Headshot Photography
Martin Bentsen of City Headshots

Published on January 3, 2019

What should you wear for a LinkedIn headshot?

The primary purpose of a headshot is to show to people that you are professional, reliable and trustworthy. Looking approachable, yet showing confidence, in a headshot all starts with what you decide to wear. If you wear clothing you don't feel comfortable in, it will show in your expression (which is not a good thing).

We like to say, "Wear what you love as long as it looks professional and presentable." If you'd wear it to an interview, it would be fine to wear it for a headshot. Just remember not to look overly formal or made up. We have had people come into the studio with a tuxedo, believe or not! Not a good look unless that's what you wear every day.

If you love wearing a blue pinstripe suit with a brightly colored tie, go for it! If you like bright colors whenever you go to work, feel free to wear those in the headshot as well. If you prefer something more conservative, that's perfectly fine too.

A few guidelines:

  • Make sure you are comfortable in the clothing you wear. If you're not, your headshots won't look natural.
  • Wear well-fitted clothes.
  • If you're female, make sure what you wear will show up in the headshots. Don't wear a strapless or low-cut shirt, because if it's out of the frame, it might look like you weren't wearing a shirt!
  • Try to avoid pale-colored outfits, like white, pale pink, yellow, etc. The paler the color of the clothing (especially as an outer layer), the more of a distraction it will be. Earth tones (darker colors) are usually best (as the outer layer). Of course, if you absolutely love bright colors and want to wear them, it's okay, but sometimes colors that are too light can overexpose on camera if they are the outermost layer.
  • Bring Chapstick so your lips don't look dry.
  • If you're male and you're going for a clean-shaven look, keep in mind the five o'clock shadow, and either shave shortly before the shoot or aim for an earlier time in the day.
  • It is typical for a man to wear a suit with a tie and for a woman to wear a nice blouse with a jacket. Typically, you won't need to worry about the pants because they won't show in the headshots.

How can you look great on camera regardless of who takes your photo?

Having a good headshot separates you from the rest of the crowd because it shows you take your work and your image seriously. It shows that you're willing to go the extra mile to make sure that people who see you for the first time have a good impression of you.

While hiring a professional photographer can really make a difference because they know how to compose and light the image (among many other things), you can still look great on camera if someone else takes your picture.

A few suggestions:

  • Pay attention to your expression and how much you engage with the camera (this is something an experienced headshot photographer can teach you to do).
  • Consider hiring a makeup artist. Makeup makes a huge difference because it smooths your skin tones and highlights your best features, bringing out your personality and making your image pop.
  • Decide on a flat backdrop or outdoor shot. If you are in finance or law, a simple, flat backdrop is usually best. For healthcare, authors or teachers, a soft off-white or blurred, natural backdrop tends to work better. If you'd prefer something more relaxed and creative, try outdoor shots.
  • Have fun! Nothing hurts your session more than having bad expressions. Being friendly and having fun will ensure natural smiles and relaxed closed-lip shots, both of which are crucial to a good headshot.
  • Get the photo retouched. Retouching can correct things that makeup can't fix, just as makeup can fix things that Photoshop can't. Whitening teeth, fixing flyaway hairs, and color adjustment are all crucial to a great LinkedIn picture. And for those that want a little extra done, you can soften skin tones and even minimize wrinkles!
  • Use your new headshot right away! Post it on your LinkedIn page, email profile photo, website, and other social media sites.

What is the best way to pose for headshots?

Headshots are traditionally a bit different than portraits. A headshot generally focuses on a closeup of someone from the chest up, and a portrait can be any distance, all the way from a full-body shot to an extreme closeup on an eye.

When doing a headshot for your LinkedIn profile, we recommend keeping poses simple, especially if you’re going to be cropping from the chest up.

  • Generally, keep your weight on the foot closest to the camera, so the front shoulder leans down just a tiny bit. By doing this, the extra skin under the chin will be pulled tighter, giving a nice, clean jawline and hiding any double chins. If you want to hide a double chin even further, try pushing your forehead towards the camera by about half an inch.
  • Keep the shoulders pulled back and down, and then elongate the spine so it feels like you’re almost being pulled up by a string through the back of your head. The more perfect your posture, the better the photo will look, especially if you’re turned to the side at all. Standing super tall and keeping your shoulders back and down will help eliminate any arched spines, which not only helps the image look better from an aesthetic perspective, but it will also give you a more confident appearance.
  • Point your body at a slight angle to either side. We usually prefer subtle angles pointing in each direction because it looks more natural. A dead-straight on headshot can look more like a driver’s license picture, which can feel a bit boring. A shot where you’re point too far too one side or the other can reveal imperfections in posture and make your look hunched.
  • For close headshots, try to avoid folding the arms or showing your hands in the shot because it can cause distracting wrinkles in clothing or the hands can draw attention away from your face. We recommend that women hold their hands together in front or behind their back and that men keep the hand closest to the camera in the pocket of the pants. In a traditional, chest-up headshot, the hands should not be in the frame.

Keep in mind that these poses are meant as starting points. If you work with a photographer, make sure they let you see the images during the shoot, so you can ensure that you’re happy with them.

Martin Bentsen, founder of City Headshots, is a headshot photographer, videographer and digital branding expert. A member of both the National Association of Sales Professionals and Sales & Marketing Executives International, some of his corporate clients include LinkedIn, American Express and Volvo Cars.

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