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The Corporate Headshot

Updated: Jun 18

Modern headshots are important as they introduce you to your network in a very professional and competent way. In a very digital world, a photo is a first impression. Headshots are more than just LinkedIn profile photos; they are also used in company marketing materials, displayed on company websites, included in email signatures and used for speaking engagement programs. Some employers leave it to their employees to determine their preferred headshot location and backdrop. When this happens, it's considered an individual headshot. On the flip side, when an employer sets the location and backdrop based on branding consistency, it's considered a corporate headshot.

A common assumption is that corporate headshots are boring. This assumption is often the result of having to use a standard backdrop and having a limited shoot time per person. However, I am here to tell you that corporate headshots can be fun and the results can be just as amazing as an individualized shoot. Yes, it's true! But you usually need three things to make this magic:

  • The right expectations

  • The right colors

  • The right style and accessories

The Right Expectations

Let's talk about expectations. Yes, you are right, most corporate headshots call for a basic backdrop. And that color wheel usually incudes white, black or gray. However, keep in mind that when you are using a simple backdrop, the images are clean, classic and highlight you and only you. You are not competing with anything in the backdrop; you are the star. (Shine on!) When it comes to the length of your shoot and the amount of posing that will occur, it's likely that it will be a quicker shoot. But the right photographer will still see YOU the individual, and engage with you to ensure you are not only comfortable but that your personality shines through in the photos. Doesn't matter if it's 10 minutes or 40, a photographer's job is to engage you. Lastly, let's set the expectation for posing. While the output of corporate headshots might be 1-3 images per employee, your photographer is still going to take a ton of photos in a short amount of time and use a variety of poses to ensure they get complimentary shots.

The Right Colors

With any type of photography, it's essential to consider wardrobe and accessories prior to the date of your photo shoot. When it comes to corporate headshots in particular, you are going to want to pair your outfit/style to the backdrop color that will be used.

White Backdrops

  • Wear solid colors.

  • Recommended colors: Neutral or Jeweled Tones. (i.e. dark grey, black, navy, sapphire blue, deep purple, emerald green, citrine, wine red, ruby red)

  • Avoid patterns. (i.e. subtle tie patterns or subtle pinstripe suits are the exception)

  • Avoid wearing white. (unless it's a white dress shirt paired with a suit coat).

Black Backdrops

  • Wear solid colors.

  • Recommended colors: Darker Colors. (i.e. black, gray, dark blue, dark red, dark green, dark purple, dark pink)

  • Avoid bright colors. (i.e. yellow, orange, bright red)

  • Wearing white is doable if the shots will be in B&W or if a white shirt is paired with a suit jacket or cardigan sweater.

  • Avoid patterns. (i.e. subtle tie patterns or subtle pinstripe suits are the exception)

Gray Backdrops

  • Wear solid colors.

  • Recommended colors: Most colors! The richer/deeper the color the better.

  • Avoid wearing the same shade of gray as the backdrop. (i.e. if the backdrop is a lighter gray and you want to wear gray, wear a dark shade of gray.)

  • White can work if the backdrop is a darker gray.

  • Avoid patterns. (i.e. subtle tie patterns or subtle pinstripe suits are the exception)

The Right Style

Some companies may provide guidance on what style or type of shirt should be worn for a corporate headshot. For example, suits, business casual wear, polo shirts with a company logo or uniforms. When the decision is yours for a corporate headshot, here are a few tips and tricks to consider:

Women's Style & Fit

  • Dresses, long sleeved blouses, long sleeved sweaters, business suits, a cardigan and dress shirt combo and a suit jacket and dress combo are common clothing choices for corporate headshots.

  • Jewel, crew, boat, keyhole or narrow v-necklines are always flattering and will lay nicely.

  • Avoid low, square, sweetheart, asymmetrical or turtle necklines.

  • If you normally wear a suit jacket, bring a couple of options along to the shoot. Switching out a couple of jackets can add some more variety and fun.

  • Clothes should fit well; do not wear a baggy outfit. Loose clothing typically doesn't look good from any angle.

  • Avoid short sleeves.

  • Avoid shiny fabrics (no silk or satin).

  • Avoid thin material.

Women's Accessories

  • The simpler the jewelry the better.

  • Stud earrings professional and popular; pearls, diamonds or gemstones.

  • If hoops or dangling earrings are worn, they should be subtle so that they do not distract from your overall wardrobe and don't get caught in your hair.

  • Statement necklaces are ok, but ensure all other jewelry is subtle.

  • Your hands may appear in some poses, so be mindful of the amount of rings you wear or bracelets. Less is more.

  • A simple scarf is ok to wear (just make sure it isn't choking you or taking up the majority of space in your outfit).

Men's Style & Fit

  • Suit jackets with ties, suit jackets without ties or a simple, collared, long-sleeved dress shirt are common clothing choices for corporate headshots.

  • Bring collar stays for collared shirts to ensure your collar doesn't move.

  • If you are wearing a tie, consider your customer base/audience when selecting a color or pattern.

  • If wearing a patterned tie, aim for subtle.

  • If wearing a tie, make sure it's not loose.

  • If you normally wear a suit jacket, bring a couple of options along to the shoot. Switching out a couple of jackets can add some more variety and fun.

  • Try some shots with a jacket and some without.

  • Subtle lapel or tie pins are ok.

  • Avoid short sleeves (this means polo/golf shirts!)

  • Clothing should fit well; avoid baggy or overly tight suits or shirts.

Other Tips for Both Women and Men

  • If you wear glasses everyday, wear them in your shoot. Ensure they are wiped clean beforehand. (Note: Eyeglasses can cause some glare in photography)

  • To avoid wrinkles and/or spills, do not wear your headshot wardrobe in the car.

  • Bring your headshot wardrobe to the shoot location cleaned, pressed and on a hanger.

  • Bring a lint roller to your shoot.

  • Bring a comb, brush and hairspray to the shoot for touch-ups.

  • Ladies, bring make-up for touch-ups.

Last but not least, make sure you hire the right photographer for your corporate headshots (me!) who will work with you and your company to ensure your photo shoot day is customized to your brand, customized for your comfort and convenience and customized for fun.

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