Please note that the meanings of colors are really meant to be applied universally for marketing, product design, and websites, and are not specific to clothing for headshots, but are applicable for headshot attire. The meanings of colors should not be the sole factor in selecting your wardrobe colors for your headshot. Your eye color and skin tone should be considered as well. Your photographer should be able to help you make final decisions so if you are questioning one color, take another and let the photographer or makeup stylist guide you. You also want to remember that you want to be comfortable or you will not be able to relax and feel confident during your headshot session.
Sample Headshot Photographs
The two examples of the same beautiful woman vary only by the addition of the black blazer. Can you sense a difference based on the meanings of the colors below?
Meanings of Colors
- Black: black signifies a feeling of power, elegance and modernity or sophistication. Although black, when worn in a more formal clothing style like a dress or suit, can bring out a feeling of sadness because it is often associated with mourning, it gives off a professional feel and may denote a sense of mystery. It is best not to wear black on black or black and another dark color because the combination gives little contrast and may look unprofessional.
- White: white is known as a color of purity, clarity, cleanliness and openness, but can also represent simplicity and sterility. Flat white backgrounds are clean and crisp for headshots and serve as a green screen in the event you or your company need or want to change the background for print purposes at a later date. White backgrounds also blend nicely with most websites. White should be worn with caution in fair-skinned people, as there will be minimal contrast. White as an under-layer is not as bad as white alone, especially when broken up with a tie for men or a necklace or scarf for women.
- Blue: blue represents trustworthiness, dependability, professionalism, and security or confidence. Lighter blue represents friendliness and calm. Blue is a terrific color for headshots, especially for people with blue eyes. Men, a blue suite or sports coat, with a lighter blue shirt and a tie look great. You can also wear a white shirt under a blue sports coat with a blue tie. Red ties added to either a white shirt or blue shirt under a navy sports coat adds a pop of power.
- Brown: brown has several meanings including wholesomeness, reliability, stability, experience and comfort. If you wear brown, be sure it doesn’t blend with your skin tones and leave a look without contrast.
- Beige or Tan: beige and tan represent piety and conservatism. It can also be perceived as dull. However, when worn as an outer-layer such as a blazer or sport coat, beige and tan will take on the meaning of the color they are worn with. Beige and tan should not be worn as a layer against skin as they tend to blend in with skin tones and leave minimal if any contrast.
- Ivory or Cream: the words associated with ivory or cream are: purity, elegance and calm. Caution should be used to not blend in with skin tones. Under a jacket, blazer or sweater, with accessories, ivory or cream can be a beautiful option as long as they do not blend with skin tones.
- Gray: gray represents calm and neutrality. A lack of energy can also be perceived from certain shades of gray. Gray has also been noted as a dull color. However, certain grays can make blue eyes really pop. Wear gray with caution based on your personal skin tones and the color of your eyes. Special care should also be placed on the color of the backdrop used so as not to lose contrast or definition.
- Red: red is the most dynamic color. Red is stimulating and passionate, exciting and powerful. Red is best worn in small amounts so as not to overpower the headshot or photograph. A more faint, rustic, or vintage red, such as the color of barn doors, can be a nice backdrop, but avoid solid, bright, pure red backdrops for headshots because the red will take over the attention.
- Green: green, like nature, is calming, balancing, and rejuvenating. Green also represents stability, growth and happiness and is considered inspiring. Paler colors of green can represent jealousy. Green is especially nice with green eyes and/or red hair.
- Orange: orange is less overwhelming than red, but is vibrant and energetic. Orange is friendly and inviting without being overpowering. Orange is best worn in small amounts, similar to red, but know it can add energy to a headshot. Orange backgrounds, like red backgrounds, can be overpowering and should be avoided for headshots.
- Yellow: yellow is an energizing, warm color. It represents happiness and can be considered stimulating and expansive. Yellow is tricky with skin tones. If considering yellow shirts or blouses, take another option or two and consult the photographer to ensure the combination of the color and you will result in great headshot.
- Pink: pink is a softer, happy color. It is considered feminine but that doesn’t mean a man can’t wear a pink tie with a white or blue shirt under a navy sport coat. A pink shirt under a blue sport coat or blazer can also look very nice and professional. Pink should be worn with caution so as not to blend in with skin tones so that the details of the face are lost. Because pink represents tenderness and playfulness, it can soften the appearance of a man who may be in a female dominate field and help him look more approachable.
- Purple: purple represents several words including dignity, abundance, nobility, creativity and imagination. Darker shades of purple can be considered to characterize wealth and luxury, while softer shades of purple five a romantic feel. When worn as an outer-layer, dark purple will give the appearance of power and nobility. Like black, purple is sometimes considered a color of mystery.