Have a professional headshot scheduled and you don’t know how to prepare to make sure you look your best?
Well, then this guide is for you!
When I have photographed clients, I often give them a preparation checklist of things to do before the headshot session so they can look their best, feel their best, and so the images come out looking great as well!
In fact, the topics and tips I’ll be discussing in this guide are the same tips I give my clients.
So with that being said, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
How to Prepare for a Professional Headshot
When it comes to preparing for a professional headshot, you’ll want to start preparing up to a week in advance. In fact, you’ll want to prepare a week in advance, the day before, and even the day of!
After reading these tips, you’ll see why.
1. Plan the Day of the Headshot Session
As obvious as it may sound, you’ll want to make sure the day of your scheduled headshot session is free and clear of any appointments, pre-planned vacations, or lunch dates.
Most photographers, including myself, like to schedule photo sessions at least a week in advance to also prepare us to start planning poses, outfits, time, etc.
2. Plan The Outfit You’ll Be Wearing in Your Headshot
If you’re opting for a natural headshot, then simply choose clothes that make you feel comfortable and presentable. The goal is to look like yourself so choose an outfit that does just that!
If you’re opting for a corporate headshot or an acting headshot, then you’ll want to put more thought into your outfit choice. I would still recommend choosing something you feel comfortable in, but also take into consideration the message you want to send with your headshot.
For example, if you’re an actor and going for a more serious role, then you’ll want to dress the part by wearing a suit or something formal. Or, if you work in a creative field, then you might want to dress in something that shows your personality.
The key is to make sure your outfit choice represents the real you and the message you want to send with your headshot!
I’ll be diving more into outfit choices later in this guide and the difference between corporate headshots and casual headshots.
3. Get a Haircut or Style Your Hair Before the Session
If you have longer hair, make sure to get a haircut or style your hair before the headshot session. This will help ensure your hair looks its best in the photographs!
If you have shorter hair, then make sure to style it so it’s neat and presentable for the session.
The last thing you want is to have bad hair in your headshots because it can be a huge distraction!
This may sound silly, but you’ll want to start thinking about how you want to style your hair during your headshot. Before going into your headshot session, style your hair like how you will like it in the headshot to see if you like the way it looks.
4. Visualize the Session
One of the best things you can do to prepare for your headshot session is to start visualizing it!
Start by thinking about how you want the session to go and what you want to achieve with your headshots. Do you want a corporate headshot or a casual headshot? Do you want a natural look or a more polished look?
Think about the message you want to send with your headshots and what you want people to see when they look at your photographs.
Then, start picturing yourself in the session and how you want to look in the final photographs. Do you want to look confident? Relaxed? Excited?
Also, if this is your first time receiving a professional headshot, then it can be a little nerve-wracking having a giant camera lens pointed at your face. It’s only natural to feel a tiny bit uneasy if you aren’t used to it — so visualize the lens in front of you and still stay relaxed.
5. Practice Your Smile and Poses
Yes, practicing your smile and poses may sound a bit silly but it can really help you feel more prepared and confident for your headshot session!
Start by standing in front of a mirror and smiling. Try different types of smiles until you find one that you’re comfortable with and that looks genuine.
Then, start practicing different poses. Try tilting your head to the side, placing your hands on your hips, or even crossing your arms in front of your chest.
The goal is to find a few poses that you’re comfortable with and that help you look natural and relaxed in front of the camera.
Don’t worry if you feel a bit silly at first — the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel in front of the camera!
6. Plan Your Makeup Style
This tip is for all the ladies out there.
If you’re planning on wearing makeup during your headshot session, then take some time to plan your makeup style beforehand.
Start by thinking about the message you want to send with your headshots. If you’re going for a corporate headshot, then you’ll want to keep your makeup more natural and professional looking.
On the other hand, if you’re going for a casual headshot, then you can have some fun with your makeup and go for a more glamorous look.
The key is to make sure your makeup style matches the tone of your headshots.
Once you’ve decided on the style of makeup you want to wear, start planning what specific products you’re going to use.
Make sure to test out the products beforehand so you know they look good on camera and that they won’t cause any issues during the headshot session (like making you look shiny or giving you a weird skin reaction).
You may want to bring along a small makeup bag with your essentials so you can touch up your makeup before each headshot.
7. Know the Weather and Time of Day of the Session
Another important thing to keep in mind is the weather and time of day of your headshot session.
For example, if you’re planning on having an outdoor headshot session, then you’ll want to make sure the weather is cooperative. You don’t want it to be too hot or too cold out!
If you’re having an indoor headshot session, then the time of day won’t matter as much. But if you’re having an outdoor session, then you’ll want to make sure the lighting is perfect. The best time for outdoor headshot sessions is early morning or late afternoon when the sun is softer and not as harsh.
Keep the weather and time of day in mind when you’re planning your headshot session so you can be prepared for it!
8. Will the Session Be Indoors or Outdoors?
We touched briefly on this in our previous point, but it’s important to know if the headshot session will be indoors or outdoors.
If it’s an indoor session, then you don’t have to worry about the weather as much. But if it’s an outdoor session, then you’ll want to make sure the weather is cooperative on the day of the shoot!
You’ll also want to think about the lighting if the session is outdoors. The best time for outdoor sessions is early morning or late afternoon when the sun is softer and not as harsh.
Keep the location of the shoot in mind when you’re planning your headshot session so you can be prepared for it!
9. Avoid Lots of Salt the Day Before the Session
This may sound like an odd tip, but it’s important to avoid eating foods that are high in salt the day before your headshot session.
Eating foods that are high in salt can cause bloating and water retention, which you definitely don’t want on the day of your shoot!
So, try to avoid salty foods like chips, fast food, and processed foods the day before your session. Stick to eating healthy fruits and vegetables instead.
Also, make sure you drink plenty of water the day before the shoot so you’re well-hydrated. This will help avoid any unwanted bloating on the day of the session!
10. Get a Good Night’s Sleep Before the Session
It’s important to get a good night’s sleep before your headshot session so you look refreshed and alert in the photographs.
I would recommend getting at least 8 hours of sleep the night before the session.
This will help you look your best and feel your best for the session!
11. Eat a Healthy Meal Before the Session
You’ll want to make sure you eat a healthy meal before your headshot session. This will help you look and feel your best for the photographs.
I would recommend eating something light like fruits or vegetables so you don’t feel bloated in the photographs.
The last thing you want is to look like you just stuffed yourself with a big meal! So, make sure you eat something light and healthy before the session.
12. Bring a Handkerchief or Small Towel for Sweat
If you get nervous or anxious easily, then you may want to bring a handkerchief or a small towel to the session. This way, you can wipe your forehead and face right before the shoot.
You don’t want to have sweat dripping down your face or a shiny forehead in the photographs! So, make sure you bring a handkerchief or small towel to wipe away any unwanted sweat.
13. Listen to the Photographer’s Instructions
It’s important to listen to the photographer’s instructions during the headshot session. They know what they’re doing and they want you to look your best in the photographs!
So, make sure you listen to their instructions and follow them. They’ll usually tell you how to pose, where to look, etc.
Just relax and follow their instructions and you’ll do great!
14. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
If you have any questions during the headshot session, don’t be afraid to ask them! The photographer is there to help you and they want you to feel comfortable.
So, if you’re feeling nervous or you’re unsure about something, just ask the photographer and they’ll be happy to help you out.
If the photographer is having you pose a certain way that makes you feel uncomfortable or if you have a side of your face that you prefer to be photographed, be sure to communicate these things to the photographer!
Think of it like getting a professional massage from a masseuse. They can’t read your mind so they usually ask what part of your body is really sore so they can be mindful of those areas.
The same goes for a photo shoot, communicate anything that you’re feeling and your photographer should be able to make accommodations — if they’re a professional one.
Now that we’ve touched on the tips to prepare, let’s further explore some topics.
What Color Shirt to Wear for Headshots?
When it comes to choosing a shirt to wear for your headshots, you want to choose a color that compliments your skin tone.
If you have a fair skin tone, then you’ll want to avoid wearing shirts that are too dark. This will make you look washed out in the photographs.
Instead, opt for lighter colors like white, cream, light blue, etc. These colors will compliment your fair skin tone and make you look great in the photographs!
If you have a medium skin tone, then you have a bit more flexibility when it comes to choosing a shirt color. You can go with lighter colors like white, cream, light blue, etc. or you can go with darker colors like dark blue, black, etc.
It really depends on your personal preference and what you think looks best on you!
Headshot Do’s and Don’ts
Now that you know how to prepare for your headshot session, let’s go over some general do’s and don’ts.
- Wear clothes that compliment your skin tone
- Listen to the photographer’s instructions
- Ask questions if you’re feeling unsure about something
- Relax and have fun!
- Wear clothes that are too dark or too light
- Eat a big meal before the shoot
- Wear something that you don’t feel confident in
- Be afraid to communicate with the photographer
These are just some general tips to keep in mind for your headshot session. Just remember to relax and have fun! The more fun you have, the better your photographs will turn out.
Best Thing to Wear for Headshots?
Now that you know what color shirt to wear for headshots, let’s talk about what to wear for a professional headshot.
The best thing to wear for headshots is something that you feel confident and comfortable in. This can be a suit, dress, jeans, shirt, etc.
You want to avoid wearing anything that is too loose or too tight. You also want to avoid wearing anything that is too revealing.
Remember, you want the focus to be on your face so choose an outfit that will complement your face and make you look great!
Hairstyles for Professional Headshots
When it comes to choosing a hairstyle for your professional headshots, you want to choose something that is flattering and professional.
If you have long hair, you can wear it down or in a low ponytail. If you have short hair, you can style it in a sleek and polished way or leave it natural.
You also want to make sure that your hair is out of your face so that the focus is on your face.
Some good hairstyles to consider are low ponytail, sleek and polished, natural, etc.
I always like to tell the clients to wear their hair in a hairstyle similar to if they were to have a job interview. Whatever hairstyle that is, wear it like that.
How to Smile for a Headshot?
Now that you know what to wear and how to style your hair, let’s talk about how to smile for a headshot.
The best way to smile for a headshot is by smiling with your eyes. This means that you want to smile from the inside out.
You also want to avoid smiling too broadly as this can come across as fake or forced. A natural and genuine smile is always best!
Finally, make sure that your teeth are looking good! This means that you should brush them and floss them before your headshot session.
If you have any concerns about your teeth, then you can always consult with a dentist beforehand to see if there is anything that you can do to improve the appearance of your teeth.
I always advise my clients to smile in a way that makes them feel natural and relaxed. For example, if you are a person who usually doesn’t smile big in “real life,” then no need to try and force that out for the headshot.
If you are more of a half-smile type of person, then just do that! If you don’t really like smiling, then don’t smile!
Whatever feels natural is how you should smile for the headshot.
Types of Professional Headshots
Based on experience, there are mainly 5 types of professional headshots:
- Casual headshot
- Traditional headshot
- Lifestyle headshot
- Corporate headshot
- Academic headshot
What is a Casual Headshot?
A casual headshot is a photograph that is taken of you in a casual setting. This could be in your home, in a park, at the beach, etc.
The point of a casual headshot is to show your personality and who you are as a person. It’s not as formal as a traditional headshot and it’s a great way to show your personality.
So, if you’re looking for a headshot that is a bit more relaxed and casual, then a casual headshot is the way to go!
What is a Traditional Headshot?
A traditional headshot is a photograph that is taken of you in a formal setting. This could be in a studio, in an office, etc.
The point of a traditional headshot is to show your professionalism and who you are as a professional. It’s a more formal headshot and it’s a great way to show your professionalism.
So, if you’re looking for a headshot that is a bit more formal and traditional, then a traditional headshot is the way to go!
What is a Lifestyle Headshot?
A lifestyle headshot is a photograph that is taken of you in a natural setting. This could be in your home, in a park, at the beach, etc.
The point of a lifestyle headshot is to show your personality and who you are as a person. It’s not as formal as a traditional headshot and it’s a great way to show your personality.
Lifestyle headshots usually include a prop of sorts to further add to the story of the image/showcase your profession or hobby.
So, if you’re looking for a headshot that is a bit more relaxed and natural, then a lifestyle headshot is the way to go!
What is a Corporate Headshot?
A corporate headshot is a photograph that is taken of you in a professional setting. This could be in an office, in a studio, etc.
The point of a corporate headshot is to show your professionalism and who you are as a professional. It’s a more formal headshot and it’s a great way to show your professionalism.
So, if you’re looking for a headshot that is a bit more formal and professional, then a corporate headshot is the way to go!
What is an Academic Headshot?
An academic headshot is a photograph that is taken of you in an educational setting. This could be in a classroom, in a library, etc.
The point of an academic headshot is to show your professionalism and who you are as a student of academia.
So, if you’re looking for a headshot that is a bit more formal and academic, then an academic headshot is the way to go!
Ideas for Professional Headshots
If you’re looking for some ideas for professional headshots, then check out the following list:
Headshot in Front of Solid Neutral Background
This is a classic headshot that can be used for a variety of purposes. It’s perfect for corporate headshots, business headshots, LinkedIn profile photos, etc.
Headshot with White Background
A headshot with a white background is clean and professional. It’s perfect for corporate headshots, business headshots, LinkedIn profile photos, etc.
Headshot with a Pop of Color
A headshot with a pop of color is fun and playful. It’s perfect for actors, models, influencers, etc.
Headshot in Nature
A headshot in nature is calming and serene. It’s perfect for business professionals, entrepreneurs, etc.
Black and White Headshot
A black and white headshot is classic and timeless. It’s perfect for corporate headshots, business headshots, LinkedIn profile photos, etc.
A colorful headshot is fun and energetic. It’s perfect for actors, models, influencers, etc.
These are just a few ideas for professional headshots. There are endless possibilities, so get creative!
Best Color for Female Headshots
There are a few colors that are particularly flattering for female headshots. These colors include:
These colors are soft and feminine and they will help you look your best in your headshot. The neutral white, grey, and black work as well because they are neutral. So, if you’re looking for a flattering color for your headshot, then consider one of these colors!
Best Color for Male Headshots
There are a few colors that are particularly flattering for male headshots. These colors include:
These colors are masculine and they will help you look your best in your headshot. The neutral white, grey, and black work as well. So, if you’re looking for a flattering color for your headshot, then consider one of these colors!
The Importance of a Great Headshot
A great headshot is important for many reasons. First and foremost, it’s your first impression. Your headshot is often the first thing that people see when they meet you, so it’s important to make a good impression.
Second, your headshot is a representation of you and your brand. If you’re a professional, then your headshot should reflect that. It should be clean and polished. If you’re an actor or model, then your headshot should reflect your personality.
Third, your headshot is often used in marketing and advertising. If you’re a professional, then your headshot may be used on your website, business cards, etc. If you’re an actor or model, then your headshot may be used in print ads, online ads, etc.
Fourth, your headshot is a great way to connect with people. If you’re a professional, then your headshot can be used as a conversation starter. If you’re an actor or model, then your headshot can help people connect with you on a personal level.
Lastly, your headshot is a great way to boost your confidence. When you love your headshot, you’ll feel more confident in yourself and your abilities. And that confidence will shine through in everything you do.
Bust vs Headshot
There is a lot of confusion about the difference between a bust and headshot. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- A bust shot is a photo that includes your head, neck, and chest. Bust is often referred to in sculpting terms and not necessarily photography.
- A headshot is a photo that includes your head and shoulders.
Should You Get a Headshot for Work?
If you’re wondering whether or not you should get a headshot for work, the answer is yes! A professional headshot is a great way to make a good first impression with potential employers. It’s also a great way to boost your confidence and connect with people on a personal level.
So, if you’re looking for a way to make a good impression and stand out from the competition, then get a professional headshot!
In conclusion, a headshot is a great way to boost your confidence, connect with people, and make a good impression. If you’re looking for a professional headshot, then make sure to find a good photographer that you can easily communicate with. Good luck!
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer based in Southern California. Outside of photography, Nate specializes in SEO, content marketing, and entrepreneurship. He is also the founder of Imaginated.com, a platform for creator education.