Business Portraits – What Should You Wear?

Business Portrait of Emeka Onwugbenu

What should I wear for my business portrait?

When you’re trying to decide what to wear for your business portrait, you need to think about what you’re trying to say with the photo.   Most people want to reinforce their “brand” and the brand of the company they’re representing.

Business portraits and the company brand

Most companies work hard to brand themselves in a certain way and they expect their employees to tow the company line.  If your business is conservative then your attire should probably also be conservative. If the business you’re in is informal, then you should choose clothing to project that fact.  If other people in your company have already had their photos taken, maybe you should do a little research and see what’s been done or maybe it would be a good idea for you to ask your boss what is expected of you. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Casual business portrait

Not all business portraits need to be formal. If your business isn’t formal then maybe your portrait doesn’t need to be either…

Your personal brand

What’s the saying, you only get one chance to make a first impression?  A lot of people will be seeing your portrait so you’ll want to give some thought to what you’re going to wear.  It’s one of the first things they’ll notice about you.

Are you an outgoing person, or want to be thought of as such? If so, then keep that in mind when your choosing what to wear.  Maybe you’ll want to pick something a little quirky, maybe not…. Are you a stick in the mud? Then just bring what you always wear… :o)

Business Portrait clothing suggestions

These are the basic rules for what to wear and what not to wear for a business portrait, whether formal or informal.  I really shouldn’t say rules, because there are no strong and fast rules, only suggestions from years of experience as a business portrait photographer here in the Pittsburgh market.

1. Make sure the clothing fits properly

No amount of retouching can make a suit jacket button reach the button hole.  If you have put on a few pounds and you have a photo shoot coming up, maybe it’s time to do some shopping or maybe you want to borrow a suit jacket from someone.  Many things can be retouched, but poor fitting clothing usually isn’t one of them, so when selecting the clothing for your business portrait, try it on before hand to make sure you can fit into what you’ve selected.

2. Don’t pick clothing that will blend with the background

When you’re selecting what to wear for your business portrait photo shoot, it’s usually a good idea to keep in mind the background color of the photo.  You’ll want to select clothing that will not blend into the background. If the background of all your company photos is white, then wearing a white blouse may not be a good idea.  You’ll might want to do a little research to see if there is an established company background or you’ll want to discuss background options with your photographer before the shoot.

business portrait in Pittsburgh location3. Keep away from loud patterns or logos

Unless the logo on your clothing is your company’s logo, you’ll probably want to choose items that don’t advertise another business or institution.  Of course, depending on your personal brand, there are exceptions to this, but usually logos are just a distraction from your pretty face.  If the logos are really small, it’s usually not a big deal and not all that hard to retouch, but when in doubt, pick something less distracting.

Very bold patters are usually distracting too and they tend to show off any wrinkles that may have formed on clothing.

Usually subtle clothing patters aren’t a problem but there are times when they can cause problems.  It’s usually something that can be overcome, but there is something that occasionally happens when a photo is either printed or projected, called “moire” where some patterns appear to be distorted and look really weird.  The fix for this problem is usually to tweak the cropping of the photo just a little or to slightly change the enlargement or resolution of the.  This usually isn’t a huge deal and doesn’t happen all that often, but I thought I’d mention it here. Now, if you run into it, you’ll know what to do about it.

4. Women shouldn’t wear anything too “blousy”

I can’t tell you how many times women have shown up to a business portrait shoot wearing a black cape-like top of some kind.  They seem to think it helps hide those extra few pounds but what it does is to totally obscure any shape they may have.  It’s always a bad idea.  A good photographer can pose people so that look as thin as possible, but if the person is wearing something that falls straight down from their shoulders to their hips, it NEVER looks good.  Trust me on that…  I’m not suggesting that all women should wear spandex, I’m just saying that too “blousy” is not good either.

5. Stay away from whites and blacks

I’m almost hesitant to make this statement, because I’ve taken some great business portraits of people wearing blacks or whites, but I’m not a huge fan of these two colors.

When someone views a photo, the human eye usually goes first to the brightest thing in a photo.  When possible, I like the brightest thing to be the whites of the eyes or the face of the subject and not the person’s shirt.  It’s NOT a big deal, and probably more of a personal preference, but I prefer that the subject of my business portrait be wearing muted, pastel colors that aren’t too bright and aren’t too dark.  If you’re favorite outfit is white or black, then by all means, bring it to the shoot, but just in case, please bring an option or two…

6. Bring clothing options to the business portrait photo shoot

It’s almost impossible blend to give out rules that address all potential clothing issues, so to be safe, it’s a good idea to bring a couple changes of clothing just in case your first choice doesn’t work out for whatever reason.  Better safe than sorry, I always say.

Here are a few links to other resources related to what to wear for a business portrait:

To sum it all up, just remember that what you wear for your business portrait is a combination between what is expected of you and what you want to say about yourself.  It’s a personal branding statement, so dress accordingly…

Michael Ray Photography
2820 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222