Dressing for Portraits

Key Points in Dressing and Preparing for Portraits – by Carl Cox


  • Simplicity is the keynote.
  • Dress in the fashion which you feel best represents you and your business.  Make sure you bring some clothing options.  Solid colors are best.  Avoid large or bold patterns and bright colors.  They draw attention away from the face.
  • Long sleeved dresses and shirts are recommended.  They draw attention away from the arms and focus it on the face.  (Short sleeves are acceptable for infants and small children).
  • Coordinate your attire from head to toe, carefully selecting appropriate shoes and stockings if full length poses are to be done.
  • Darker clothing tends to minimize body size, and light tones tend to emphasize body size.
  • Necklines are important.  A vee or scoop neck is best if your neck is short and your face is full.  A turtle neck or high neck garment is more flattering if your neck is longer and your face is slender.
  • Dress everyone in a group in the same style of clothing.  Do not mix casual and formal attire.
  • Keep the tonal range of clothing within the group the same.  Do not mix light and dark values.  Save patterns for accent items like scarves and neckties.
  • White or light pastel clothing, shoes, stockings, pants, or dresses look best in portraits taken against a white or light background.  Save stronger colors and patterns for accent items.
  • To assure a successful portrait, it is best to bring along some additional clothing choices.
  • Drink plenty of water starting at least the day before your session, as well as throughout the day of your shoot.  It’s not a myth: being properly hydrated will actually help you look better!
  • Get a good night’s sleep before your headshot session.  Make-up and image retouching can mask only so much; they won’t hide a tired look in your eyes.
  • For men during a late-day session, a touch-up shave at mid-day is recommended.
  • Accessories and jewelry should be limited to small non-distracting pieces.
  • Check yourself out in the mirror right before your session starts.  Even if you’ve hired a make-up artist for your shoot, check out the result yourself.  Confirm your tie is straight or your scarf adjusted just so, smooth down your hair if necessary. Take a moment to be sure that you look the way you want to be seen.  The added confidence of that one moment will read in your photos.