What to Wear for Your Professional Portrait

Choose a professional suit or business-oriented outfit that has a classic look: you shouldn’t be able to tell what decade it is in the photo. Don’t choose anything with bold, distracting patterns or colors, unless you can layer a plain blazer or sweater over it so not much of the pattern is showing and you get just a pop of color.

Clothing with tight grids or a small herringbone pattern can have a moiré pattern effect on camera, so stay away from grid-like patterns. Thin stripes are okay.

Try not to wear stark white unless it’s under something, such as a suit jacket, cardigan, or sweater. V-necks accentuate the neckline and generally look best on women. Just don’t choose something with too low of a neckline: no cleavage. And avoid turtlenecks that come too high: they tend to make people look like they have no neck at all in photos.

Try to stay away from short sleeves or tank tops: executive headshots tend to look better without bare arms, but if you’d like to try showing arms in a sleeveless blouse or shift dress, we could make it work. Just bring a blazer or sweater to put over it as an additional option.

For jewelry, go for something small, classic, and not very reflective or flashy. Earrings shouldn’t dangle more than an inch from your earlobe. Simpler is always better, so if we notice your jewelry before we notice your face, we may ask you to remove any excess jewelry.

Makeup: do it yourself or hire a make-up artist?

If you do your makeup yourself, do your makeup how you usually wear it for an average day, or possibly a nice dinner where the steak is $30 but not $75. Do not wear heavy makeup; a close headshot will show clumps of mascara or dark lipstick. Choose light to medium eyeliners, eye shadows, and lipsticks that are only a shade or two darker than your skin tones. This brings your features out in a subtle manner without making it look like you’re wearing lots of makeup. Avoid caking on heavy foundation, or wearing shiny eye shadows or lip gloss: too much shine is distracting on camera and looks wet.

Skin blemishes, pimples, and even wrinkles can be retouched. It’s not cheating. We promise.

How much is too much makeup for a professional portrait? Everyone is different, so it depends on how much make-up you usually wear: you want your professional portraits to be easily recognizable as how you generally look in person. For some people, that means wearing your make-up exactly how you usually wear it, for others it’s wearing a little more, for others a little less. If you don’t wear much makeup every day, don’t do your makeup like Kim Kardashian for your photos.

Should I Hire a Make-up Artist?

We’re often asked if we recommend having a hair and makeup artist present for your session, and our answer is always, “it’s up to you.” You know yourself best and your own makeup routine and abilities. We normally recommend makeup artists for people who barely wear any makeup or wear no makeup at all, if you have uneven or blotchy skin, if you can never get your hair to sit right for a photo, if you’ve never liked the way your makeup has photographed in the past, or if you just want that extra bit of insurance for your photo session. We work with makeup artists who specialize in professional portraits and have been trained in makeup specifically for print and motion photography. They will work with you to talk through how much makeup you usually wear, what colors and tones, and will build upon your usual look to make it photo-ready. The goal is for you to look like you, but for your features to pop and you look naturally beautiful.

Here’s an example of what professional makeup looks like on camera. The first images are of our two brave volunteers with no makeup, then with makeup they applied themselves and their hair how they normally wear it. The final photo was taken after a professional hair and makeup artist applied their makeup and styled their hair. No retouching was done to the photos below.

Should men have a makeup artist for their professional portrait? Just like with women, it’s up to you. Most men who add a makeup artist to their session do so because there’s something they notice in all of their photos that they don’t like and would like to correct with makeup, such as excessive shine, redness, or unruly hair.

How to Prepare for your Professional Portrait

Prepare for your professional portrait by taking care of yourself in the days leading up to your photo session. Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking, and drink plenty of water for a few days and on the day of your professional portrait. This will make your skin very hydrated to fill in lines and wrinkles, undereye circles, and give you a healthy glow. Get plenty of sleep the night before your photo so you’re rested and ready to go.

Hair: Don’t cut or dye your hair right before the photo, especially men since stylists tend to cut hair a little shorter so it looks like it’s at its proper length about 2 weeks later. Some shades of freshly colored hair can look too vibrant and unnatural on camera, especially a hair color with any red tones– drawing more attention to your hair than your face. A new haircut also looks its best after at least a week, and colored hair looks more natural after 1-2 weeks’ worth of shampooing.

Teeth: If you want to whiten your teeth before your session, start as early as possible and use a natural whitening method, or have your teeth whitened with your dentist. A quick emergency whitening method that works for many people is to mix some toothpaste with about 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of food-grade hydrogen peroxide, and about 1/2 teaspoon of water. Polish your teeth with this mixture and it should quickly whiten your teeth a shade or two. But don’t use this method more often than once a month- baking soda is abrasive and can wear away at your enamel if used too frequently. (And retouching is always a much safer option!)

And remember to have fun and not take it too seriously! We know that’s a little difficult after all these do’s and don’ts, but we promise to make the experience as relaxing as possible. You got this. 🙂