Headshot of man learning against fence, wearing a cowboy hatSo, you need a headshot, but you don’t own a suit and you hate studio portraits.  What do you do?  The answer to that depends entirely on what it is that you WANT to do. There is no rule that says you have to wear a suit, and no one will force you to be in a studio for your headshot portrait. There are other options.  Many other options.

Think about what you want your headshot to SAY about you

Do you need it to show stability, security, trustworthiness? (Think about working in a bank . . . employees must show these characteristics, and they can show in the more traditional portrait of in studio and in a suit.)  However, if you work in any number of other industries or fields, you can show stability, trustworthiness, and skill in other ways.  The man in this photo is wearing a t-shirt and a cowboy hat, and the portrait was taken outdoors.  This may not show “trustworthiness” for a banking position, but it does if one is a landscaper. The setting and wardrobe fit what he wants to say.  Wearing a suit to sell his landscaping services could have confused his audience, those ultimately hiring him.

Who will be viewing your image?

Your audience will be expecting to see certain features in your portraits.  If you are looking for a banking position, to revisit that earlier example, the hiring personnel might be looking for a portrait that depicts their values (think a blue suit and contrasting tie). However, if you are working in a more relaxed industry– IT for example– you might choose a button-down shirt if you are a man or a simple blouse if you are a woman.

Other industries are casual– computer startups, for instance– but just because the company is casual doesn’t mean that you have to be in your headshot. Wear a nice shirt and leave your X-Files shirt in the dresser for another day.  However, even an X-Files t-shirt might be appropriate. Appropriateness always (always) depends on your audience and what they expect to see.  The landscaper in this post’s image knows his audience. He understands that folks who need landscaping for their homes or businesses will be able to envision him doing that work.  The landscaper has addressed his audience’s expectations.

What is it that you want your audience to know about you?

Whether your portrait is done in a studio or outdoors, the setting can say a lot about you and how you see yourself.  Both setting styles can be appropriate.  Outdoors, you can appear to be open, calm, fun. Traditional studio portraits– as stated before– can be secure, stable, serious.  As in the previous question: what will your audience expect to see and what is standard for your industry?

If you need to be in a studio for a more traditional portrait and you don’t like the constraints a studio backdrop provides you, choose a different background color.  White is clear and crisp.  Black can make a statement (especially when contrasted against your wardrobe).  Try red or burnt orange.  Try more dramatic lighting.  When outside, try moving against a building instead of in front of greenery. Try sitting instead of standing. Try looking away from the camera instead of toward it.

These are all options that could make your next headshot more YOU. Have additions to these options?  Leave comments below.

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