Whether you are representing your employer or yourself — if you are a business owner, employee, entrepreneur, author, or musician, here are some tips to put your best face forward. And a few notes for your photographer, whether friend or pro.
Practice smiling in the mirror and try not to feel too nervous. It’s normal to feel awkward. Remember your photographer will take a lot of photos and then pick out the best ones.
Skew a little conservative and dress to impress. Professional photos are like a job interview. You want to be groomed, somewhat polished, and appear calm.
Clothes. A tailored shirt and jacket, or moderate vee neck or polo (or jewel or boatneck style for women) frame your face and set a professional tone.
Women, be sure a neckline will be visible if the picture is cropped to a close head shot. Avoid cleavage, one-shoulder, or off-shoulder setups (unless it’s a promo shot for your band or you’re a movie star).
Bring options — jacket, sweater, scarf, more than one shirt. If one doesn’t work as well as you wanted, or you have a coffee mishap, you want backups.
If your company has a logo, wear colors that don’t clash. You don’t have to be matchy-matchy. Just consider the company colors as an accessory or baseline that drives your outfit and pick colors accordingly. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Try mid-tone or monochromatic color combinations that flatter your face. Avoid white, black, and neons *where you can* — obviously formal events and sports events are different. Otherwise, white or black shirts work better with a jacket or sweater framing them.
You want your outfit to flatter your skin tone and show you off rather than fighting for attention. Your face is the star! Anything that pulls attention away should be avoided if you can.
Leave bold patterns in the closet. Tone-on-tone effects and textures work well. Patterns with contrast draw the eye away from your face and can create a distracting wavy moiré effect unless the colors are muted.
Remember the photo may be used in other contexts — with a charity or civic group’s branding. On a flyer for an event that you co-sponsor, or a seminar brochure.
Makeup. Avoid overly shiny foundation. Glow looks nice in real life, but glare is not your friend in photos.
Jewelry. Have a choice of earrings or necklaces but avoid really shiny or dangly ones. Go low-key on the accessories.
Men, don’t go for the wackiest, boldest tie. Try a more muted color. Men do have leeway with a bolder tie as long as the rest of the outfit is subdued.
- Cropping. Leave room over the subject’s head. Make sure if it’s an upper body, or 3/4 shot, shoulders and elbows aren’t cut off. Layout artists may use the image in a tall and narrow placement, or a wider one. It doesn’t have to be ideal for every situation but leave us something to work with. We can crop to suit. It’s harder to add.
- Hands. Chin resting on the hand is a beautifully intimate pose but doesn’t work well for a primary business photo. Hands are visually distracting. These are great for personal portraits, or for authors, but have a second option that is more conventional.
- Lighting. I won’t begin to tell you how to light your shoot. But if the photo venue is outdoors, try to avoid dappled shadows on the face. Amateurs, afternoon side light that adds some shadows on the face is ideal.
- Backgrounds. Simple backgrounds, or blurred ones, are much easier to work with than complex ones with lots of light and shadow. The complex ones are the equivalent of a too-exciting outfit and are harder to remove in Photoshop.
This probably sounds like WAY TOO MUCH to remember. Summary:
Your face is the star, and with proper lighting you will look great. Be a little conservative. Brush your hair. Choose muted colors. Don’t clash with the company logo. Think of the photo shoot as a low key job interview and try to relax into it — the photographer will do the rest.
But bottom line – as long as your photo resembles you and is reasonably well done, it’s going to be okay.
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