The first thing people normally ask me once they’ve booked their session is, “What should I wear?”. While there is not necessarily any hard and fast rules here, there are some general guidelines that I always instruct my clients to follow. Overall, you want to keep it simple. Remember, your headshots should draw people’s attention to your face and expression and not toward to wardrobe choice. Your wardrobe should compliment you but not overpower you.

Simple, not busy

While unique patterns, polka dots, stripes, or any other kinds of markings on clothing can be flattering in person, they distract from the subject in photos. Even if it’s one of your favorite shirts, my recommendation is to leave it at home and not wear it to the shoot. Solid colors usually work best for headshots. There are some exceptions to this, but in general I try to get my clients to stick with solid colors. When it comes to color choice, it will depend on your skin tone, eye color, hair color, and figuring out which color compliments you the most. I always suggest that my clients bring a few different outfits with them (no matter which package they choose) so I can assist them in deciding which ones will be the most flattering for their headshots. For men, I suggest v-neck shirts, button down long sleeve shirts, blazers & sport coats, or a full suit, depending on their desired look. For the ladies, v-necks also look great, button down shirts, and blazers and suits. Wear something you will feel confident in and that will compliment your look and not distract from it.

Practice smiling

Yes, I’m serious. Most people don’t realize how many different expressions can be seen in their smile. Just slight variations of the eyes and mouth can communicate completely different things to the viewer of a headshot. We want the most genuine, natural smiles possible during your session. I always communicate with my clients throughout the shoot to keep them loose and feeling as natural as possible. My goal is to have this feel like an enjoyable conversation rather than a stiff, serious, photo shoot. When looking into a camera, the tendency for most people is to whip out the “dentist smile”. I also refer to it as the “lifeless smile” or the “dead eyed smile”. Try it in the mirror and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Just smiling with your teeth is not a genuine expression. True smiles come at the tail end of a laugh – that’s when we still get a smile but we also get a relaxed, genuine look from the eyes, the cheekbones, and all of the other tiny muscles in your face involved with a smile.

Mastering the Squinch

Another technique to practice in front of the mirror is the squinch. If you ever see movie stars on the red carpet while the camera are flashing, they’re usually squinching. Squinching is much different than squinting. When you squint, you pull both upper eyelids down and the lower eyelids up, like when the sun is in your eyes. With a squinch, we only want to move the lower eyelids up. You should feel pressure on the cheekbones and the lower eyelids, but your upper eyelids should remain normal. What does this do? Multiple things. It adds a look of confidence and focus to your expression. When the eyes are left wide open in a photo where you’re not smiling, people tend to look expressionless, bored, or scared. Otherwise known as the deer in the headlights look. A simple squinch with the lower lids goes a long way. I get a lot of clients who think they “can’t do serious looks” into the camera. But once I show them the squinch, they realize they CAN. This is not a move reserved for models and the Hollywood elite – you can do it too!


Lastly, try to relax and enjoy the session rather than thinking of it as a “photoshoot”. I promise you we will get far better photos if you allow yourself to relax, have fun, and even be a little goofy during your session. We’ll have a conversation that gets genuine expressions rather than dentist smiles. If you follow these tips, I guarantee you’ll get the fantastic results you’re looking for!

Andrew Barker

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