The most important thing about headshots

Headshots should represent the best professional version of your current self within your line of work. Essentially you want your headshots to match what you would look like if you were meeting a client, customer or employer in person for the first time.

You want to build trust by looking like the same person IRL that you present yourself as in photos. If you look different in person than you do in your headshots, that can immediately break trust. (This is why it’s important to update your headshots every few years or any time you have a major change to your physical appearance.)

Now that you understand the importance of presenting your true self in your headshots, I’ll guide you through all of the things that can help us capture the best version of YOU!

blond female dressed professionally in a black blazer standing in front of black studio backdrop smiling at the camera

Quick note about Headshots vs. Personal Branding

When it comes to headshots, my recommendations are based on the fact that headshots focus on you, your eyes and your smile. They are typically cropped to include only your face and upper body. The guidelines are more flexible for Personal Branding Photography where we focus more heavily on your brand personality and the details that make you and your business stand out. Read more about the difference between headshots and personal branding photography here.

blond female wearing black sweater sitting in blue chair smiling in a studio with wood floors and cinder block walls
blond female with short hair and black blazer sitting in front of sage green studio backdrop smiling with head tilted
blond female with short hair wearing sage green fashion blouse on matching studio backdrop laughing with hands on head

My head-to-toe guide on how to prepare for headshots you will love

Clothing for Headshots:

Some key things to ask yourself when choosing what to wear for your headshots: 

Is it flattering? 

Is it comfortable? 

Does it reflect how I want to be perceived?


Simple and forgettable is best for traditional and casual headshots. You want the viewer to connect with your face, not your outfit. You should wear something that reflects your profession and makes sense to your audience. For example, I would expect a yoga instructor, an attorney and an interior designer to each dress very differently for their headshots. They each want to present themselves as an expert in their industry and their clothing choices can help support that.

Or if your goal is to create artistic, eye-catching headshots full of personality, we can explore options for that as well. (We can even achieve a variety of classic, casual and creative in one session.)

As for style, try on tops, dresses and jumpsuits with a variety of necklines to see which is most flattering on you - crew neck, v-neck, boatneck, turtleneck, collared shirt, blazer, etc. Just avoid tops that are too low cut. You want the focus on your face, not your cleavage.

I also suggest choosing a top with long sleeves unless you absolutely love your bare arms. And bringing a blazer, jacket or sweater you can layer over one of your tops is a quick way to get two looks from one outfit.

female with long blond hair wearing hat and floral dress looking at camera with big smile in front of black backdrop


It’s very important that the clothing you choose fits perfectly - not too loose, not too tight. Fitted clothing is more flattering in photos. Oversized, flowy or blousy clothes don't translate as well in a still photo as they do in real life.


You want to choose colors that will compliment your brand as well as the location. If you don’t have brand colors yet, or don’t want to wear them, mid-tones and neutrals are a good starting point. If you’ve had a personal color analysis done, you already know what colors best flatter your skin tone. If you haven’t, choose a color that people always compliment you on when you wear it. 

Also, if you plan to create any scroll-stopping ads with your new headshots, consider incorporating a bold, attention-grabbing color, whether it’s your clothing or the background.

If your session allows for a wardrobe change, bring 2-4 different colors to be photographed in. If you’re having a hard time paring it down, feel free to bring more and I can help you decide!

young blond female professional wearing white top and black blazer smiling in front of purple backdrop


Although I feel solid colors are best for headshots as they put the emphasis on your face, patterns can be considered as long as you AVOID big, bold patterns and small repeating patterns such as gingham and pinstripes (or even fine ribbed material) as they tend to create a moire effect on digital images.


All of your clothing should be free of wrinkles, spots, lint and pet hair. These WILL show in your photos and while most can be edited out (with the exception of wrinkles) it will require extra time - and extra money if the edits are extensive. Plan to bring all outfits for your session ironed, hanging and ready to be photographed. Protect them in a garment bag if needed.


Make sure your clothing is not revealing any undergarments, lines or straps as these will require the time and cost of advanced editing. Shapewear is a great option if it gives you confidence, but if it’s ill-fitting it may add unwanted stress and discomfort. Shop for any new undergarments and shapewear in advance to give yourself time to try it with your clothing selections before your photo shoot.

white clothing rack holding six hangers of tops in different styles and color plus a hat on a black studio backdrop

Accessories for headshots:


Unless bold statement pieces are part of your everyday style, I would keep jewelry classic and minimal. Again, we want the focus on your face, eyes + smile.


I’m not a fan of Apple watches or fitness watches or any watch with a large face that could reflect light or unexpectedly light up with a notification. It’s too distracting in photos.


If it fits your brand and we’re capturing multiple headshot looks, feel free to bring along a hat for some variation. Or if you ALWAYS wear a hat in your business, definitely bring it along!


I feel the same about scarves, bandanas and ties, as I do about hats. If neckwear is part of your everyday look or if you want to create multiple headshot looks, let’s incorporate it.


If you always wear glasses, then plan to wear them in your headshots. Just make sure they are free from any dust, smudges or fingerprints. I may adjust your head or glasses positioning slightly to avoid reflections. Do not wear glasses with transition lenses as they often go dark in great lighting. And if you plan to remove your glasses for your headshots, do so at least 30 minutes prior to avoid potential red marks on the side of your nose showing up in your photo.

female with short brown hair and glasses sitting on couch with arm propped up to her face smiling

Hair, makeup + more:


Wear your hair naturally down as ponytails and updos disappear in forward-facing photos. If any color touch-ups are needed, be sure to schedule those in advance as they are not included in my standard editing. I also advise sticking with your normal hairstyle instead of trying something new.


Keep your makeup natural-looking, but slightly elevated to accentuate your features. Avoid glossy lips or dewy makeup that will create unwanted shine. Fake lashes can help emphasize your eyes, but don’t overdo it. If you're having your makeup professionally done before your session, please allow enough time.


To avoid redness and puffiness, be sure to get enough sleep the night before your headshots. To combat redness, use moisturizing eye drops before your makeup application. I love Bausch & Lomb Lumify Eye Drops to instantly remove redness. (Use as directed.)


Your hands and nails may or may not show in your headshots. If they happen to show, you want them to look clean, manicured and moisturized. If wearing nail polish, I recommend choosing a neutral, non-distracting color that is natural to your skin tone.


Your skin should look hydrated, but not shiny. If you’re prone to shine, bring along a translucent powder to use as needed.

If you are planning any aesthetic treatments (Botox, fillers, peels, etc.) be SURE to check with your provider so they are scheduled far enough in advance to take effect. Same for facial waxing - give your skin time to recover from any redness. And avoid too much sun exposure the week of your photoshoot.

As for spray tans, unless you have someone you use routinely to maintain your color, I would avoid “faking” your skin tone for photos.

The day before your photo shoot, avoid alcohol, limit caffeine and drink plenty of water to help your skin look its best.

female with dark curly hair wearing ivory top with ruffles at shoulders laughing in front of white studio backdrop


Shoe choice is important even if your feet will never show in your headshot. The only times your feet will ever show during your headshot session is if you request a full body photo or if we’re also capturing a group photo during your session time. If this is the case, please be mindful that your shoes look new and compliment your outfit. You don’t want a bad shoe choice to be a point of distraction.

Additionally, shoes can affect the way you carry yourself, especially if you’re standing for your headshots. Wearing sneakers might make you feel more relaxed (or energetic), whereas wearing heels or dress shoes might make you feel more poised or powerful.

Any shoe style is fine to wear, as long as they support the vibe you are wanting to achieve. The most important thing is to wear shoes you normally wear to ensure you’re comfortable during your session.

legs crossed over arm of chair wearing dark blue jeans and tan loafers in front of black studio backdrop

Exuding confidence in your headshots:

To look confident, you need to feel confident - from head to toe and within. To reduce unnecessary stress before your session, simply plan ahead. Prep your clothing and have everything ready to go the evening before. Get plenty of sleep, avoid alcohol, limit caffeine and stay hydrated. (Have I mentioned this yet? LOL!) 

Give yourself plenty of time to get ready the next day, even if this means taking the full morning off work. During the session we’ll chat and laugh as music plays in the background. All you have to do is follow my simple directions and remember to embrace who you are - because your individuality is what sets you apart from everyone else - and your confidence will shine!

blond woman with white sweater on brown backdrop laughing confidently into camera with eyes sparkling

jill neil photography

photographer Jill Neil holding up camera to take a photo in studio and smiling at image on back of camera

Personal Branding + Headshots

Are you ready to invest in yourself and your business with professional photography? Whether you need a few new headshots or a library of custom images for your website, social media + marketing needs, I'm happy to discuss the right option for you!

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