collage of various business portrait wardrobe choices

What to wear for a business portrait

This is probably our second most asked question (second only to “what will it cost?” and maybe “when are you available?”).

We only have one universal response, and that is “unless your work attire demands it, avoid solid white.” If you are a chef or a lab technician or a physician you might need to wear solid white. Otherwise, if you don’t need to, please don’t. Getting a good exposure for a normal complexion generally causes solid white garments to wash out. That being said, a white shirt or blouse or dress under a darker jacket is almost always fine.

I’ll get into some more detail in a moment, but our second generalized response is “wear something you feel good in.” Seriously, if you’re feeling good – confident and professional – that will reflect in the appearance you project.

Women

Sleeveless dresses or blouses are generally not recommended for several reasons. First, it suggests a time of year, which might look odd if the viewer is looking at your bio in February. Second, the way a conventional portrait is cropped generally crops into at least one arm and from experience we know you aren’t likely to be happy with what a fragment of bare arm looks. Put a sweater, or a jacket, or even a scarf over a sleeveless top and you’ll feel better about the result.

Give some consideration to the neckline of your blouse or dress. If the cut is too low, even though it’s entirely work appropriate, it might extend below where the photo crops, leading to questions you might not have expected.

Jewelry

In keeping with the “wear what makes you feel good” philosophy, don’t shy away from jewelry, but do give some thought to what you choose. Don’t wear something which might compete for interest with your eyes, and don’t wear seasonal jewelry (like a candy cane or pumpkin lapel pin), because those won’t make any sense to a viewer looking at your photo in July.

Men

Protocols are relaxing gradually but in general, in the North East anyway, it’s still customary for male executives and professionals to wear both a jacket and a necktie for a business headshot. If in doubt, check with your marketing or practice development team to see if your company has established guidelines. Some of our clients do, but not all. Failing that, check your company website to see what others in your position have done.

Referencing the previous advice about solid white, we suggest a light blue dress shirt rather than white if that’s an option.

Glasses

Our general rule of thumb is this: if you mostly do wear glasses, if people mostly see you with glasses, it makes sense to wear them for your portrait. If on the other hand you sometimes wear contacts, or mostly wear glasses for reading, the choice is yours.

Tip: If you do wear glasses for reading and decide not to wear them for the portrait, bring them along anyway. You are likely going to be looking at your choices on our laptop and it’s hard to make a good decision if you are having trouble seeing the monitor.

General Recommendations

Don’t wear something which might compete for attention with your eyes!

detail of fabric showing moire interference patternWe recommend solid fabrics and subdued colors. There are always exceptions to any rule of course. A vivid blue can look amazing. Vivid oranges or reds… generally not so good. Fine, tightly-patterned textile can in some cases produce interference patterns with the camera’s pixel grid sensor, as shown in this detail image. When in doubt, medium to dark tones and subdued colors will ensure the viewer will look at you and not be distracted by your wardrobe.