In the first part of this series (link), we looked at the kind of questions you should ask and information you should share with your photographer before your session, this article covers wardrobe choices and how to ensure your images age gracefully.
Let’s start with a bit of a confessional. We’ve all got pictures of ourselves, that seldom see the light of day and for very good reason. On that fateful day, our fashion sense had deserted us. If you were a teen in the 80s, there’s likely to be a decade’s worth of tragic hiding in a closet somewhere. In our early years it might be our parents who coerced us into wearing that offending piece, but, as we got older and started making our own decisions, we really only have ourselves to blame.
Fashion can be a cruel mistress. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
So what can you do to hold back the relentless and fickle nature of fashion? How can your image still look good a year from now? It’s easy, stick with the classics.
Before we get started we need to talk a little about something which your photographer will not know as well as you – industry norms. When we say ‘business’ or ‘formal’ or ‘business-casual’ for people in, say the financial industry this could mean something completely different from someone in say, real estate or advertising. Nobody knows your industry better than you do and if you’re looking for the ‘right’ look it’s important that you bring whatever the norm is to the shoot.
Logos and other No-Nos.
Avoid logos and other embellishments at all costs. You’re not an advertising billboard for someone else, you’re there to sell yourself. Apart from the fact that it could end up being a short-lived trend, images with a logo force the viewer to look away from you, which defeats the purpose of the image. In a similar vein, patterns, particularly busy patterns make the overall image busy and difficult for our eyes to interpret. Solid colours work far better in this regard.
It shouldn’t need saying but I’ll say it anyway – a simple white business shirt should be in your wardrobe and with you when you shoot. Always. Failing that, solid colours will always show better than strong patterns. For some industries, a white shirt might be too formal, but stick with simple, solid colours and classic styling and you’ll be OK.
If you’re looking for a formal image, a solid colour tie is a good choice, preferably in a dark tone like blue or black. Tying the tie, something like a Windsor or Half-Windsor would work better than an Eldridge or Van Wijk If your industry is a bit more relaxed, simply remove the tie and unbutton the shirt at the neck. To complement the shirt, a dark blazer or suit jacket would be a good look.
If you’re having a full or half length shot taken, consider bringing the matching pants to the suit or a clean and simple pair of blue jeans. Shoes should be polished and be complementary to your dress (formal shoes for the suit, loafers for the jeans).
You may be fortunate in hiring a photographer that provides you with enough time to change your look during the session. In the case of BBImagery we provide packages which allow two looks should the client desire them. We normally suggest people bring formal and business-casual but, again, define these within the context of your industry. Another alternative would be business-casual and casual. You can then choose to use the more casual image in less formal settings, for example on Facebook or Twitter vs say, LinkedIn or your corporation web site. A casual look can be more welcoming and friendly than one in which the subject appears professional but perhaps somewhat distant as a result.
A further alternative for a 2 look session is to change things up, perhaps light and dark. You may then prefer to use one image for 6 months and then ‘freshen’ your social profile by using the second image. On most sites, changing your profile image automatically triggers a ‘notification’ to your friends, letting them know you’ve updated your look which can bring with it added exposure.
For women, classic does not stray too far from some of the advice for men. In particular, for business headshots, a white shirt/blouse is a mainstay. Similarly black blazers go over well. For full length, matching skirts or pants, jeans, appropriate footwear should be considered.
One thing I have learned is that women seldom want their bare upper arms to be visible in the shots, the choice is yours of course, but consider bringing some options in case you feel the image isn’t turning out as you expected.
My goal when it comes to photographing people for headshots is to make them the star of the show. A famous photographer once said “find your hero” – if you are shooting images for a make-up company, the make-up, not the model, is the hero; for fashion it’s whatever apparel the story or ad is focusing on. For headshots, the hero is you. In my opinion, if the accessories you choose fight for attention with your face, then the impact of the image is reduced. My make-up artists understand this – their approach to make-up is to tone down the glam and give me a clean, natural, healthy face to work with. The same should be true for your accessories. Some people like to be photographed with a specific item, sometimes for sentimental value, and that’s fine, if it defines who you are. As with apparel, there are classics we can call on. A simple gold necklace, white or black pearls, etc. do not age the photograph as they have never been out-of-fashion. Keep it simple, let your hero be you and your image will stand the test of time. Less bling is a good thing.
If In Doubt, Bring it!
So, you’ve established the kind of wardrobe you need to bring but you can’t decide between the white and the off-white; the black and the dark blue; the solid or the pinstripe – what should you bring? Both!
A photographer would rather you came with options than have just the one suit and find it’s not working for you – or has a stain, tear, loose button, loose thread, is too wrinkled. Secondly, while you may want to wear that black suit, if you have requested a dark background, you might find that your suit and the background just blend in and you either have to ditch the suit or change the background before you get the kind of images you’re looking for. Give your photographer some options and you can work together to create something special.
Always, Always, Always…
There are some things you should always bring to a session. Even if you hire an MUA (make-up artist), even if you visit a MAC counter and unless you happen to be totally bald, always bring a hairbrush/comb and either hairspray or gel. Why? The next time you’re looking in the mirror, take a good, hard look at the fringes of your hair – chances are unless you’ve used the aforementioned items, you’re going to see dozens of flyaway hairs. Those hairs are likely to appear on your photograph and they can be time consuming to remove in post production. A quick dash of hairspray, a pat down and brush and they’re gone. 30 seconds of your time vs an hour of post-production. Always bring a hairbrush and comb. Always bring hairspray or gel.
Part 3 : The session
So, if you’ve been keeping up, you’ve discussed what you want (Part 1), you’ve planned your wardrobe and now you’re off to your shoot. Part 3 of this article will explore the process of a session (from the point-of-view of a typical headshot session with BBImagery), what to do during the shoot, the final image selection process and post-production work. As before, if you have found this article useful, please consider sharing it using any of the links below.