How to Choose the Best Outfit for Your Business Headshot • Leslie Friedman Consulting: Fashion, Personal Branding, and Communication Resources
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How to Choose the Best Outfit for Your Business Headshot

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So, maybe the last blog post hit you a little deep and you decided it’s time for a real, professional headshot. Doing some research and finding the right photographer is the easy part. It starts getting hard, and quite frankly- overwhelming, when we start thinking about everything else required like picking out an outfit, doing your hair, choosing makeup, etc.

I’m going to use the full body photo I just had taken last week (maybe you saw my live video, if not, watch it here and like my Facebook page so you don’t miss out on the next one!) to walk you through, step by step, how to choose an appropriate outfit for your business picture/headshot.

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(Huge kuddos to Stephen at Giraffe Photography for the above picture)

As you can see in the above picture, I broke the decision process into four steps:

  1. Garment Type. The best place to start anything is at the beginning, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here. You need to start by deciding what type of garment you’d like to wear. Whatever you choose needs to be appropriate for your position and be able to resonate with your future clients. For example, a lawyer wearing a polished suit would be both appropriate and be seen in a positive manner from potential clients. On the other hand, if a laid back bar owner wore a suit, it may look out of place or trying to hard (as compared to a more casual look). I chose a dress because I cater to women and I want to be seen as feminine, professional, and fashionable. I also chose a dress because I knew that I wanted a full body picture that would show off an entire garment.

2.  Color. Once I decided to wear a dress, and before I even started thinking about what dress I wanted to wear, I picked a color. Color is the easiest way to instantly send a message to your viewer and it’s also the easiest way to make you look younger and more vibrant or old and worn out. This goes without saying, but choose a color that looks good on you. Red looks good on me and it is also a strong, memorable color.

3.  Fit. Now that I’ve decided on my garment type (dress) and color (red), I need to figure out what kind of dress I want. Once again, I wanted something feminine and sexy, but still business appropriate. I genetically have thin legs (thanks, mom!), so I always try to accentuate my waist, hips, and legs. I chose something that was most blousey on top to even out the fitted nature of the bottom of the dress (this keeps me from looking like a skank) and give me a more hourglass shape. Like most women, I am a pear shape with a bigger bottom half than top half (read: I have no boobs whatsoever). Just like choosing a color, the key is to find a fit that flatters. If you don’t have that perfect dress in your closet, don’t worry. Between friends, siblings, and rental companies, you can find exactly what you’re looking for at minimum cost (more on that later).

4.   Accessories. Leaving out accessories is like walking away from a painting before you’ve finished painting. I like to keep accessories to minimum so that don’t distract, but I also make sure that the ones that I do wear are impactful. I am particularly a huge fan of pearls. Pearls can brighten up the face and are traditional enough that people don’t get distracted by them. After all, you want the viewer to focus on your face rather than your jewelry. Be sure to also think of your hair, nails, and makeup as an accessory. How can you alter each of these items to enhance your natural look without making yourself look fake or contrived?

Let’s talk money. Some people can hire an Image Consultant like myself to tell them exactly what to wear, go shopping with them, and recommend hair salons for hair and makeup the day of. However, the majority of us don’t have a pretty penny budgeted in for professional headshots. You’ve probably already taken the leap to hire a professional photographer and you’re dealing with the sticker shock (compared to those subpar free photo sessions your company provides occasionally) and thinking, ‘I can’t afford to go out and buy all new clothes!!’ These next few tips are for you:

  •  Borrow. If you have a friend that has the perfect suit that you need for your picture, simply ask. Be sure the have the suit professionally dry cleaned afterwards as a thank you. You can also borrow shoes, accessories, etc.
  • Rent an outfit. I rented my dress and necklace from Rent the Runway in order to get an expensive designer look for much less. You could also get a subscription to any clothes service (le tote, etc) and use pieces from that.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable doing your own makeup or hair, get it done at the makeup counter at Sephora (be sure to buy something, though!) or book an appointment with a cosmetology school for a blowout and makeover. If you do your makeup yourself, be sure to ask the photographer (or do some online research) for tips. Makeup shows up differently in different lights.
  • Take into account what you know will show. If you are getting a traditional headshot (unlike my full body pic), you don’t really need to worry about the kind of bottoms or shoes you are wearing. Finding a perfect blouse may be exactly what you need and is much easier to pull together than an entire perfect outfit, so don’t get bogged down trying to assemble something that won’t even be seen.

I spent under $75 on the outfit you see above. The shoes I already owned, but those are basic black pumps that I could have easily borrowed from a friend. The dress ($55) and necklace ($10) came from Rent the Runway and since it was my first rental, I got an extra 20% off. I did a lot of online research to figure out what makeup would be the best and I did my own (pro tip: don’t use anything with SPF! It will reflect camera light and make you look greasy). I also did a lot of trial and error at home to make sure I knew how to create the hairstyle I wanted. All in all, the most expensive part was the clothing, but as the key component that makes this photo really stand out, I think it was worth it.

Good luck with your next photoshoot!!

If you liked what you read, you’ll probably enjoy my best-selling book: Dressing Your Personal Brand! Check out the first chapter below for free!

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