The one thing I despise most is prepping for a professional or business photoshoot.

Between choosing the outfit, finding a professional makeup artist, and making sure the kids don’t spill anything as I make my way out, I’m just not a fan. And figuring out what to wear for a professional headshot? Impossible.

BUT, with your personal brand and online presence becoming increasingly important, having readily available business headshots are necessary.

So, unless you can get away with “cheating” like I did by using an AI headshot generator, then here are my top professional headshot tips and checklist to consider when heading out to that photo session.

The Pre-Photo Shoot Checklist

Here’s a quick list of everything you should do prior to your headshot session:

  • Hair Prep
  • Facial Hair Prep
  • Skin Prep
  • Nail Prep
  • Outfit(s)
  • Makeup Scheduled
  • Schedule Your Photographer & Background

Some of these may be optional for you, depending on your normal self-maintenance, but I highly recommend at least scanning every section, as there are knowledge drops everywhere.

1. Hair Preparation

Unless you’re bald, there’s actually a lot of preparation that goes into your hair the week before your headshot photo session.

  • Get a Trim/Cut: Get that hair trimmed to get rid of dead and split ends. However, this is not the time to test out a new hairstyle (unless you’re really brave).
  • Hair Dying: If you dye your hair, make sure you book an appointment with your hairstylist at least a week in advance. We don’t want any regrowth or gray hairs but also want the dye to settle for a few days.
  • Deep Conditioning: Consider a deep conditioning treatment a few days before the shoot (if you’ve done it before). This will make your hair shiny for the pictures, but be sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid any product build-up.
  • Avoid Overwashing: If you’re going to be styling your hair, consider your hair washing schedule. For example, I don’t wash mine 24 hours before so that the curls will take and hold. If I were to condition that morning, it would be game over.
  • Test Hairstyles: If you’re planning to style your own hair, practice the look a few times before the actual day. There’s nothing more frustrating than planning a specific style and rushing against the clock to make it work. Take photos to see if you like how it looks. For instance, if you have some of it pulled back, you may not like how it photographs.
  • No New Products: Avoid trying new hair products right before the shoot. You don’t want to risk a bad reaction that could affect your scalp or hair texture.
  • Check the Weather: Consider the weather conditions if your shoot is outdoors. Humidity can frizz your hair. Rainy days, you want your umbrella at the ready.

2. Facial Hair Preparation

This one you may want to consider thinking a few weeks in advance. Here are some good suggestions:

  • Shave Your Face: For men, make sure you have a nice, clean-shaven face if that’s your style. If you have a beard, be sure it’s nicely trimmed up. Try to avoid any cuts or knicks!
  • Eyelashes: If you typically have them professionally done, be sure they’re ready to go. Best to go more natural looking than too much. If you put on falsies, make sure you have them on hand with extra eyelash glue.
  • Eyebrow/Upper Lip Waxing: Make sure those eyebrows are waxed nicely if you typically get that done. Do this at least two days before so there’s time for the redness and swelling to go down. Same for your upper lip.

3. Skin Prep

Really, this just refers to trying to have as nice of skin as possible (aka preventing breakouts).

Avoid changing your skincare routine, don’t forget to wash your face, and don’t try anything new.

Also, if you often (or like to) have a spray tan, make sure to do this at the ultimate time (a few days before when it will look natural, but before it starts rubbing off). Don’t go too orange and try to make it as natural as possible.

USE SUNSCREEN to prevent any sunburns before your shoot if you’re going to be outside. We don’t want any awkward sun tans.

Don’t be this guy….

4. Nail Prep

Alright, this is a biggy. If you don’t wear paint on your nails, make sure they’re clean, cuticles pushed back, and look nice.

If you wear acrylics, press-ons or you paint them, they HAVE to look perfect. It’s best to have nails with more neutral colors and minimal designs or too much bling (again UNLESS your brand calls for it, then go all out).

I personally had these one time. They’re fun, but definitely still professional enough for my tastes.

5. Makeup Preparation

When it comes to professional headshots, less is often more. Your goal is to enhance your natural features, this isn’t 2007. Here are some tips for achieving a well-balanced, camera-ready makeup look.


  1. Go Matte, Not Shiny: I do love my shiny Tarte foundation, but you can’t have that much shine when it comes to camera flashes and lights. Use flat colors.
  2. Perfect Match: Ensure that your foundation matches your skin tone perfectly because it will be too noticeably in a high-def photo.


  1. Subtle Shades: Stick to neutral eyeshadows that accentuate your eye color without overwhelming them (browns, taupes, etc. no blues or purples).
  2. Mascara & Eyeliner: Keep it minimal. A little mascara to open up the eyes and perhaps some soft eyeliner is usually enough. You don’t want you’re eyes looking small.
  3. Brows: Your eyebrows frame your face, so make sure they are neatly shaped with your eyebrow pencil or shadow.


  1. Natural Tones: Opt for natural, nude tones for a subtle look or a classic red if that’s what looks best.
  2. Avoid Gloss: Same with shiny foundation, shiny gloss won’t show up well on a camera.

Blush & Contour

  1. Light Hand: This one you’ll know best. Most photographers recommend going more natural, but I like the look of contouring.
  2. Blend, Blend, Blend: Whether it’s your blush or your contour, blending well is key to a natural look.


  1. Set It & Forget It: A setting spray can keep your makeup in place throughout the shoot, but be sure to bring some with you as well.

Other Tips

  1. Test Run: Try a full makeup run a few days before your shoot to ensure the look meets your expectations.
  2. Professional Help: If you suck at doing your own makeup like I do, then hire a makeup artist.
  3. Day of Touch-ups: Bring your makeup kit for any last-minute touch-ups right before the shoot.


  1. Fresh is Best: Try to schedule your makeup application as close to the shoot as possible to ensure it looks best.

Remember, you’re aiming for a polished version of yourself, simple and elegant is best.

Additional Headshot Tips

  1. Glass or No Glasses? Wear glasses if you typically wear them daily. Otherwise, don’t add them to look “smart” if it’s not what you typically do.
  2. Ask your professional headshot photographer if there are any other suggestions or necessities for your specific photoshoot. They may have their own requirements.

6. What To Wear for Headshots

When it comes to choosing what to wear for headshots, there are a couple of general rules you should follow. Remember, these will likely be displayed in your office or as a professional profile picture on social media.

  • Keep your profession in mind. If you’re having corporate headshots taken, then likely it’s business professional or even formal wear. If you’re a small business owner (say a sports store owner), then you’ll likely be wearing timeless sports attire and more casual clothing in general.
  • Pick out multiple outfits. You’ll want to mix it up between lighter and darker colors, and long and short sleeves, but always try and reflect some of your own personal style. Remember, we want any customer or client prospects to see “us” in the photo.
  • Make Sure Your Outfits Are Clean, Wrinkle-Free, and Lint-Free. Also, watch those dogs and cats from jumping on you to prevent pet hair when you’re leaving.
  • Typically, you want to wear fitted clothing over loose or baggy clothing. But there are always exceptions to the rule if your profession calls for more overly casual clothing styles.
  • If you wear designer clothing, make sure you avoid logos or branding on your clothing (unless of course that’s your company and you’re showing off the brand!


Color Choices

  1. Solid Over Patterns: Stick to solid colors that work with your skin tone. No patterns please.
  2. Avoid Neon: Neon colors are just a no-no.

Necklines and Textures

  1. Neckline for your body type: Everyone has a preferred neckline, whether that’s v-neck or a scoop neck. Just make sure it’s professional and most flattering for your body type.
  2. Textures are Your Friend: Materials with a bit of texture can add some depth and interest without being as distracting as a pattern.


  1. Minimal but Meaningful: If you wear jewelry, make it minimal and classy. A small necklace or stud earrings are enough.
  2. Watches: Stick to classic styles that aren’t overly large or flashy if you wear them.

Sleeve Length

  1. Go Long or Three-Quarter: This is most common, especially in a more professional setting. You can have a shorter shirt, with a blazer covering the front.
  2. Short Sleeve or No Sleeve: Contrary to what most believe, this is actually the style that works best for me. I’m a slimmer build, and my shoulders look better than me be swallowed up by a shirt. Do what’s most flattering for you.

Here are some photo examples on how vastly different your apparel can be, but all achieve a great headshot.


The same rules discussed for women pretty much apply to men as well. Here’s a few more additional tips.


  1. Tie or No Tie: If you’re wearing a tie, make sure it complements your shirt. A slight contrast can be good, but avoid extremely bold patterns.
  2. Hats: This is really specific to your career. For instance if you’re in mechanics (as my husband is) a hard helmet is totally acceptable for your photos.

Shirt Types

  1. Collared Shirt Considerations: Button-up shirts with a stiff collar make for a clean, professional look. Polo shirts are generally less formal but can work depending on your industry.
  2. Jackets: If you’re wearing a suit jacket, make sure it’s tailored well. Badly fitting jackets can make you appear bulkier.

Here are a few examples for men:

Professional Headshot Photo Day Tips

1. Bring essentials

Pack a small bag with hair essentials like a comb, hairpins, hairspray, or whatever other styling products you you may need for touch-ups during the shoot.

2. Wear Clothing Right Before the Photo Shoot

Have your headshot outfits packed and ready and away from any potential spills. Remember to bring multiple outfits.

3. Show up early to your professional headshot session.

4. Posture Posture Posture.

5. Ask To View Some Photos

Ask your photographer to see a few as you’re going so you can adjust your own positioning and give them feedback. I look horrible from the side (thanks awful jawline), and I actively participate in my own shoots.

Selecting a Business Headshot Photo

When your photo shoot is finished, your professional photographer will likely edit and give you dozens of options. I personally am not a fan of black and white headshots, as it looks a bit like your hiding your imperfections.

Choose a photo that brings out your personal best, that you feel confident in having shown to the world.

Also, pick one that looks like you in real life. It’s not a fun conversation when you meet someone and you look nothing like your photo in your professional portraits.

Final Thoughts

When you show up for your professional headshot, remember that this photo will serve as an extension of your personal brand.

From your hair down to your shoes (even if they won’t be in the shot), everything should represent you at your best and most professional self.

Figuring out what to wear for headshots can be difficult, but preparation is key. With these preparation tips, you’ll have a business headshot you’ll be happy to see enlarged on an office wall.

By taking the time to prep for your photo session, you’re setting yourself up for success and ensuring that your professional image will be up to par. You’ll walk into that studio with confidence, knowing you’ve done everything you can to look and feel your best.

I hope this guide has been helpful in preparing you for your upcoming headshot session. After all, in today’s digital age, a great headshot can go a long way. Good luck!

Why Do I Need Professional Headshots

Having a professional headshot is either mandatory for your company or vital for your business.

With social media, people love getting to know you as a person more than they ever have before. So, whether you need to level up your digital business card or have a professional photo on your LinkedIn profile, having a great professional headshot is necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best color to wear for a headshot?

Blues and greens are universally flattering colors. Avoid neons or overly bright shades as they can create glare or reflect onto your skin.

How should I dress for a headshot?

Dress how you would for an important business meeting in your industry. Casual industries can go for a smart-casual look, while more traditional industries may require a suit and tie.

What do girls wear for headshots?

For women, solid colors and minimal patterns are key. Neckline should be modest, and it’s usually best to go for a top with sleeves. Keep jewelry simple and understated.

What not to do in a headshot?

Avoid excessive makeup, flashy jewelry, or overly casual clothes. Always opt for something timeless over trendy. Don’t forget to sleep well the night before to avoid looking tired.

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