Preparing For Your Headshot Photography Session

This short guide will help you with tips to get the most out of your headshot session. If you have questions please feel free to call me at 510-830-8804. This guide is a work in progress. Your comments to improve this guide are welcome before and after your session. Email me your comments.



As the date of your photography session gets closer, give yourself a few days to think about hair and clothing. That way you will be more confident with your choices and still have time for a last-minute adjustment. Schedule your photo session to account for your cycles of sleep, medication or exams, and allow plenty of extra time to spend at the studio. Also, give haircuts a few days to fall into place, and shave your face at a time that leaves you neither too rough nor too red. The morning of your session, get a good breakfast and read the paper. Then go wash your face and apply some moisturizer to replace the skin oil you just scrubbed out. Under no circumstances should you stay up late, party or drink the night before your session, even if you are not scheduled until late in the afternoon.

You just can't get away with it.

Drink plenty of water. The water will help your skin to appear smooth and clear in the week leading up to your headshot session.


What Is A Headshot?

It's an 8x10 (publicity) photograph of you that realistically conveys your appearance and personality for branding or casting. Headshots are typically promotional pictures of actors, models, and authors.

Headshots are most commonly used in "about us" pages and many people represent themselves using headshots in social media and online dating profiles. Headshots are typically medium close-up (MCU) photographs that show the top of the shoulders up to above the head. In a typical headshot the eyes will be in the top, middle half of the photo according to the rule of thirds.

For actors, the director wants to see 2 things from a headshot: What you really look like, and if you can connect with the camera. The style of your headshot does not matter. But, simple is better. The photo should be about you, not the background or the environment or a photographer's fancy tricks.

For professionals, your LinkedIn profile photo or the 'about me' section of your website should typically convey 'confidence' and 'approachability.' Think what these terms mean to you, and convey that 'look' in your headshot.


Headshot Photos - What To Wear

The best clothes to wear during a headshot photo shoot are a widely debated topic. The following is a version of what I have discovered.

• Plain & simple, not dated.

• The highlight of the headshot should be your eyes and not your clothing. Wear a solid colored shirt with an interesting neckline.

• Limited Jewelry: Avoid distracting accessories, such as large, shiny jewelry. If you have a pierced ear, wear studs or small hoops. No matter how much you love your gold necklace, remember it will take the focus away from your face.

• Neckline: Is your neck short or long? A V-neck lengthens the neck; a round neckline shortens it. A collar frames the face well, without taking away length from your neck. A collared shirt with a V-neck or a few buttons undone is most popular. Turtlenecks completely hide the neck, which is very unflattering, and should be avoided.

• No Logos: Logos mean product placement issues (for actors) and make you otherwise look unprofessional. Exception: A company (e.g. yoga studio) logo where all the staff are wearing similar outfits.

• Denim jackets: Sometimes they work. Bring it along and we'll see.

• No shiny leather: Screams "over the top". It limits your potential and distracts from your face.

• Glasses: If you always wear glasses, keep them on for the photo shoot. Lighting can be adjusted to eliminate glare. In difficult cases, the lenses can sometimes be removed from the frames, but it is very important to maintain a natural, comfortable look.

• Subdued/No Patterns: Avoid bold colors and crazy patterns. They will present a distraction.

• Anything that has texture (but not fuzzy) is nice. It adds interest without being distracting. No polka dots, no wild prints, and no distracting stripes.

• Pastel colors are typically not recommended. Neither is white or black, but more importantly, you should avoid anything that clashes with your skin tone. Colors that compliment your skin tone are appropriate.

• Avoid blouses with padded shoulders.

• Women should bring the correct bra colors for the wardrobe. (Please remember to wear a flesh-toned bra under white garments!)

• Bring a couple of different newish shirts/tops in different shades.

• Light to dark colors are fine, as long as it doesn't match or come close to your skin tone. Wear items that provide some contrast to your skin tones. Choose clothes that complement your skin tone and eye color. Fair skin and blue eyes? Try blues, pinks and grays. Green eyes? Try browns, greens and oranges. Medium or dark skin and brown eyes? You can probably wear most colors, but avoid those that closely match your skin tone (contrast is key).


Makeup Tips – How to Apply Makeup for Photographs

• Your face will be the primary focus of your headshot, so it's essential that it looks its best. (It will make you feel your best, too!). A week ahead of time, get a facial. Exfoliate/groom a few days before. Give yourself four to five days before your shoot to get your skin prepped.

• Skin Features: Do not hide your skin's personality! Flaunt your freckles. Cover your moles. They are a part of what makes you unique. Unique features are what make others sit up and take notice. Of course, if the day of the shoot you are sporting a monstrous zit, use some light makeup, but I'll magically heal it! Generally speaking, unusual attractive features are an asset. Who would ever want to say good-bye to Harrison Ford's chin scar?

• Avoid heavy makeup! During finishing of your selected images, we will take care of blemishes and other 'artifacts' on your skin during the basic retouch process. Heavy makeup tends to look caked up.

• B/W Photo: Remember, if you are going for you're doing this for Black and White, not color; darker colors will appear as shadow, lighter colors as highlight. The trend in the states is for color headshots and in UK is B&W because I shoot everything in color, you'll have a wide range of choices.

• Ladies with straight hair: You want to frame your face, so if your hair is very straight and long, give it some body to accentuate your face.

• Haircut: Don't get a hair cut the day before your shoot! It will look like you just got a haircut. Give your hair a week after a cut to relax.


Remember, it’s all about the eyes!

How important are the eyes? They are critical to making your headshot stand out. Regardless of your facial expression, always communicate with your eyes. Your eyes are a window to your personality and are the first feature noticed in a headshot.

For the most part, you will be looking into the camera, with intention, conveying a specific state of mind. (Happy, confident, curious, interested, etc.) Sometimes, I will ask you to look ‘through’ the camera. Whatever you’re being asked, know that it is to get you in the best state possible. Play along and have fun!