How to Dress for Actor Headshots
These tips are basic recommendations on how to dress for headshots that will pop with color and style. Based on my experience photographing many actors, I have learned what clothing looks good on camera and what does not. Feel free to use the concepts below as a starting point to build your fashion flair and personal style into. If you are not sure if an outfit will work or have any other questions, feel free to e-mail me.
Don't Wear White
A white shirt will reflect 100% of the light that hits it, meaning it will always be the brightest thing in the scene. So if I adjust my camera settings to expose for your face, which is the most important part of a headshot, your white shirt will appear completely blown out like in the example below.
Avoid Colors Close to White
After telling actors not to bring white clothes to a headshots shoot, they often bring a shirt that isn’t technically white, but it is so light or pale colored, that it may as well be white as far as the camera sees it. Pale or light colored clothing will still bounce back too much light to the camera and appear as blown out or washed out in photos. So it’s best to choose midtones or darker than midtones shades. But that doesn’t mean you have to only wear black or navy blue! You can still wear a colorful shirt, just make sure it’s the right shade of color. To help clarify this, I have prepared this handy cheat sheet to make it easy to select the right colors of clothing for your headshots.
Black Always Works
The good thing about wearing a black top is that it is so dark, it will naturally shift the attention to your face. Also, pretty much everyone already owns a black shirt or dress, so you probably have plenty of options.
Pick Colors to Contrast Skin Tone
This is the secret to make your headshots POP! Pick a shirt color that contrasts against your skin color, instead of one that blends in to your skin.
For instance, if you are normal caucasian dude, definitely AVOID choosing a cream colored or beige shirt, because it can almost look like you’re topless if it’s too close to your skin coloring. Likewise, if you have very dark skin wearing a black shirt isn’t ideal because it will blend in with your skin too much. Also avoid bright neon colors because those will be too distracting.
So if you can’t wear white, can’t wear beige, what can you wear? Believe it or not, there are still lots of colors and shades you can wear that will complement your skin tones and add excitement to your headshots.
For dark skinned people, a deep purple shirt or even red or yellows can look great. For white people a deep blue or dark red can look pretty cool. Against asian or latino skin tones, greens and teal usually works. These are just ideas and not strict rules.
Busy Patterns are Distracting
If you wear a shirt with a logo on it or a plaid shirt, that is fine. Just try not to pick anything that has really distracting patterns or designs on it. Remember, the focus of your headshots should always be your face and not the clothes you are wearing!
Bring a Few Extra Shirts
Even if your headshots photo shoot is only for one look, never just bring one shirt. Bring at least one or two alternates just in case. The photographer might not like it or you might spill pasta on your shirt or whatever. It’s better to have it and not need it.
Crew Neck or V-Neck Shirts?
For men, I highly prefer solid colored V-neck shirts. However, if you only bring crew neck style shirts, that is acceptable. For women, pick the style of garments you feel most confident wearing.
Wrinkles Can Ruin a Photo (IMPORTANT)
Before your headshots shoot, make sure to iron the clothes and hang them on hangers. You want to look good and not like a homeless person! So don’t wad your shirts up and throw them into your backpack before the shoot. Don't be sloppy!
Layer Your Tops (RECOMMENDED)
Having a jacket or button-down shirt (unbuttoned) over another shirt can add an interesting visual quality to your headshots. This can enhance your look and often feels more complete than just a plain t-shirt.
PRO TIP: This works best with a solid colored button-down or jacket over a contrasting color shirt underneath. Neither of the shirts should be busy or have dramatic patterns. AVOID plaids/flannels, because these are too busy to layer on top of another shirt.
Select Clothes that Fit
Baggy clothes will make you look fat on camera and nobody wants that. It's best to wear clothes that fit.
Keep Tags on Clothing for Returns
Many actors are on a tight budget. If you need to buy some clothes for your headshots session, you can usually return them to the store after your photo shoot. Just keep the tags on and be sure to check the return policy!