Professional Headshot Guidelines

Well taken and composed professional headshots have never been more important.  The digital age means that our business and personal persona is often scattered around the internet on social media, websites and in the news.  A business person’s headshot needs to reflect their character and the identity of their employer.  A poorly taken and constructed headshot can easily undermine an individual’s professionalism.

There are some simple basic guidelines that I always send to my clients prior to a professional headshot assignment.

Professional Headshot Guidelines for Clothing

Rayner Davies from A & R Cleaning photographed in a more relaxed environment
  1. Avoid trendy clothing as these can become dated very quickly;
  2. Have clothing that is clean and free from wrinkles;
  3. Ensure that the clothing fits well (i.e. is not too tight or too baggy).  Buttoned shirts often gape if too tight.  Also, it should be possible to do up the top button of a jacket;
  4. Avoid fine patterns. Ties with patterns are fine, but keep the pattern simple.  Large colourful prints for ladies are great.  Fine patterns (eg narrow lined shirts, small check shirts) become visually distorted when seen on a computer screen;
  5. Avoid bulky clothing (i.e. heavy jumpers);
  6. Ideally wear darker instead of lighter colours because the darker or mid-tone colours tend to put more emphasis on the eyes and smile, instead of the clothing. Always avoid lighter colours that are too similar to your skin tone, because they can make them appear washed out.  A mixture of dark outer layer with a lighter under layer is great;
  7. Consider colours that emphasise the colour of your eyes;
  8. Wear clothing that you like and feel comfortable in;
  9. Avoid bare arms and so wear sleeved shirts and blouses;
  10. Wear clothing that your clients would expect to see you wearing.  Often business men no longer wear ties, but have their headshot taken wearing a tie.  It is now common to take photographs with and without ties;

The classic headshot taken against a white shadow-less background

Guidelines specifically for ladies:

  1. Try to avoid revealing too much bare skin;
  2. Jewellery is wonderful as long as it is subtle as this adds character to the photo;

Guidelines specifically for gentlemen:

  1. Wear a collared dress shirt;
  2. With or without tie is fine.  Often a button-down shirt is better when no tie is worn;
  3. Consider whether the headshot should be with or without a jacket.  If a jacket isn’t worn, check for creasing from sitting in the office or from driving the car (e.g. from seat beats etc);
  4. Any ties should be classy, smart and simple and ideally have colour.  Dark ties with a dark suit can often appear drab;
  5. V neck jumpers are fine, if that is what gentlemen wear, but these should be unpatterned;

Professional Headshot Guidelines for the Pose

Jayne Jones from Be Business Fit photographed during the pandemic outside near Cardiff Bay

For many people, having a professional headshot taken is a nightmare.  However, it is far less painful than you would think.  I spend time with each person (ideally alone) guiding them how to relax, stand and pose.  There’s always a lot of laughter involved, which allows me to capture a photograph that reflects the person.  Each photograph immediately appears on my iPad, allowing us to check the composition (making sure that hair is right!) and working towards that business-focused image.

Location for the Headshot

The vast majority of professional headshots are taken against a clean white background.  I have a portable studio which I take to business premises that allow me to take shadow free, sharp and clean headshots.  However, being a business does not mean that you cannot be creative.  Using a relevant and colourful background often transforms a headshot.  I have used green leaves on trees, office foyers and even graffiti covered walls.

Team Photos

Sweetmans & Partners photographed in the centre of Cardiff

When arranging a professional headshot session, it is also worth considering taking some team photographs.  The team will be dressed ready for photography and it is a great opportunity to get those small groups photographs that can be used on websites, social media and to support press releases.

Headshots and team photos taken of the Effective HRM staff in Caerphilly

Despite the thoughts of many, having professional headshots can be a fun experience.  By the photographer and subject working together, it is possible to produce that magical headshot that will sit proudly on the company’s website and social media platforms such as LinkedIn.

For more information or to discuss professional headshots, please contact me via:

My mobile 07909103789

By email on

Paul Fears is a commercial, industrial, events and wedding photographer based in South Wales and can be contacted on