How to plan for a pro head shot

Connecticut head shot photographer, New Haven head shot photography

Even if you work in a physical workplace, there’s no denying that a huge part of our professional (and personal!) lives are online right now.  Your profile photo is often the first image someone sees of you, so having an engaging, flattering head shot is a key part of making a positive first impression.

You’ve hired your photographer to get a gorgeous shot or two of you.  How should you prepare?  Here’s what I tell my clients.


HAIR: If you need a haircut, get one a week or two before your head shot date, so that it has time to grow in a little bit.  If you’re getting your hair colored/styled, then that should be done closer to the date, either that morning or the day before.


 CLOTHES: Plan your outfit sooner than you think you need to, in case you need to order something to complete the outfit.  Here’s some questions to think about:

    1. Are you going for fun/funky or serious? What is this head shot for? Match the level of formality in your clothes to your career look. Color also plays a role here – neutral colors tend to read more serious.
    2. If you’re not sure, you can plan a fairly neutral outfit but bring a pop of color, e.g. a fun colorful scarf or a tie that pops.  This way you’ll end up with both options!
    3. Speaking of scarves and ties: layers look GREAT in head shots.  Blazers (maybe a knit blazer for a slightly more casual vibe?), cardigans over camisoles, jeans jackets, scarves are all great options, plus they give you the flexibility to have more than one “look”.
    4. Don’t shy away from patterns in clothing, but do avoid big logos or very loud patterns (rule of thumb: the pattern shouldn’t be bigger than your palm).
    5. One more note about color – if you’re going neutral, then your location color doesn’t matter too much.  But if you’re going for colorful, think about the dominant color in the background of your head shot location:
      1. Urban: usually grey.  Almost all types of color pops work!
      2. Park: green (or orange/brown in late fall/winter).  Bright pinks and magentas make a BOLD statement against green; pale greens, yellows, and blues will be tamer.  Be careful with red, it can look Christmasy!
      3. Marsh: browns (with yellow/orange in fall).  Most colors look good, but blues will pop the most!
      4. Beach: tan and blue.  Stay away from reds and pinks; they just don’t tend to work that well in beachy locations.  Yellows, blues, and greens all work!

 PRACTICE: It may feel odd, but spend five minutes in front of the mirror smiling at yourself before your session :-).  Try to determine:

    1. Do you like how one side of your face looks more than the other side?  If your hair has a part, that might be playing a role.  Try to remember which you like better, if you have a preference.  If you don’t, great!
    2. Try smiling with your lips gently parted.  This kind of smile looks really natural!
    3. How much of your body do you want to show? Traditional head shots are head and shoulders only, but the definition of a head shot has evolved so that most people actually prefer to have a little bit more of themselves showing in the shot: for example, hands can help reveal a bit of your personality.  Think about what you’re looking for so that you can tell your photographer.

That’s it!  Your photographer should be able to take care of everything else for you: they should know the most flattering lens to use; how best to “light” you, either in studio or naturally by how they position you relative to the sun; how to get you to relax for natural smiles; and finally they should give you LOTS of direction on how to sit/stand, so that you don’t have to think about those things!

If you have questions about head shots, leave a comment or send me an email at!

Serving Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut, & beyond