Look Your Best in Your Business Portraits

Here’s what you can do to ensure the best results from your business portrait session

Glasses —please read this if you wear them!

If you wear glasses most of the time, I recommend wearing them for your portrait. But avoiding reflections will severely limit the lighting and posing options available to your photographer. Anti-glare lenses help but usually don’t eliminate the specular reflections of the lights themselves, which can obliterate essential details in your eyes.

New York Photographer specializing in corporate executive portraits and business headshots
Viewers won’t notice if you wear lens-free frames for your business portraits

This is important because your photographer will have to take extraordinary measures to eliminate these reflections, either with very restricted angles and lighting or afterward, in Photoshop.

The best solution, if possible, is to bring an extra pair with the lenses removed.

People think glasses will look odd without lenses. But in photographs they just look very clean, and people don´t seem to notice the lack of distortion around your eyes. Every one of my customers who has worn lens-free frames for their business portraits has been pleasantly surprised by the results.

Photo Gray (Photo chromic, Photo Brown, Sungray, Sunsensor, Transitions, etc) may look dark in your portrait, and I advise against wearing them for your corporate portraits.

What to Wear?

It´s up to you (or your marketing department) whether your executive portrait will be business formal or business casual. Some of it will depend on your field, and what kind of image you need to project. But do put some thought into it, like you would any marketing investment.

For a formal business portrait, dress as you would if you were making a presentation to your most important clients or associates. Maybe it´s your best suit.

Corporate Portraits and executive headshots in New York City
Dress to impress! Wear what you would to make an important presentation.

If you don´t have a well-fitting suit that really looks good on you, this is the perfect time to shop for one, or even have one made. Think about it…this outfit will be out there contributing to your image even while you sleep for as long as you use your new corporate portrait, so it´s a great time to invest in a good suit.

Dark suits generally look more formal and more professional than light-colored ones. Avoid loud patterns. Solid colors or subtle pinstripes will provide better longevity for your portrait in most cases.

Pastel shirts with medium dark jackets often retain more detail than white shirts and navy or black jackets. Avoid red except as an accent color (such as your tie) in any business portrait. Cool colors are usually better.

For a more casual portrait, you still want to wear something that looks upscale and smart. Perhaps a blazer, maybe a sweater over a button-down shirt or blouse. If you are not going to wear anything over it, avoid light colored shirts and blouses. Dark ones are less distracting and help balance the photo and keep the attention on your face.

Stick to classic styles and avoid trendy clothes that will date your photo.

Do not wear short sleeves for any business portrait. They look very casual and any part that doesn’t get cropped off will be very distracting, and unattractive (no matter how buff and tan they may be).

The best jewelry for your portrait will not distract too much attention from your face

Jewelry & Accessories

Loud ties and flashy jewelry divert attention from your face. Stick with simple and elegant. Accessorize sparingly and tastefully.

Want to Look Thinner?

Wear a single dark, solid color on the outside (lighter color underneath is OK as long as it’s mostly covered by a jacket, vest, or sweater with a flattering neckline).

During your shoot, you’ll want to lean forward from the hips (I’ve seen advice to the contrary all over the Internet, but leaning back emphasizes your middle, which is then closer to the lens) with your chin forward. Don’t let your arms press against your sides.

Most people want to look thin, and your photographer should know what positions and lighting will help achieve this.


Apply as you might for a formal evening out. The camera slightly neutralizes the effects of makeup, so you might want to use just a little more than usual.

Anyone with oily skin (including men) will be asked to apply powder (I will supply it if you don´t have any) to eliminate shine.


Avoid 5 o´clock Shadow. I’m amazed how many people show up for a portrait looking like they haven’t shaved. And while I can minimize the effect a little in Photoshop, this is one thing that can’t be fixed completely. If you have a heavy beard and your portrait session is after noon, you might consider bringing your shaving kit with you on the day of your business portrait.

Try to avoid razor burn, but don’t worry about it—we can fix that in post.

During the Shoot

A good photographer will elicit natural smiles through conversation

If you don’t like being photographed: Pretend that you love having your picture taken, and visualize stunning results (in this case, there´s truth to the saying “whether you believe it or not, you´re right”).

If you like the photographer, look at him instead of at the camera. Think of him as your friend.

Roll shoulders up, back, then down for good posture. A good photographer will direct you into a flattering position that looks comfortable.

Don’t worry about your smile. It’s not necessary for a great business portrait, and you don’t want the “permagrin” look. If you’re the kind of person who naturally smiles a lot, great. But while slight smiles brighten the face nicely, big grins rarely work well. We’ll chat through your portrait session and capture a range of expressions, including smiles.

Enjoy yourself!

Your sitting will be quick, painless, even fun. And since retouching is included in my fee, I´ll have you looking your best, even if you don´t that day!