How to Prepare for Your Headshot Session

Headshots are strategically designed images. Headshots go beyond the superficial click of a camera, to a highly intentional process, and it starts before you ever get to the studio. Here are some of the most frequent questions about how to prepare for a headshot session, and some bonus tips!

Lisa Hartigan, real estate professional, headshot preparation

What should I wear?

This is always the first question people ask. The answer varies because headshots would lose their impact if everyone wore the same thing! Your wardrobe needs to be something you feel great in and that says something about you, without being distracting. If you’re trying to fit in you’re missing the chance to stand out. Do not copy what you see everyone else wearing in their headshots.

What do you want the image to say about you?

A business professional, such as one of Fort McMurray’s premiere Real Estate Agents¬†Lisa Hartigan, may choose to wear a suit, especially if they’re announcing a promotion, a new job, board membership an award recognition, or want their image to really identify them for their professional stature. Lisa chose to feature this great smile and her sparkling eyes on the back of the transit busses so everyone could connect with her.

Business owner, 9round Fort McMurray, Active living, marketing photography, headshot preparation

Gym owner Judy Dredge on the other hand wore her 9Round polo because she is proud to be a boots to the ground (or shoes to the bag) kind of business owner. 

Dress Intentionally

You want your wardrobe to be an accessory to you, not steal the show. You’ll probably want to avoid busy patterns, bright colours, and intricate details unless they’re part of your story. Most importantly avoid clothing that doesn’t fit properly. Bare shoulders are also advised against, because that pop of bright skin away from the face will make the viewer’s eye focus on your shoulder rather than connect with your eyes.

In addition to choosing what to wear, think about how you’re preparing your wardrobe. If it needs to be ironed or steamed don’t skip this step. Bring it in a garment bag to change in the studio if you’re worried about it getting wrinkled or dirty on the way here. There’s a lint roller in studio.

Avoid statement jewelry. Truly, I wish you’d avoid jewelry altogether, it’s one more thing to try and perfect while we dig for genuine expressions. However if you always wear a certain piece or it speaks about a core value of yours then it can enhance the messaging in your image. Don’t wear it just to wear it though, because it becomes a distraction rather than an accessory. You are enough.

Should I get my hair/makeup done?

Would it be the first time you’ve had it done since your wedding or graduation? If so the answer is actually probably no. If you have a go-to makeup artist or hair stylist then the answer is yes. If you’re somewhere in the middle then you should do whatever you are most comfortable with. A professional makeup artist who knows how to do headshot makeup specifically will make the image selection and retouching process easier.

headshot preparation, makeup artist branding, Mary kay artist

In addition to working with the experts here are things you can do at home:


Moisturizer is like photoshop for real life, it softens the look and feel of skin. This goes for lips too, avoid the chapped lip look by prepping with chap stick for a few days before your session.

Drink water!

If you’re not a great water drinker naturally make sure your pretend to be one for a couple of days before your session. Your skin will look better, your eyes will be less puffy, and they’ll be brighter! Plus, I am going to make you do some yoga like posing so it’s best to be hydrated to avoid cramps (Okay nobody has had cramps from the posing, but they have pretended to).

If you are going to apply your own makeup, or work with an artist unfamiliar with headshot makeup specifically here are the guidelines I prefer

Steps to Prepare for Your Headshot Session

  1. Skip the fake statement lashes. They make your eyes look half closed in photos and the block the light from making your eyes sparkle.
  2. Do not overdo the makeup. I can accentuate the makeup you have to be more if you decide you want more, so less is more. I would rather retouch a bare face than an over made up face.
  3. Brush your teeth. The camera sees much closer and more detailed than the human eye so something we miss in person can show up on camera. I’ll clean it up in photoshop if it’s there, but prevention is best!
  4. Groom the facial hair. This includes the beards of course, but also the strays in the nose and ears. I will of clean up anything you miss, but it’s as great a time as any to just do I before the session.
  5. Don’t put your hair in a ponytail. It will accentuate your ears, and that’s not what we want the focus to be (unless you sell earrings, then go for it). This also means it’s unlikely we’ll be tucking hair behind your ears. The hair over the eyes look works nicely for real life, but rarely for a headshot, so be prepared to pop a bobby pin in if your hair won’t stay out of your eyes, we need those eyes visible to send almost any message.
  6. Eyebrows are important. Nothing frames a face the way a great set of eyebrows do. Do not go and get a dramatic eyebrow shaping immediately as you prepare for your headshot session, but do shape them intentionally a few days before your session.

Can we do portraits that aren’t headshots?

Proud Metis CEO and Vice President of Willow Lake Metis

Sometimes the purpose of your image can’t be achieved in a headshot. Maybe we need body language to enhance messaging, an editorial storytelling image or sometimes you just need a photo of more than your head! If you are looking for some portraits as well it is best to discuss the intended use and message ahead of time in order for me to design a scene with lighting, backgrounds, and posing/seating. A session plan is always fluid, but the plan still needs to exist.

The most important step in preparing for your headshot is the thinking part. Think about what it is you actually want to say. Next it’s the booking part, because your headshot can’t work for you if it doesn’t exist. Great people need great headshots.

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