How to prepare for a headshot session / Nashville, TN

Preparing for a professional headshot photo session

It’s time for an updated headshot photo! Gone are the days when only actors and models needed headshots, now all professionals (doctors, real estate agents, lawyers, accountants, social influencers, and yes, actors and models!) need photos for websites, social media, and marketing materials. Social media and the internet many times is someone’s first and only impression of you…. So it’s critical to have a photo that represents you well.

Professional headshot of a realtor in the Nashville area, photo by Krista Lee Photography

For lots of folks, getting a new headshot is right up there with spending hours at the DMV or heading to the dentist. It doesn’t have to be this way!! Let’s talk tips…. Feeling well prepared can really help ease the stress the day of your shoot.

1) Communicate the purpose of the photos with the photographer

What is the purpose of your photo? If your place of employment or talent agent require a headshot, do they have certain requirements? Make sure you know what they need so you can relay that information to the photographer. Especially if it’s a work photo, you don’t need to spend an hour doing a full portrait session if you only need a headshot from the shoulders up, on a plain white background 🙂

Common things we need to know:

  • Do you have a specific background color or vibe that you’re needing or envisioning?
  • Do you need a specific orientation (vertical or horizontal)?
  • Do you have a specific pose that you want to try, or need for your website?
  • What will the end use of this be? We can help you fit the look to what you’re using the photo for.

Please let us know on these ^^^ items BEFORE your shoot, so that we can be setup and ready when you arrive! If you show up and we’re already setup, it’s going to be hard to change the backdrops and lighting at the last minute.

2) Deciding on your wardrobe

After someone books a headshot with me, the first question they usually as is “What should I wear?” You want to look like yourself, but like yourself on your best day! See below for recommendations based on your specific age group and gender. Whatever you decide to wear, make sure your clothes are ironed or wrinkle free. Occasionally, people arrive unprepared and ask us to “Photoshop out all of the wrinkles”. Just know in advance that option can be very costly as that type of retouch is very time consuming and will cost a lot. So no matter your age or gender, wrinkle free clothes is ideal!

For adult women–

A pretty top, solid colored is a great place to start. No patterns, no text on the shirt, not hot pink, not bright neon, not red. Bright colors look great in person but unfortunately they usually do not photograph well. When a casting director or prospective client looks at your photo, the first thing you want them to notice is your beautiful face, not your super bright shirt! So skip the patterns, and the very bold bright colors.

As far as cuts on the shirts, make sure the shirt is not a very low V-neck or low scoop neck. Many times I will shoot from a slightly higher angle, or I will have you lean into the camera a bit…you’ll want to avoid a low cut shirt for that reason 🙂 If you like your arms, tank tops or short sleeve shirts can be a great choice! If you’re not crazy about how toned your arms are, feel free to wear a long sleeved shirt or ¾ length sleeve. A layered look can also be very pretty in photos! Feel free to bring a fitted jacket to layer over your shirt. A jacket is a great way to make a quick change during a session and change the look of the photos. Avoid large puffy jackets, bulky sweaters, or flowy shirts as these types of shirts can make you look larger and wider than you actually are. A beautiful dress can also be a great choice (keep in mind these will mostly be head and shoulders, so don’t worry about the bottom of the dress). I personally find that I have a lot of dresses that the necklines are really pretty. I’ve worn many for headshot sessions and loved the results!

Next, try adding some statement jewelry to finish the look! I highly recommend either some large, beautiful earrings or a chunky statement necklace (however I wouldn’t do large earrings and a large necklace together as it can be visually too much). If you’re doing more than one outfit at your shoot, bring along some fun items for a more playful type photo. Hats, ballcaps, scarves, jackets, or glasses (need to be non-glare or empty frames) can show a more playful side. Once you’ve selected your wardrobe,  make sure all of your items are neatly pressed and free of lint.

For adult men–

If you’re a professional, feel free to bring a suit jacket and long sleeved dress shirt with a tie. Solid colored t-shirts or v-neck t-shirts photograph great as well. Navy blue, army green, rust, dark brown, black, and dark grey colors all usually photograph really well for men. If you want to use a pattern on the shirt, just go with something small… Large patterns can be very distracting in photos. Patterns on ties however do photograph well usually! I love layers in photos so try to bring a light jacket to throw on over your t-shirt. Don’t be afraid to bring a few accessories if you are doing more than one look. Let’s see your favorite hat, funky glasses, bow tie or jacket! Sometimes unexpected favorites can produce an amazing image.

For kiddos–

Agents and casting directors usually require NO text to be on any of the kid’s wardrobe. Make sure whatever you bring does not have big letters across the front that say “Old Navy”, “GAP”, etc 🙂 Secondly, simple is best! A solid colored tank top or t-shirt is always a great choice! Feel free to bring a few layers to layer over the clothes, like a patterned button up shirt or hoodie / jacket. This allows us to change up the look without completely having to change outfits, and gives you a lot more options to choose from. Also feel free to bring some fun props! Think hats, ball caps, iPod, headphones, colorful backpack, football or soccer ball, sports gear. Anything that might lighten up the mood of the photo and make it more like a commercial photo (think a product + your child). Feel free to check out our Pinterest inspiration boards for ideas on clothing! Boys ideas are HERE, and girls ideas are HERE.

nashville kids actor headshots

3) Getting pretty: Makeup, Hair, Tanning

Grooming for women–

Most of us are not professional hair and makeup artists. Everyday makeup is great when you’re just running errands or hanging with friends, but investing in a pro to do your hair and makeup for your shoot can really make a huge difference! If you can afford to get your hair and makeup done, I highly recommend doing that immediately prior to your shoot. Everyday makeup can work, but I find that when I do my own makeup I many times it’s uneven. Makeup artists do a fabulous job of making sure your makeup is the perfect shade, and that it’s symmetrical on both sides of your face. Studio lighting is going to wash you out a bit, so you’ll need your makeup to be a bit darker and heavier than you would wear everyday. You’ll also want to be sure you bring a little lip gloss or similar as chapped, dry lips are not as photogenic. As far as your hair, I recommend wearing somewhat similar to how you normally wear it (you don’t want to do something so out of the ordinary that no one recognizes you). Make sure your color and roots are what you want before coming in for your shoot. Hair color can be pretty tricky to photoshop, so to avoid additional fees after the shoot make sure your roots aren’t showing, etc. Many of our celebrity and professional models get regular spray tans before shoots because they know what a big difference it makes. Feel free to do the same, but you may want to give it a test run a few weeks before if you’re not used to spray tans. They may need a day or two to fade a little. Studio lighting will wash you out a bit so a spray tan can help create a warm, healthy look! But that being said, if you feel it is unauthentic to your style, please don’t feel like you have to be tan! You do you… and we’ll make you look beautiful either way!

Grooming for men–

Many actors and models want to know if they need makeup. Honestly, I really don’t think 98% of you do. Small blemishes or skin discoloration can be fixed in photoshop pretty easily. Many times when men get makeup I feel it starts to look too heavy. It’s much easier for me to remove some blemishes or lighten under eye circles than it is for me to make caked on makeup look natural. But if makeup is something you’re used to doing before going on set, feel free to apply as you see fit 🙂 At most, if you feel your skin is shiny or super oily you may want to pick up some pressed powder, which will cost around $6-$8 depending on the brand.  As far as your hair, I recommend wearing it however you would go to a casting or appointment. If you’re doing more than one look at your shoot, you can change hairstyles in between looks. Many men come unshaven to show a more scruffy side. Then you’re free to take a break and shave and do more photos in your next outfit. (Just be sure to tell us in advance if you’d like to do this so that we can plan out our schedule accordingly!) Should you tan? Sure, if it a natural part of your routine and it makes you feel good. Some guys love it and some don’t. We can make you look good no matter what!

Grooming for kiddos–

Agents and casting directors want natural when it comes to kiddos. Generally speaking, the most we will do for children under 14 is a little coverup for a blemish, and for girls maybe some light lip gloss, blush and mascara. You want to avoid going too overboard, agents want natural looks 🙂 For boys, you can bring grooming products to change up their hairstyle if you’d like (for instance, their hair could be natural in one photo, then have product in the next to make their hair a bit more styled). For girls, feel free to bring a few simple items to change up their hair. Ponytails, simple braid, or clip to pull some hair back are all great examples of this!

Professional headshot of a model in the Nashville area, photo by Krista Lee Photography

In conclusion

Once you plan your wardrobe and decide on your pre-shoot beauty routine, it’s as simple as showing up a little early and being ready to smile! No one likes to rush, so arrive a little early so that you’re cool, calm and collected. I love to chat with my clients for a few minutes before the shoot and look through your wardrobe options, chat about backgrounds and such…. And then we’ll then get started! I can guide you through the best poses and expressions for your personality and body type.

Feel free to check out some of our client’s headshots for inspiration on our site here!

Best of luck with your shoot!


Krista Lee is a Nashville, TN based headshot photographer. See more of her work here. 

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    Krista is a Nashville, Tennessee based wedding and portrait photographer. Visit the "About" section for more info!