After someone has booked their headshot session, one of the first things they ask about is wardrobe. I have seen everything from someone showing up to a session with a couture fashion show to someone showing up and pulling a wrinkled, smelly, stained t-shirt out of a plastic bag. So what is the right way to approach clothing for headshots?
Here are some basic things to think about:
1. Consider your character type.
This, I think, is the most important. You really want to be sure that your wardrobe choices complement your character type. Knowing your market is key to getting a successful headshot. For example, what is your age range? Are you aiming your headshot at blue-collar or upper-class roles? Are you playing sexy roles or are you more of the girl/boy next door? I have had guys bring three-piece suits yet tell me that their marketing is more the college slacker type. I’ve also had women only bring sexy dresses with plunging necklines only to tell me that their agent wants something that could help them land salesperson-type commercial auditions. Watch the characters you would play on TV or film and take note of their wardrobe as inspiration.
2. Do not wear costumes.
Getting too specific with wardrobe can be limiting. For instance, you can imply doctor without wearing a white coat and a stethoscope in your headshot. It looks cheesy. Some sort of a sports jacket and a nice shirt without a tie, for example, could be just as convincing. And now, you can also use that headshot for lawyer, detective, business owner, etc. There are exceptions, like if you have a specific skill that you are marketing and need to showcase it. Even then, I would suggest making the shot less specific and working with your photographer to show what you’re trying to show implicitly.
3. Your headshot is not a fashion show.
Of course you want to look your best, but if your amazing Prada shirt that you saw Emma Stone wearing at her last appearance is getting more attention…it’s taking away from you! When picking out clothes, look for items that compliment your body type. You don’t want clothes that don’t fit. For the most part, avoid ruffles, logos, and busy patterns; they are distracting in a headshot. If you want to use subtle pattern to add some quirkiness or character to a shot, make sure your eye doesn’t jump to the shirt first. Also, make sure you can’t see through your clothing. If an item of clothing is sheer, wear something underneath that is non-distracting. Your wardrobe should highlight your personality, not scream over it.
4. Capture your personality, but don’t be too eccentric.
Again, you don’t want to be limiting. In commercials, film and on television, you will see characters to whom some large group of people can relate on some level. If your wardrobe is “unique” or “different” and you don’t see that character type being cast at the moment, you might find your headshot to be less effective. Your agents and casting directors may love your spirit and energy but not know what to do with you. Make sure that whatever you are selling is being bought. There are always ways to show your unique personality, without your wardrobe screaming, “Look at me and how different I am!”
5. Bring options.
Don’t just bring multiple color variations of the same shirt to your headshot session. For each wardrobe change that you do, bring two or three options. Each wardrobe change should tell a different story, otherwise you have wasted your money on multiple shots that look the same except for the color of your shirt. Your photographer will collaborate on looking at what you brought, deciding what is most complimentary and what best satisfies your marketing.
6. Buy and return.
In a headshot, faded, wrinkled clothing with stains and holes only reflects on your professionalism. Finances should not be a reason you show up to your session with clothing that shows you don’t take yourself, your headshots, or your career seriously. Most stores have a 30-day return policy. It might be a good idea to keep the items you wind up using in your headshot session so that you have something for auditions. Another option is to call your best friends with the clean, new shirts and borrow something for the day. Just remember to treat their wardrobe better than you would your own.