How to Get the Best Model Headshots for Your Career

We recently covered how to find, evaluate, and select a good headshot photographer. In this article, we look at the type of photos you should get, what to wear, and working with photographers.

Model: Sara Murphy; Photographer: TheLightCommittee

What Types of Modeling Photos Should You Get

At the very least, get close-up headshots and you can generally consider getting a beauty headshot or commercial headshot. A beauty headshot is precisely as its name indicates – where you’re trying to showcase your beauty. Equally, a commercial headshot is also as the name indicates – one where you showcase how you might appear for a common commercial ad.

You will also need a full-length body shot, at least one in a swimsuit. You might also opt for the second one in an outfit. Try to make the outfit lean on tighter-fitting so the shape of your body shows.

You can then complement your core shots with lifestyle or editorial shots. These are shots you might see in a real print ad. For example, if your goal is to do fitness modeling, you might go for some shots doing workout routines. Or, if your goal is to be a fashion model, you might get shots to mimic the branding of a favorite clothing designer. These shots help an agency or casting director more easily perceive you in their campaigns.

Model: Jade Kanapina; Photographer: TheLightCommittee

Consider Natural Light and Studio Light for Headshots

For your core shots that include headshots and full body shots, you should opt for studio-quality lighting that helps flatter your skin. The controlled environment of a studio with lighting will capture the best headshots and full body shots to form the core of your portfolio.

You can then opt for headshots and additional full body shots in natural light. For the lifestyle or editorial shots, you might target securing a mix of both studio and natural-lit photos. In the end, the broader your portfolio, the more opportunity you create for one of the photos to match the vision of a creative director conducting research on you.

Model: Diana Barseghyan; Photographer: TheLightCommittee

What to Wear for Your Modeling Headshot Session

You really have a great variety of options but, there are probably some things to avoid. Usually, for model headshots, you’ll want to bring several options. For men or women, coordinate colors that work with the backgrounds the photographer plans to use. This is because it can help finished photos look like branded elements, which is ultimately the goal of a brand that wants to hire a model. You also want to bring outfits that work with classic color backgrounds – gray, black and white.

As far as the actual clothing, for women, you might bring some pullover shirts or sweaters and some button-up shirts. Some blouse and t-shirt options might also be good along with a jacket. Classic jeans and leggings, light flowy dress, and similar items are good. Of course, don’t forget a swimsuit too.

Men might bring t-shirts and a few collared shirt options. You might also bring a couple of jacket options too. Classic jeans are also good and perhaps some solid colored slacks and dressy shoes. Your swimsuit will also be important to bring.

Regardless of what items you bring, generally stay away from busy colors or fabrics. Avoid complex stripe patterns or plaid patterns. The simpler and more natural the colors, the better. You’ll want to also avoid large logos, such as the brand name of a clothing line or busy graphics in a t-shirt. The goal is to keep the attention on you, not what you’re wearing.

As for makeup, it’s totally fine, especially for your beauty headshot. Regarding jewelry, try and do little to none of it, unless you’re trying to model jewelry as a job target.

Model: Isabel Umelo; Photographer: TheLightCommittee

How to Work With Your Selected Photographer

To get the shots you want, it’s best to coordinate with your photographer with a little planning. Consider creating a mood board with specific examples of the photos you want. Be sure to note any variances you’re after. For example, you might point to a headshot you like but state that you want the background to be more of a blue hue.

Your chosen photographer should be able to provide you useful feedback too, particularly during the shoot. Doing a successful shoot is a collaborative effort. Your photographer might have useful insight. In the end, it’s your call to use it or dismiss it but, it’s important to at least consider it.

Once the shoot is done, validate with your photographer the expectations you had going into the shoot. If you recall, you should have secured what they offer for their rate in writing. So, validate that again in-person after the shoot. Again, you want to be sure there are no surprises.

Model: Jade Kanapina; Photographer: TheLightCommittee

Summing It Up

Getting a good start to a modeling career is important and getting good model headshots is an essential part of the process. You’ll also need to often update your portfolio as your looks or goals change. This is why finding a good photographer is important. It can save you time and money from having to do a search for one each time you need shots.

There are many things you can do to be sure of your photographer, from making sure they know what they’re doing with a camera and lighting, to being sure they’ll provide files you can use. You need to accept that finding a good photographer can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. And that’s why there is a necessary process for it. Ultimately, making sure you get good photos for your portfolio can make or break the opportunities you’ll receive for your modeling career.


Rafael Larin is a headshot photographer with a studio in the Los Angeles area. Rafael operates the Headshots by The Light Committee studio and in addition to providing model headshots also provides actor, corporate, lifestyle and musician headshots.

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