How to look great in Headshots, Portraits, and Profile Photos. Tips from a Commercial Photographer
As a Salt Lake City based commercial photographer, I’m often asked by my executive portrait and headshot subjects the same questions; “What should I wear?”, “Should I get a haircut before my portrait?”, “How about makeup or getting a tan?”, “Should I go casual?” Whether it’s going to be taken in an office, studio, or industrial construction site, here are a few tips to getting the most from your portrait. Some are obvious and some are not.
What to Wear
-Solids are always great. Patterns and thin stripes? Not so much as they don’t usually look good and sometimes cause issues on computer screens. There is a thing called the moiré effect when thin strips close together create a secondary rippling pattern. Houndstooth and herringbone are especially bad for this.
-Dark colors are more flattering for all skin tones. Mid tones are okay too if they contrast with darker tones. Avoid white shirts/blouses unless they’re under a jacket. Are your photos going to be converted to black and white? If so then it’s even more important to avoid pastels and non-contrasting tones. You can always take a photo on your phone and convert them to B+W at home to see what works.
-Men, have a collar! Even a simple polo is better that a crew neck and they look great with a jacket or blazer. Sporting a tie? Excellent! Bring one that works for the shirt you plan on wearing. If you are wearing a wide collared shirt, make sure to have a nice wide tie as well. A skinny tie will never get wide enough to fill the gap and seeing the collar of the tie looks a bit sloppy.
-Avoid short sleeves and sleeveless shirts. This goes for women or men. Short sleeves could be difficult to crop into a traditional headshot format. Bare arms highlight the contrast between the tone and color of your arms in contrast to your face.
-Still not sure? Bring a couple of options based on the above guidelines and we’ll decide together on set what looks best.
-If you have long hair please bring your hair brush. You want your hair to be smooth and flowing, full bodied, and neat as possible. It’s so much easier to get it right before the photo is taken and photoshopping stray hair on clothing is difficult.
-Oh yeah, please don’t dye or cut your hair immediately before the shoot. Some shades of freshly dyed hair can look too vibrant right after coloring. This goes for men too.
When a commercial photographer like myself comes into your work place or sets up a studio portrait we’ll bring artificial lights most of the time. This is great as you will get the most flattering images. The challenge, however, is that they can often make skin look shiny / glossy / sweaty / greasy. This is especially true on a hot day so when asked I recommend a bit of concealer / foundation / powder for ladies. For gentlemen I suggest a quick face wash just before you have your photo taken, or a quick wash with a baby wipe also works well. And for goodness sake please DON’T go out and get a tan before your portrait! Keep it natural. Some healthy color is fine but overly tan (or sunburned) faces never look right in photos and tanning bed tans look especially un-natural.
Lastly, I’d always advise a quick stop off to check yourself in the mirror right before your sitting. Just give yourself the once over to make sure that you’re happy. Does your hair look good? Is your necklace hanging correctly? Is your tie straight and the top button not showing? Is there is no food in your teeth, etc.
Once you’re in front of the camera and ready to go I’ll take it from there. I’ll ask you to stand up straight and where to position your head. I’ll find your best side. You’ll comment on the music and tell me it’s your favorite band. You’ll easily follow my directions on how to move and you’ll smile spontaneously. If we change locations the process will be painless as well. We’ll chat a little more and before you know it, we’re done. You’ll be so comfortable by the end that you’ll forget we’re taking pictures.
I’ve been a professional commercial and editorial photographer for many years. I’ve photographed hundreds of everyday people for commercial, editorial, industrial assignments, and thousands of executive headshots. You’re in safe hands. I know this portrait will last a few years or longer online so I’m going to take a picture of you that makes you happy. Have trust in me.
- Posted by Douglas Barnes
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