Headshot Preparation

“I hate having my picture taken!” Yep. We all feel that way from time to time. And it’s well understood on my end that headshots can be a stressful experience. I’ve photographed hundreds of people over the years, and so often the first phrase I hear after our initial hellos is “I hate having my picture taken, I’m so bad at it.”

I’ve been on both sides of the camera over the years and I can honestly say, it’s one thing to play a fictitious character and hide behind the mask and quite another to simply “be yourself on a really great day”…in front of a 200mm lens…that can almost see your soul.

With a couple of hours of thought and preparation and doing your preshoot homework, you can alleviate the nerves and pressure that comes with your next headshot session and walk into the experience with confidence and, dare I say, even excitement.

Take yourself seriously

Remember, you’re making an investment in your career with your photos so it's worth it to take the process seriously. The more attention you put into in the preshoot details, the more fun we can have on the day.

Talk to your photographer

Whether we have a conversation before we meet, or on the day, I really love it when we can have a short dialogue about what worked or didn’t with your last set of photos, what you want the new ones to do or say, who you want to appeal to, and also what “imperfections” you don’t want to highlight in a photograph. Based on our dialogue, I can do a lot with the light and framing of your shots to bring your best features forward. Keep the dialogue going throughout our shoot and ask to look at the shots as you go! I'll always show you. My job is to take care of you and serve your needs. The more candid we can be behind the scenes, the better I can take care of you when you’re in front of the camera.

Style (what if you don't have it?)

Spend some time online. As an actor, when I’m getting ready for my own headshot session, I’ll flip through magazines and browse the Internet to look for celebrities who are similar to my type and coloring. I’ll look at what they’re wearing and see if it gives me ideas and inspiration. Borrow the classic looks that stylists are putting on the stars. Talk to your agent, casting directors, or PR person. Everyone has those 13 adjectives that describe them. Let that inform your clothing choices.

Sidenote: Not that I want you to leave my site, but I suppose you could also check out other photographer’s portfolios and see what their actors and professionals are wearing. Just for ideas.

Know your type

Think about your type…do you get called in and cast in certain kinds of roles? Maybe one of your looks leans a little into that direction? But please...no costumes.


  • Try everything on before you show up! Then look in a mirror and ask yourself “does it fit and do I love the way it looks on me?” Do you really love it? If not, try something else. Go shopping if you have to.
  • Is there a shirt or top that you wear that seems to prompt compliments? Try it on!
  • Layers, layers, layers can be really, really interesting.
  • Pick classic cuts and consider tailored shapes. Things that are popular and trendy now might not be by next summer. Some looks never go out of style.
  • Tailored tops are slimming.
  • So many TV show s, industrials, and commercials right now are set in an office environment. If you can be cast that way, you might want to have a corporate look.
  • For the corporate look, Black, gray, and navy suits are classic and sophisticated.
  • Colors. Pick colors that look really, really good on you. Keep things darker than your skin tone. If you think it might wash you out, it probably will.
  • Some people think black clothing in a headshot is depressing. I think it depends on your look.
  • Show your personality. Are you ALWAYS in a bowtie? Wear it for one of your looks.
  • Think about bringing one top in white if we’re shooting in the studio.
  • Keep patterns to a minimum. They can be distracting, and when you view them online, tight patterns can appear to strobe and take on a moiré pattern on certain screens. This goes for jackets, suits, ties, and shirts.
  • IRON YOUR STUFF. It can make or break a photo.
  • Ladies… Be careful about tanks/camis with lace. They can work great as a layer, but check that they don’t read too much like lingerie.
  • Check to see if your top is see-through. Hold it up to a light and check. Do it now. If so, check that you have an appropriate layer to wear below it.
  • Can you bring more clothing than you need? Of course, but please try to make as many decisions about your clothes as you can before arriving.
  • Sometimes people will arrive with their clothes in bins or bunched at the bottom of a bag. DO NOT SHOW UP WITH YOUR CLOTHES IN BINS OR BUNCHED AT THE BOTTOM OF A BAG.
  • Do you have a pet? I have two cats - Buster and Buddy Rocket. They rock. Use a lint roller on your clothes before you come. Show me pics of your furry friends but let's leave their shedding at home.

Jewelry and watches

  • Keep it simple. Really simple. Or none.
  • Rings? Not so much.
  • Watches? For me, if I see the face of a watch in a shot, I always want to know what time it was when they were shooting. Why? I don’t know.
  • Nose rings? Honestly, I can pretty easily photoshop studs out of shots. Rings are trickier.

What about makeup?

Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, men and women alike will all benefit from a little bit of makeup and powder in a photograph.

Essentially, I want your makeup to look like you’re not wearing any. Fresh, light, natural, even, clean, and crisp. We can afford some drama on the eyes, ladies, but don’t go too far. If you are doing your makeup yourself, bring it with you to the session. I ask that my clients arrive to the shoot as close to camera ready if they aren’t using one of my makeup artists. The sooner we get started, the better!

Let's get personal

  • Get up close with your mirror and do a check for stray eyebrows or unruly ear and nose hair. If you can see them, the camera see them.
  • Teeth! Maybe spend a little time with a white strip, brush them if you ate prior to the shoot, and check for lipstick ladies.

  • Maybe a wax or hair removal is in order. Go for it, just don't be sure you give yourself a few days to let and redness or irritation fade.
  • Fellas…consider leaving a bit of scruff on your face. It makes for a great natural contour. That said, please use your judgment. If scruff doesn't work for you, don't do it.
  • Also, If you shave on the day, use a fresh razor and hot water, and go slow. Avoid that razor burn.
  • If you wake up with a huge pimple on the day…don’t mess with it! It’s much easier to photoshop out a zit than to correct for swollen, red, irritated skin.
  • If you need a facial or a wax, try to do it at least a week beforehand so any irritation from the procedure has time to fade. Don’t do it the day of or the day prior.
  • Tip from a makeup artist: Take it easy on the caffeine, alcohol, and salty snacks. Try to drink mostly water 48 hours in advance of your shoot.

Music and snacks and a friend

  • We have Rhapsody in the studio. So we can listen to pretty much anything your heart desires. Bring your requests.
  • Bring a snack. Bananas, nuts, granola…something kind of healthy that will keep your blood sugar up.
  • Bring a friend (if you want). An extra set of hands and eyes around the shoot is always helpful. Just be sure the person you bring with you is someone you are very comfortable being a goofball around and isn’t someone who makes you self-conscious.