The Golden Rule

There’s a golden rule that I always tell my clients in a post-booking email I send out, and it’s a quote from George Ellis.

“It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

George Ellis

In short, if you think you might need it, bring it. I can’t tell you how many clients have been in the studio, don’t like the shirt or blouse or tie or jewellery that they have bought with them and told me they have something better sitting in a closet at their home. Or perhaps that ‘favourite’ jacket of yours looked amazing a few years ago, but it’s had it’s time, your body may have changed and it just doesn’t fit like it used to. Good job you bought a Plan B with you, oh you didn’t…

Bring it. Doesn’t matter if we don’t need it, it matters if we do.

Mirror your target market.

A while back I was asked to shoot some high end executives for a financial company. Having set up the studio in their office I asked if they were going to change into more formal attire. They were not. It was important to them that their target market (the public in this case) felt comfortable picking up the phone and talking to them. Formal attire creates an informal barrier. If your clients are expecting to see something formal the same would apply, wearing casual clothing may come across as too informal and less-than-professional. Know your market, it’ll help determine what look will go down best with them.

Is the stone already cast?

In some cases you may not have a formal/informal choice. For example, if you have recently joined a firm and they have an “about us” or “meet the team” page on their website, you may want to have a look at what others have done so that you create a sense of harmony and continuity within the shots. If you opt for something “out there” you might think you look great, but on the website it may make you stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Be Yourself

Finally, if you have the flexibility, bring clothing that reflects your personality. There should be an element of you in your shots. Maybe you’ve been complimented recently by friends on a new jacket. Bring it with you – the jury has already given you a thumbs up, presumably you liked it because you bought it, so that’s two votes in favour. During your session you’ll have time to throw it on and if it works – great – another potential shot to pick from. If it doesn’t, you wasted 30 seconds grabbing it from the closet and putting it in your car.


Your photographer would rather you have choices than no choice, so bring a Plan B, C, D and more if you want to. Think about who is likely to be viewing your headshot and how they would respond to that outfit. Ask your company for advice or check the website for headshots already approved and always, always bring a little bit of what makes you you.