headshots and portrait sessions: what to bring, what to wear…

If you’re getting professional headshots taken, or if you’re having a professional photographer do a portrait session for you, here are the things you might find useful to know in advance…

HOW TO PREPARE BEFORE YOUR SHOOT:

Get a good night’s sleep the night before. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it’s really important to try. The more rested you are, the better you’ll look.

Drink plenty of water at least an hour or two before your session. Hydrated skin looks much healthier than dry skin. Try not to drink too much coffee that day and avoid eating greasy, salty or fatty foods for at least a day or two before your shoot.

– Apply moisturizer. Men as well as women should use this tip. Moisturizer prevents your face from looking dry and it gives your skin a fresh, smoother texture. Use a plain moisturizer without any color or shine in it. Be sure to do this before you apply any makeup or powder.

WHAT TO BRING:

1- A comb or brush and a light hair-spray. Heavy sprays and gels make your hair look unnatural and stiff, so something with a light hold is a better idea.

2- A light face powder (yes, also for men) and a powder applicator. This is to reduce any shine on your face that may build up during your shoot. Make sure the powder is a good match for your skin tone.

3 – A plain lip-balm. For men (or women who prefer not to wear much or any makeup), bring a lip-balm. Dry lips show up very badly in photos. A non-shiny, non-waxy, no-color lip-balm is essential! Avoid chapsticks and beeswax lip-balms, as they tend to leave a white residue.

4- If you normally wear makeup, bring it with you. Blush, concealer, eye-shadow, mascara, lipstick etc. Be sure to bring a few different shades of eyeshadow and lipstick, as some colors may not look as well on camera as others. Avoid anything with too much gloss or shine. In particular, don’t wear high gloss lipsticks or very shiny lipgloss. Also avoid any face creams, bronzers or blushes that contain any sort of shine or sparkle. These often look too unnatural and reflect too much light in photos.

5- Deodorant. If your session is indoors or in a studio, you can usually expect to be under warm lights for quite some time. You don’t want to have perspiration stains in your photos, so remember to apply an extra ‘layer’ of deodorant right before your session begins.

6- A toothbrush or dental floss. Just in case you have the remnants of your last meal stuck in your teeth!

7- Eyedrops. Sitting and not doing much blinking for any period of time, can be very irritating for your eyes. Especially if you’re in bright light of any kind. Red, watery or puffy eyes will ruin your photos, so having eyedrops with you is essential for your photo session. Chances are, you won’t need to use them, but it’s better to have them just in case you do.

WHAT TO WEAR

For headshots, it’s usual to have at least two or three different ‘looks’. These tend to be 1: Casual and informal. 2: Elegant and slightly formal. 3: Edgy and/or unusual. This means you should bring the following clothing choices:

1- Casual and informal clothes. A simple shirt (or sweater) and jeans, is always a good bet here. IMPORTANT: Do not wear shirts with logos, brand names or any obviously printed words on them. These draw the eye away from your face, which is the last thing you want in a head shot! Do not wear work-out clothing or sweats, although a plain hoodie is fine. Make sure your jeans are basic as well. No applique, no artfully splattered paint or bleach marks and if there are rips or holes, make sure they’re small and fairly unnoticeable.

2- Elegant and slightly formal clothes. A well tailored jacket and a well tailored shirt is a very good choice for men. For women, a fashionable, figure-flattering top, dressy sweater, nice trousers, or casual cocktail style of dress is a good choice.

If your headshots are for acting, online dating sites, etc., you don’t want look as if you’re going to a job interview. You do want to wear what you would for a nice dinner party or event. Dark colors are best for this look.

When you’re choosing what to wear, ask yourself whether you want your photos to look corporate or not. Women: If you don’t want a business-like look, don’t wear button-up shirts. Men: If you don’t want a business-like look, don’t wear a tie.

3- Edgy and unusual clothes. Particularly for actors, musicians and entertainers who have a unique look or play a broad range of performances of any kind. For this ‘look’, bring the clothes that define your particular style. If you are from a specific ethnic background and have traditional clothing (saris, kimonos, sarongs, etc.), bring those! If you prefer to dress in vintage clothing, bring your favorite vintage suit or dress. Whatever your style, bring the outfit, accessories and makeup that you feel really exemplifies your individuality.

As for what to wear for a portrait session, the range is a bit more broad. It depends entirely on what type of portraits you’re getting. However, the following rules will still apply…

A FEW BASIC RULES FOR ANY PHOTOGRAPHY SESSION:

1- Colors which look great on almost everybody: White, black, and greys are always a good choice. For color, choose earth-tones (reds and browns) and jewel-tones (turquoise and most blues). Certain pastels are also good: light blues, lavenders and pinks.

2- Colors to avoid: For most people, khakis, greens, oranges, dark purples and yellows are not flattering to the skin and should not be worn for photos. (However, if you are an exception to that rule, by all means, bring the colors that suit you best.)

3- Clothing choices to avoid: Large, bold prints, logos or patterns. Again, these draw the eye away from your face, which is not a good thing. You don’t want your outfit to dominate your photos. Don’t wear clothing that is too loose or too clingy. Very loose clothing and very tight clothing both have the effect of unflatteringly altering the shape of your body. Shiny fabrics should generally be avoided as well, anything with a lot of shine will reflect light and tends to overemphasize the figure.

4- Do not over-accessorize. Keep it simple. Too many extra visuals will detract from your face, which should be the only focal point in your pictures. If you have one particular piece of jewelery you’d like to wear, don’t wear any other pieces with it. A big, bold necklace can sometimes look really wonderful, but not if it’s also worn with big, bold earrings. Small, basic earrings, one or two simple rings, and no necklace are usually the best choice for women. Just a watch and one ring (if you wear any) is usually the best choice for men.

5- Heavy application of perfumes or body-sprays before your session is not a good idea. If you must wear a scent, wear much less than you normally would. Many people have allergies to scents, and you don’t want a photographer who is trying to take your photo through watering eyes and sneezing fits.

Although there are a lot of things to factor in here, they’re all quite simple. If you keep these tips in mind, you’re certain to look and feel your best for your professional photography shoot!

Tamea Burd is an eco-friendly photographer based in Vancouver, BC. She specializes in portraits, headshots and wedding photography. Her website: Tamea Burd Photography

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