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How to Look Great in a
Corporate Style Headshot

Copyright 2018 by Michael Brochstein

My real-world experience creating headshots has led to the suggestions below. Some of them may seem obvious but I can assure you that they wouldn't be listed below if they didn't address actual situations that I have experienced. (Additional headshot examples can be seen here.)

Brush your teeth – Your headshot will have excellent resolution and food from your last meal may be very visible and unsightly. Your standard headshot fee does not typically include retouching away food from your teeth. Consider bringing a toothbrush, toothpaste and/or dental floss.

Comb your hair – Stray hair can / will be a distraction in your headshot. The fee for your headshot does not typically include retouching flyaway / errant hair. Consider bringing a comb or brush.

Clean clothes & eyeglasses – The details of your clothing will be visible and stains may be quite noticeable. If you wear eyeglasses then make sure that they are clean.

Be comfortable - A headshot generally includes your face, hair and shoulders and not a lot below that. There's no need to wear uncomfortable shoes or even a nice pair of pants or skirt unless you wish to as they will not be in the headshot.

Clothing – When choosing clothing think about the image you are trying to project.

There are three categories for people and their clothes; Those who dress worse than average, those who dress above average and those who dress in an average / normative manner. You definitely want to avoid dressing worse than average and it is hard to dress above average.

Your best bet are clothes that draw little attention as the purpose of a headshot is for people to see what you look like, not to see that you are wearing the trendiest fashion forward clothing - unless that is important for your image.

Clothes, particularly for men, that are classic / conservative will in some ways make the clothes invisible – think of looking at headshots of a group of men all wearing white button-down dress shirts and conservative silk ties.

Appropriate Clothing – Clothing choices are subjective and this advice is simply “conventional wisdom” and may not be the only options that are appropriate. Some of what is written below is in the context of mainstream corporate America – think corporate lawyers or major politicians etc.

If your professional image is otherwise then feel free to modify / ignore as appropriate. Do remember that a headshot includes your top but does not include pants or skirts in the image so feel free to dress comfortably from the waist down.

Men – Classic business attire is conservative and typically includes a dark suit, white button down shirt and a conservative silk tie. If a large law firm’s lawyer or an American politician such as a US president or a senator would wear what you have in mind for a major speech then you are probably projecting a classic corporate image. Not wearing a suit jacket may be fine - but this is subjective.

Women – The author has a lifetime of experience dressing as a man and has spent many years working in corporate America. He is of the wrong gender to have great insights into women’s fashions but in general conservative non-distracting (i.e. not loud patterned) clothing is recommended. In terms of makeup, less is more as you probably don’t want your makeup to draw attention to itself.

As mentioned above, a corporate style headshot is usually cropped just below the shoulders. This means that there are generally three things seen in a typical headshot, your head and hair, your neck and your shoulders.  There may be a little seen below your shoulders but typically not much at all.

Someone dressing in a typical corporate looking wardrobe for a male generally has little of their neck showing as the collar of the shirt may be closed and they may be wearing a tie or bowtie.  Women on the other hand have a much wider range of attire that would be considered appropriate for corporate America.

Since the neckline of women's clothing can vary a lot I suggest considering what part of your headshot you want the viewer to be most concentrating on. In my opinion, for both men and women, it is the face. A typical headshot is either a slightly tall vertical (i.e. a 5:4 ratio which is usually my preference) or a square.

Consider how much vertical real estate is taken up by the three parts (face/hair, neck and shoulders) in your headshot. If your clothing has a low neckline then the vertical space may be dominated by your neck which may result in the viewer's attention paying too much attention to your neck and not your face. A higher neckline may force attention back to your face.
A solid, non-patterned or detailed white top can also attract a lot of attention as the unbroken brightness will generally attract a viewer's eye. A patterned white top or a white top with details such as a button-down dress shirt has the solid whiteness of it broken up by such things as a collar, buttons and a placket.

In the end, it's your headshot and the above advice is can be followed or ignored. My purpose is simply to be helpful by articulating various relevant issues. What you do with my advice is up to you...
Examples of headshots can be seen here.
Feedback / Questions: Please feel free to email Michael Brochstein with any comments, suggestions and/or questions.
Full Disclosure: This is to let you know that the author has no financial interest in any of the items, vendors or websites mentioned on this page.

 Last update: 4/9/18

Copyright © 2018 Michael Brochstein. All rights reserved.