and the expectations of your audience. Lawyers can’t really do a t-shirt for their headshots, but a professional photographer can. Overall, you want to match the “floor” of the industry you’re targeting for your corporate headshots. Oh, and please avoid sweats and loungewear in all situations.

Wear Newer Clothing For Corporate Headshots

You don’t need the latest fashionable or trendy clothing items for corporate headshots, but you can’t look ragged. It would help if you aimed for this decade in terms of style, but it doesn’t have to be the latest to hit the runway. Also, you should avoid clothing that’s well-worn or faded, is fraying, has loose threads, or has that subtle stain that won’t go away. You’re trying to make an excellent first impression so having clean, ironed, and newer clothing is mandatory to achieve this goal.

Photo by Mike Glatzer Photography #mikeglatzerphotos

Wear A Higher Neckline

You’re not going to the club as part of your corporate headshots. People want to hire someone who looks professional and well put together. Low necklines (for guys and gals) are a big no-no here. The goal is to put the focus on your face! Low necklines suggest non-professional intent or behavior, which can impede getting hired or treated with the respect you deserve.

Avoid Loose Or Baggy Clothing In Corporate Headshots

Remember that study I mentioned about attractive-looking people? Loose or baggy clothing makes you look larger, and society currently says slimmer people are more attractive (right or wrong, that’s life right now). Additionally, it’s much easier to pose with clothing that’s well-fitted. Clothing that fits well also says you are confident and care about your appearance, which increases that perception of professionalism. It suggests you pay attention to details, which every employer wants.

Try Longer Sleeves

More often than not, when a client doesn’t wear sleeves in their headshots, and we review their images later, I hear, “Yikes, I don’t like my arms.” Sleeves help minimize skin blemishes and keep a viewer’s attention on your face (which is kind of important for a corporate headshot). Even super-toned arms tend to look better with longer sleeves.

Avoid Thin Shoulder Pieces

I highly recommend wearing clothing with something that covers your shoulders for corporate headshots. Visually, more material on your shoulders will slim the rest of your figure and can reduce the apparent width of your shoulders in headshots. Spaghetti straps are a flat-out no for headshots. Also, thinner straps make hiding bra straps impossible.

No Undershirts In Corporate Headshots

Especially for guys, a loose or floppy undershirt hidden under your collared shirt screams unprofessional and sloppy. Additionally, if your photographer uses flash for your corporate headshots, you may see the undershirt underneath your main one, which will look very tacky. You’re better off ditching the undershirt and going one button higher on your shirt. And maybe it’s just me, but an undershirt suggests a more nerdy-type individual. If that’s you, then go for it. Just make sure it’s ironed!

Bring Multiple Outfits To Your Corporate Headshot Session

Options are good! It also reduces the pressure of selecting the perfect outfit. Let your photographer help you choose the right outfit(s) based on the look you’re trying to achieve and the job you’re trying to land. I always recommend getting several headshots for different work purposes, so having multiple outfit options will help give you that variety.

professional teacher headshot

Wear Your Glasses

If you already wear glasses, then feel free to wear them for your corporate headshots! They’re part of who you are, so don’t shy away from them! Please be aware that glasses can introduce glare by reflecting any off-camera flashes your photographer may use. If you can, I recommend removing the lenses for your session to eliminate that possibility.

Colors And Texture For Corporate Headshots

Solid Colors Are Better

Solid colors provide a bolder, more confident look in headshots. Additionally, there’s a whole world of behavioral psychology that goes into color theory which can subtly influence how people perceive you. For more information on which colors to select, you can check out my blog post about choosing the best colors to wear for your images.

Contrast With Your Background

Great images have depth to them. There’s separation between the subject and the background, so the viewer’s focus is drawn immediately to the subject. If you already know the backgrounds you’ll be taking your corporate headshots against, you can select clothing that helps you pop off that background. For darker scenes, you’ll want to wear lighter-colored clothing. You should wear darker-colored clothing if you’re working with a lighter background. Also, avoid a background color that’s the same color as your hair. It makes separating you from the background more difficult and can make your images look like you have a floating, bald head.

Limit Whites in Corporate Headshots

White can look great for corporate headshots, but it’s very overdone. Additionally, white can make you appear clinical or sterile if it’s your primary outfit color. I think it can work well for your headshots if you’ve got a jacket over a white shirt.

Avoid Logos, Patterns, Or Images

Clothing with a logo or image should be avoided for corporate headshots. They are distracting, and if someone doesn’t like your choice of brand, then it could be a knock against hiring you. It’s petty, but it’s true. You can get away with some patterns if they’re loose and not intricate; otherwise, they can be distracting in your headshots. Be aware that horizontal lines or patterns can make you look wider. Additionally, patterns are awful for editing out stray hairs and wrinkles for your photographer. Patterns can also introduce an effect called moire in your images which are very difficult to remove with any editing. 

Preparation Tips for Corporate Headshots

Get Haircuts At Least 5 Days Prior

There’s nothing like a fresh trim for your corporate headshots. You want to look clean and professional, after all! I recommend scheduling five or more days between your haircut and headshot session. Often you need a few days for your hair to grow back slightly to look fuller and more natural or to give yourself some wiggle room in case you got a bad haircut! I’ve had some guys walk into my studio one hour after their haircut and still have trimmed hair on their foreheads! Talk about a nightmare to remove in post-processing.

Iron Your Clothes The Night Before

Yes, your photographer can edit away some wrinkles, but not all! Additionally, edited clothing never looks as good as the natural fabric unless your photographer is exceptional at Photoshop. You’ll also feel better during your session. If you’re distracted by the wrinkles in your clothing, you won’t be focused on giving genuine and relaxed expressions for your corporate headshots!

Bring Your Clothes On A Hanger

Do not wear your headshot outfits to your session. We’re trying to avoid wrinkles! It also minimizes the chance of a random coffee stain if you swing by Starbucks on your way to the studio. 

How To Prepare For Your Headshot Session

I wrote a more comprehensive article describing how you can prepare for your photo session. This applies to portraits and your headshots. I highly recommend giving it a glance to make your corporate headshots, and you look the best possible!

Summary

As with all rules in photography, these are more guidelines and recommendations. I highly encourage you to work with your photographer to decide what clothing makes the most sense for your corporate headshots. They’ll have the experience to tell you what works for your target audience or employer. And if you still have questions, feel free to comment below or contact me!

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